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Federal Morgan keeps Johnstone kennel firing

By Isaac Murphy

Anyone following greyhound racing in South-East Queensland has seen the name Darren Johnstone pop up in the winners list.

As if his home-grown dogs weren’t going well enough, one particular acquisition from New South Wales has put an even brighter light on the in-form kennel.

“I’ve had another really good week; a treble and two doubles, I sound like a broken record but we’re just trying to enjoy it, it’s been an amazing run,” Johnstone said.

“Having Jilliby Caz and especially Federal Morgan come up from Sydney have brought an x-factor to the kennel, I’ve been really happy to reward the owner Scott Eaton who took a leap of faith sending him to me with three consecutive wins and hopefully four in Thursday’s Thunder final.”

Johnstone knew he had a good one right off the bat, and the only thing slowing Federal Morgan down was getting crook off his sister.

“He came up with his sister Jilliby Caz who had to perform a steward’s trial at Ipswich, and we decided to send him round and well and he went 30.53 over the 520 first look at the track,” he said.

“Jilliby Caz got a severe case of water diabetes and passed it on to her brother, fortunately it wasn’t as bad but that put us on the back foot for a few weeks.”

Getting back to full strength, Johnstone wanted to ease his new star into work starting with a couple of promising runs at Capalaba before he almost took the track record at Ipswich.

“We got him back and started off at Capalaba, where he was beaten half a head by Made In America in the Young Guns heats and didn’t get it all his way in the final, but it was a good place to start,” he said.

“I didn’t want to rush him up to 520 too quickly, I threw him in the 431 metre races because he was a fifth grader, where in the 500 he’s a third grader so I thought I’d just gradually bring him along.

“24.66 at Ipswich got my attention, I thought he’d run well after he trialled 25.06 but to come out and do that blew me away.

“I knew he had a bit in him but not that much, he flew the lids and then went into overdrive on the run home - I couldn’t have been more impressed.”

The Listed TAB Thunder heats over the 395 metres run on Sunday looked right in Federal Morgan’s wheelhouse, the dog showing he had toughness and well as talent.

“At Albion Park he didn’t jump as well as I would have liked, but in saying that the seven and eight were quick out and had raced at the track before,” Johnstone said.

“That was his first look at Albion, I didn’t have time to trial him before the Thunder heats.

“When the seven and eight cut him off and gave him a check, I thought ‘he’s gone can’t win from there’ and he powered home three wide around the turn, he showed me something I didn’t know he had again.

“I spoke to his owner and he said that’s the dog’s best win he’s ever seen.

“Even the couple of times he’s won at Wentworth Park he’s got out and led them, to come around dogs over the short trip was exceptional when plenty didn’t go his way.”

Albion Park

MOTORHUB Thunder H 395m

Federal Morgan looms as one of three main chances in a stacked Thunder final this Thursday night, and Johnstone is hoping second up at the track you’ll see an even better dog.

“With his training program I would have liked a week in between to give him a trial before his Thunder heat, but luckily his run was huge and we’re in with a great chance of a Black Type race on a Thursday at Albion,” Johnstone said.

“We come up against two guns in Magical Bill and Canya Cruise who have both broken the track record over the last few weeks, but I think our big advantage is the improvement second up; I think he has a good four or five lengths in him.”

“Why I say that is based on the sharp improvement he showed after his first run at Ipswich, if he draws well, I give him a great chance.”

While a Listed event would look great on his resume, Johnstone has a clear goal to become a regular Thursday night winner, something he thinks he can achieve with Federal Morgan.

“After the Thunder final he’ll go straight up to the 520 metres; as I said to the owner, we didn’t bring him up here to win $1400 races, we brought him up here to win Thursday night races and I think he’s ready,” Johnstone said.

“He’s won well at Wentworth Park in tougher grade than what he’ll start in at Albion Park, where he has one fifth grade 520 before he moves up.

“He’s got thirty starts under his belt and we’ve got him race fit, the time is right to get him back to his preferred distance where we hope he can continue in the same vein.”

Federal Morgan

At just over two years of age, Federal Morgan has an impressive body of work but Johnstone is hoping he can put his own stamp on the already accomplished chaser.

“I’m hoping his best is in front of him, the one thing I have done is take a bit of weight off what he was racing at in New South Wales,” he said.

“We’ve taken almost two kilos off and he seems to be going better than ever but that’s something we’ll gauge over time.

“Having the thirty starts under his belt is certainly a positive, but I think something that will really help him is picking and choosing his races, he’s proven he doesn’t need to be over-raced to run well.”

Johnstone said it didn’t take long for the dog to settle in, carrying himself with a little bit of swagger around the property.

“He’s a beautiful relaxed dog and incredibly calm at home, loves to just have a lay in the sun, doesn’t bark or get into it with other dogs, he knows he’s pretty good I think,” he said.

“I haven’t done anything different with him to what I do with all my other dogs, you worry about them settling in but that was a non-issue and he walks around like he owns the place now.”

It’s been a watershed week for Johnstone who saw the progeny of his first litter score win number one on debut.

“Maggie Moo Moo getting up for the first win out of our first ever litter Fernando Bale and Stay Warm was a massive milestone, they’ve started a little slowly on the trial track and I thought I’d just throw her and her brother in and she won on debut,” he said.

“They’ve just been very slow to mature, but that’s the best time she’s run and gives me a bit of hope if we stick with them, they might come good.”

“To get your first litter to the track and have one of them win with their first start was a great feeling, it meant a lot to the family.”