On the eve of the biggest race of Shannon Fry's career, the bush trainer is beaming with pride over Sofin's achievements.
One of two horses in work at Fry's stable in Bowraville, a town on the NSW mid-north coast hinterland with a population of about 1200, Sofin is set to be his first Group runner in the Belle Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) at Gosford on Friday.
When the training facilities closed at Bowraville, Fry was about to give up training until Sofin's talent convinced him to push on.
"She's really turned my career around. She's definitely a little favourite of mine," Fry said.
Sofin, who cost $6000 at a Patinack Farm dispersal sale, has now earned more than $260,000 for owner Byron Fegan.
She gave Fry his first stakes runner, finishing seventh in the Listed Premier's Cup at Rosehill on August 27, and scored her biggest win with a five-length demolition of the $100,000 Port Macquarie Cup on October 7.
After a nine-week break Sofin was desperately unlucky to be denied back-to-back country Cups at Coffs Harbour when she was held up badly in the straight before dashing home late to grab fourth.
"She's grown an extra leg this preparation," Fry said.
"She really belongs in these black-type and Group races. I think she's as good as nearly anything getting around."
Sofin comes into Friday's Group Three race off a five-week freshen-up but Fry, who is also her track rider and farrier, says she is more than fit enough to be competitive.
"I'm really happy to be up in this calibre of racing," Fry said.
"I haven't got a big stable so I try and choose quality over quantity and this is the level I want to be at."
A key to her training routine is spending time at Nambucca Heads beach where she has developed a fan club of visitors and racing fans alike.
"There's always a group of tourist kids waiting to pat her," Fry said.
"She always gains a few followers that aren't even racing enthusiasts."
Fry is hopeful the rest of her career will be in stakes company as he hunts for black-type to enhance her prospects as a broodmare.
Sofin is an $11 chance to be crowned Belle Of The Turf with the Group Two-placed Imposing Lass from the Bjorn Baker stable the $4 favourite.
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