The Ladbrokes Brother Fox (G3)

Roberts Relishes Hometown Feature

By Simon Orchard
As the 2024 Ladbrokes Brother FOX series unfolds at Dubbo on Saturday night, it may officially represent a ‘PASSING of the torch’ moment for the kennel of Charmaine Roberts.

Over the last few years, Black Top winner Caitlyn Keeping’s debut litter has kept the bread buttered for one of the Central West’s leading trainers.

The group of eight by Fernando Bale, which includes Brother FOX contenders Tom and Angus Keeping, and their full brother and Dapto Megastar finalist Return Mac - have won 98 races and almost $400,000 in prizemoney since first hitting the track in January, 2022.

Tom Keeping was a recent Golden Easter Egg semi-finalist and ran second to Postman Pat in the 2023 MDC semi-finals

But according to Roberts, the second instalment of pups out of Caitlyn Keeping, this time by Mogambo, might be ready to take over the heavy lifting.

“This latest litter has got more ability than the Fernando Bale’s did at the same age. The Fernando’s are very nice, relaxed, quiet and gentle dogs and have been good earners. The Mogambo’s are faster. They are good kennel dogs too but as soon as we start working them, they are ready to go alright,” Roberts laughed.

“But they’re still young and toey. Caitlyn [Keeping] is a very nice natured bitch herself so Shayne wanted to get a bit of fire into them, that’s why we put her to Mogambo, so we can’t complain about them being a bit over the top.”

Three of her progeny, Camilla, Cindy and Zali (all with the Keeping prefix), will go around in the heats of the big one on Saturday night, with the trio at short odds to progress to Saturday week’s $50,000 final.

And for good reason.

They are locally prepared, have won a collective 17 races from 55 starts, and have run 29.7 or better at both Dubbo and Wentworth Park in recent times.

Roberts now aiming them up at the race their mother won in 2019 when it was formerly known as the Dubbo Gold Cup.

“Camilla (Box 3) is favourite in her heat and ran the race of her life seven days ago. She was never going to beat the winner after the start because Midnight Spritz is strong as a bull, but it was a big run,” Roberts added.

“Zali (Box 1) is in that race too but she’s not going as well lately. She’s been trialling good and she’s got Box 1 though, so she deserves a crack.”

“And Cindy (Box 3 in Race 7) and went super last week running 29.24 at Dubbo. We knew she had ability but we didn’t think she could go that well. Flash Boom Bang is in that heat and can run like the wind, Go Bears has been trialling well and Ferness is sitting up their in Box 1 so she’s got no room for error and she needs to do everything right to win.”

The 55-year-old also admitting consistency has been hard to find for the young group so far in their short chasing careers.

Which is why the older brigade going around on Saturday night isn’t without a hope.

“Tom [Keeping] and Angus [Keeping] both had a spell earlier this year but are back now and will meet each other in the first heat,” Roberts said.

“I think they both go better off the outside so Tom [Box 7] is the better hope but it’s a tough race. Street Of Dreams is super strong, Miss Mcgraw goes well and Bella Una just came off the Country Classic win at the track and will be hard to beat too.”

“Tom and Angus have been good dogs for us but they’re nearly ready for masters racing so we’ve thrown them in this series because it’s our home track and hopefully they keep plugging along. The big target is the Masters Meteor in this year’s Million Dollar Chase (MDC) carnival later in the year.”

The Roberts kennel well represented on Saturday night’s race card with Zeus Keeping going around in the fourth heat of the Brother FOX, while Candice Keeping could be the “best bet on the program”.

Zeus [Keeping] was an only pup out of Shelley Keeping who was a sister to Caitlyn. He won at Wenty on Saturday night but we’re at home this week so we’ve thrown him in the deep end. He’s up against Palawa King and might be outgraded,” Roberts said.

“But Candice Keeping in the fifth grade race should run well. She handled Box 8 last week and went super. She’s got Box 7 this time and only needs to do what she did last week to win again.”

The four heats of the 2024 Ladbrokes Brother FOX kick off on Saturday night at 6:19pm with the top two from each preliminary qualifying for the May 18 final.

Three heats of the Bill & Peg Miller will also be contested this weekend with that race series worth $20,000-to-the-winner.