By Isaac Murphy
Tommy Tzouvelis finally suits up his first runner in a National Final with Maurice Minor contesting the sprint on Friday night and the in-form trainer couldn’t be happier with his charge's chances ahead of the big dance.
Maurice Minor is installed as an $8 chance with UBET and will have to overcome a middle draw to upset joint $3 favourites in New South Wales’ Sky Wave (Box 7) and Victorian local Big Flood (Box 2) to hold the title as Australia’s best sprinter.
Following Maurice Minor’s State Final win on August 9, Tzouvelis has been careful in providing the best lead up possible for his sprinter.
He started with a short course trial at Albion last week, followed by a quiet week without a trial in Melbourne due to strong prior performances at the track.
“I trialled him last Thursday and he went half a length off the track record over the 395 metres, which is a little bit short for him but it was just a good hit out,” Tzouvelis said
“We actually just arrived down in Melbourne this morning (August 22) so we’ve got a couple of days to settle in before the race, he’s had a good week we can’t complain.
“We’ve just got to hope he can get everything right on the night, because he’s feeling good and going the best that we can get him and he’s travelled perfect on the flight.”
Tzouvelis conceded he would have much rather drawn inside of Maurice Minor’s five box, but said his dog had the versatility to overcome the draw.
“The box draw is not ideal but as I spoke about a couple of weeks ago he’s had a lot of middle draws to where he’s almost grown accustomed to them,” he said.
“If he can come out like he did at Albion in the state final they’ll know he’s in the race because he’s as quick as any dog in the race, it’s just a matter of stepping and getting a clear run.”
Tzouvelis dogs have been prolific contenders in group finals but Maurice Minor gives him his first runner in a National Final.
The trainer is doing his best to treat it like any other race.
“We’ve been lucky in making a lot of group finals lately, so I knew we were close, I’m just trying to keep it business as usual till the race and if we happen to win it that’d be a bonus,” he said.
Tzouvelis said he was just happy to have his dog fit and well for the Final as wasn’t looking too far down the track.
“We haven’t looked past this race, it’s obviously a pretty big one so we’ll just see how he is,” he said.
“At the end of the day they’re not machines, like any athlete they can get their little niggles or problems so we’re always about his health first.”
In a further boost to the Tzouvelis kennel both Soft Sand and Loch Freddie qualified for next Tuesday's Townsville Cup Final.
“We got two through to the Townsville Cup, Soft Sand ran second and Loch Freddie won a heat,” Tzouvelis said.
“I was really happy with both of their performances, they drew a bit awkward in the final in the three and five, but we’ve got two chances in eight of winning it.
“It was their first look at the track, both of them so they’ll only improve after having a hitout.”
Tzouvelis is a busy man at the moment, but he’s not complaining.
“We get home from Melbourne on Saturday and head straight up to Townsville, it’s a lot of travel but not a bad problem to have," he said.