By Isaac Murphy
Time was the focus in the Group 1 Winter Cup heats last week, as the Jeff Britton trained Mepunga Blazer claimed a stunning track record in his qualifying heat, but according to Britton time is for nothing in this week’s final, it’s all about winning and he’s got two chances.
Mepunga Blazer was the talk of the track last week shaving 0.10 of a second off the 520m track record and while Britton was pleasantly surprised, his focus quickly shifted to the other heats as he watched kennel mate Hasten Slowly qualify along with six other Winter Cup hopefuls.
Britton has been taking his dogs back to Victoria after each of their races, but says the dogs handle the travel well and are getting more comfortable each time they get around Albion Park.
“Each run at the track is really educational, I bring them home after each run, but they feel and look well,” He said.
“We’ll come up late tonight and get a nice rest, during the day.”
Britton’s duo has been confronted with a tough box draw.
The kennel mates are drawn alongside each other in the six and seven rugs.
While Britton admitted the draw was not ideal, he was confident both of his runners have the talent to run big races.
“Having them drawn side by side, the heart will be in the mouth going to the first corner,” he said.
Of his two chances Britton said Mepunga Blazer had always shown the raw ability he could turn into something special, but said recent Group 3 Flying Amy Classic winner Hasten Slowly continued to surprise him with his racing patterns.
“He’s always (Mepunga Blazer) shown us very fast times in trials and backed it up with fast times in races but there’s no guarantees,” he said.
“I thought he (Mepunga Blazer) would run a fast time in the heats, but we’re not really worried about that in the big final all you’re really worried about is winning the race.”
UBET has installed the dog as a $1.80 favourite and despite last week’s blistering run, Britton said there were no guarantees in a race of such quality.
“He’s drawn a bad box for Thursday, if he’d drawn a good box I’d start to have some real confidence about things, but when you’re drawn badly anything can happen,” he said.
Hasten Slowly currently sits at $8.50 on the UBET fixed price, a generous quote if he can continue recent form.
“He ran second in the Australian Cup from box 7 and he led that race, which was a surprise for me so I’m just hoping he can do the same thing,” Britton said.
“He’s chasing really well and got through the field expertly last week.”
Britton said it was hard for him to really analyse the Queensland dogs, Jury, Codrington Kid, Gunnadoo Rev and It’s Dyllan, preferring to concentrate on his own runners.
“I’ve just got to concentrate on what I can do with my dogs and both of them look sharp and ready to run.”
Britton said it was a huge thrill for the kennel to have two live chances in a Group 1 of this notoriety.
“It’s not very often you get into big races like this, when you have runners in Group 1s around the 520 and the other main distances you have to relish it because they’re pretty hard to come by,” he said.