A combination of Covid and countless lockdowns over the best part of the last two years, has meant we haven’t seen the same influx of Victorians for our feature events, but they arrived in force at Wentworth Park on Friday night and will fill five spots in next week’s Group 1 Ladbrokes National Derby final.
The Victorians won three of the six heats and had the two fastest second placegetters to qualify five for the final, and the quintet will be out to end a lengthy dry spell which has seen just one Victorian dog - Playlist in the 2020 Vic Peters - win a Group 1 sprint in NSW in the past two years.
Fastest into the final was Boston Garden who is trained in Victoria by Jeff Britton but is being looked after in Sydney by Alan and CHRIStine Proctor.
Leading throughout from box 1, Boston Garden clocked 29.79s, and posted speedy sectionals of 5.33s and 13.62s. He was 1¾ lengths faster than the next best of the qualifiers.
“I’m just the caretaker for Jeff Britton and Angela Langton, but he’s a great dog, good speed, good box manners,” said Alan after the win.
“I think he still has some improvement. I will give him a couple more runs. I have been a bit easy on him since he came up ... he’ll find some.”
Runner-up Zara’s Ivan clocked 29.91s the equal second best of the heats to book his berth in the final for Victorian trainer Andrea Dailly who the Derby with the great Fernando Bale back in 2015.
Another Victorian-trained dog under the care of a NSW mentor is CHRIS Darmanin’s Persuasive who is being prepared by leading NSW trainer Jason Magri, broke the 30s in winning his heat in 29.94s leading off the eight box, and Magri expects he will go a lot faster in the final.
“I have had him for about three or four weeks now and he trialled pretty good around here and he’s measured up tonight,” he said.
“He will probably get down to about 29.60s I reckon … that’s what he trialled.
“He didn’t nail the start the best and I think he might have got held up a bit (on the first turn when crossing) but he did the job and he’s still learning the dog.
“I actually like this dog. I think there’s a lot more improvement in him.”
Angela Langton also sent Osprey Phantom up to the Proctors for the series and he finished second to Persuasive in a time quick enough to grab the last spot in the final.
Two of the three NSW dogs in the final will come out of the Mick Hardman kennel, as he qualified both Springview Noah and Pristine Image, the latter clocking the equal second fastest time of 29.91s.
“I have only had him for about a month,” Hardman said of Pristine Image. “I got him off Minnie and John (Finn). Minnie said he had ability but he was just bombing the start and that’s all I’ve been working on for the last three weeks.”
Emily Azzopardi has only been training for six months but she got her second Group 1 finalist when Slingshot Jonesy won his heat in 30.04s. The same dog was her first Group 1 finalist when he reached the Silver Chief Final back on New Years’ Day in Melbourne.
He was slow to begin from box 1 but used the draw to perfection and was up challenging for the lead at the catching pen, and after running to the lead down the back he would not be headed.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “It makes the trip worthwhile.”
Asked about the tardy start, she said: “It’s probably a lot to do with the different boxes here.
“When we gave him a box to box here he began a bit funny as well. He’s a bit of a weird dog, and it’s more about trying to keep him settled in the kennels. Now he’s had a look in there, he should be better next week.”