CITY jockeys will replace country riders when Mackay and Roma aspirants chase glory in the $125,000 Battle of the Bush (1200m) in Brisbane on June 22.
The Mackay-based Olivia Cairns stable will take Stellar Knight to Eagle Farm for the big final after taking honours in a qualifier at Home Hill last weekend.
Ridden by Ashley Butler, Stellar Knight shouldered topweight of 60kgs to edge past The Greatest (Warderson D'Avila) in the final 100m to win by a length. Lollipop Rocket (Chelsea Jokic) ran third, another five and three-quarter lengths away.
Cairns said Butler did an admirable job but Justin Stanley would have the mount at Eagle Farm.
"I liked the way he fought to the line," Cairns said of Stellar Knight (Choistar-Intangible).
"The Greatest set a cracking temp and my horse sat outside him and those two cleared right away from the rest. They were racing each other from the half mile (800m).
"I am not sure whether he will start again before the final."
It will be Stellar Knight's second tilt at the Bush final after running midfield in the 2018 renewal behind his stablemate Mason's Chance.
On the contrary, Roma trainer Craig Smith is adamant Malibu Affair (Smart Missile-Malibu Road), successful in the Charleville qualifier last Saturday, will be freshened ahead of the final.
"At best I might give him a barrier trial a fortnight before but there won't be another race for him," Smith said.
"It's been a big campaign for him. He has been up for seven months and is going OK. When he first came to us he had his share of issues but we're working through those.
"I don't have doubts about him handling the big stretches at Eagle Farm. He goes good on the big track at Rockhampton and if we get a bit of wet weather to soften the track it will be to our advantage."
Smith's former apprentice Matt McGillivray will ride Malibu Magic in the Bush final, replacing Shane McGovern who steered at Charleville to beat Gendebein (Madeleine Wishart) by a half length. Third spot fell to Hanover Square (Scott Sweedman) finishing a further one and a half lengths away.
Additional Battle of the Bush qualifiers will be run at Cunnamulla on May 24 and Nanango and Thangool on May 25.
Country star Fab's Cowboy will chase his 30th win in the Cunnamulla qualifier. His five outings this year have yielded wins at Barcaldine, Roma, Goondiwindi and Roma before a last start Longreach fourth on May 11.