Greg Bennett qualifies two for 2016 Country Championships Final Field

Clearly Innocent has led in a stable quinella in the $100,000 Country Championship Qualifier at Scone for local trainer Greg Bennett.

Both the winner and runner-up All Summer Long are guaranteed places in the $400,000 Country Championship at Randwick on April 2.

The pair join the John Bateman-trained Lofty’s Menu and Bank On Henry from the Barbara Joseph and Paul Jones stable who ran one-two in the first regional heat at Goulburn on Saturday.

One of four runners for Bennett in Sunday’s heat, Clearly Innocent ($4 fav) was forced about 10-wide on the turn but powered home under Tommy Berry to beat All Summer Long ($4.20) by 1-1/4 lengths.

“It sort of crept up on us a bit last year but we set a few for it this year. It’s been a 12-month plan,” Bennett told Sky Thoroughbred Central.

“I’ve been saying for a while Clearly Innocent is a good horse and he’s proven that today. Whether he can go on and do that in the final is another matter.

“This horse had a lot of issues early and that’s why he wasn’t sold and that’s why I got him. I just hope I can hang on to him.”

Berry, who rode four winners at Rosehill on Saturday, said he had to make his move sooner than expected.

“About the 600 (metres) he got flushed out,” Berry said.

“It wasn’t my prettiest ride but full credit to Greg Bennett and his team.”

The next of the seven 1400m-qualifying races will be at Wagga on Saturday.

Horses who miss out in the heats get one more chance at Muswellbrook on March 27 in a $50,000 wild card race.

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