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Federal Morgan ready to fire at Bundaberg Cup

By Isaac Murphy

Federal Morgan CV is growing by the month, finishing fourth in the Brisbane Cup, before going on to claim the Ipswich Young Guns and a runner-up in the Townsville Cup.

The dog is now set for another Listed campaign when he tackles the Bundaberg Cup heats on Monday, and Johnstone is bullish his star performer can qualify for the final and take home the $25,000 purse.

“I took him up there on Monday and gave him a post-to-post after the last which I was more than happy with, I think it should top him up well for the heats,” Johnstone said.

“Speaking to people at the club and seeing the nominations, it’s looking like there are only going to be two heats, I’m sure there will be plenty of class but only having to finish in the first four that first week is a big positive for him seeing the track under race conditions for the first time.

“I was asked on Monday if I knew if any of the other Brisbane dogs were coming up and outside Flying Jet for Peter O’Reilly and Waddling Witch for Jamie Hosking - I didn’t know of many, but we have to tackle the locals as well.”

Federal Morgan ran a gallant second in the Townsville Cup last month, and Johnstone has placed him just right to maintain his confidence moving forward.

“I was disappointed to not see him win in Townsville, but he ran well and moving on I wanted to keep his momentum going so I took him to Ipswich for the fourth and fifth grade heats over the 431 and he did the job nicely,” he said.

“It’s all about timing him up for Group races now and while there’s nothing on at Albion I don’t want to burn him out every week over the 500, he’s five from five over the 431 at Ipswich and two from two winning the Ipswich Young Guns heat and final there.

“He’s still got a few grades up his sleeve at Ipswich so after the Bundaberg Cup I’ll probably take him back there with the Ipswich Cup coming up in November.”

Races

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Ipswich | Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club | 7:25 PM

Ipswich Young Guns F

Johnstone’s preparation for previous feature races had been cut short by timing or niggles, but he seemingly has everything under control for his Bundy tilt.

“One of the biggest positives for him at the moment is he seems to have his water diabetes under control, it was something that was really affecting his recovery after races,” he said.

“I wasn’t able to give him any work during the week, it was all about getting his weight right and have him feeling good in time for his next run, now I get the opportunity to work him between runs and he’s enjoying it.

“He lost a fair bit of weight on the flight up and back from Townsville; Bundaberg is a much more manageable trip, he sat in the air conditioning in the back of the car the whole way, did his post-to-post and has pulled up a treat.”

Federal Morgan has posted wins at Albion Park, Ipswich and Townsville since touching down in Queensland and Johnstone doesn’t see any reason he can’t add Bundaberg to the list.

“I’m not too worried about him running out the 550 metres, he’s the fittest I’ve ever had him and as we saw at The Ipswich Young Guns he’s a hard dog to get past once he finds the top,” Johnstone said.

“The only one to go past him was All Hands Off who won her regional Million Dollar Chase final earlier this week.

“Speaking to the local trainers I think that first corner is probably the trickiest, you can lose stride around there pretty easily, but he looked great in his post-to-post and got around nice and clean and I’d like to think he’ll be one of the first to the turn as well.

“I’ve learnt from watching the good trainers you need them peaking for the final and with a 500 post-to-post, and a heat run he should be topped up for the final - if he doesn’t make it through the heats he doesn’t deserve to be there.”

Despite there only being two heats, Johnstone isn’t taking anything for granted with a combination of hardened Brisbane dogs and locals setting the pace of late.

“We’re certainly not going up there for an easy kill, we saw Waddling Witch come out and run a track record in the prelude on Monday and Ricky Hassall’s dog Prince Cosmic got to within about a length of her late,” Johnstone said.

“We learnt up in Townsville not to underestimate the locals with half the field getting through to the final, it’s another track and another test for him but I wouldn’t be taking him up if I thought he couldn’t win.

“That’s what it’s all about for him now; fourth in a Brisbane Cup was a big surprise, second in Townsville was a letdown, the wins in between are good but for the owners it’s all about these feature races.”

Federal Morgan

Johnstone’s trip to Townsville with Federal Morgan was the first away for the dog and while he would’ve liked to have come back with the trophy, he raced exceptionally well.

“While I say the Townsville Cup was a letdown, I still left there knowing how good a dog he was; the week before the final he had the two and Hara’s Panda had the seven and the result was reversed,” he said.

“Take nothing away from Hara’s Panda and Mick Stephenson, he’s done a wonderful job with the dog and when he jumped well from box one in the final it was always going to be tough.

“At the top turn I didn’t think we were going to get near him, so to run within a length was a big effort and we comfortably handled the other Brisbane dogs in Stinger Noir and Oh Mickey on his first trip away - there were plenty of positives.”

Johnstone found himself as one of the star attractions of the Cup, a position he certainly wasn’t used to but appreciated the first-class treatment from the locals.

“Danny Preh - a local trainer - was nice enough to take us in and the first night we were up there he said ‘mate I can’t believe I have you and Federal Morgan at my place,’ I said ‘it’s all good mate I’m only a normal person and he’s just a good dog’ but it was something I’d never experienced before,” Johnstone laughed.

“He was happy to be in the heats with Tipsy Four racing against dogs like that and when we both got through to the final, he was still saying ‘you’re going to win it mate I’ll run third.’

“It cheered me up and humbled me a bit after the final with people coming up wanting to pat him saying what a great race and how good a dog he was, I was a long way off being in a situation like that when we started a few years ago.”

The Johnstone kennel is as busy as ever, with a couple of exciting new arrivals set to be the trainer’s next project.

“The kennel is pretty full at the moment, I actually just sent a couple of dogs up to Danny (Preh) in Townsville because I’ve got a couple of others coming up from Victoria,” he said.

“The owner Scott Eaton had them with Anthony Azzopardi and they weren’t quite where he wanted them to be at 19 months, so Scott rang me up and asked me if I wanted to take them - I couldn’t say yes quick enough.

“Anything that Anthony has had obviously has some potential and at their age it gives me plenty of time to work with them and turn them into really good Queensland dogs.”