The $150,000 Championships qualifier in Goulburn on February 18 is up $50,000 on the 2016 prize money.
Racing got underway in Grafton on Monday, February 13, having been postponed with hot weather forecast for the original race date of Sunday, February 12.
There will be 16 horses running in the Country Championships final at Royal Randwick on Saturday, April 1, comprising the first two horses home in each region, along with two ‘wild card’ entries in late March.
The winning horse at Royal Randwick will secure their local newspaper a $5000 donation to a nominated charity, courtesy of TAB, which will also donate a further $500 to the seven other charities nominated.
Goulburn trainer John Bateman's horse Lofty's Menu was steered to instruction by jockey Paul King to take the $100,000 Championships qualifier in Race 7 at Goulburn in 2016.
Bank On Henry, trained by Barbara Joseph and son Paul Jones in their Canberra stable, finished a strong second.
Both went on to contest the 2016 Country Championships final, but it was Clearly Innocent who raced clear to win it.