MICK Fearnley’s Harlon is looming as the dog to beat in Saturday night’s Group 1 Silver Chief Classic (525 metres) at The Meadows following on from his dashing 30.09 semi-final victory last weekend.
Stepping from box three, the son of Dyna Lachlan and Emmy’s Belle went straight to the early lead and managed to hold off a late challenge from the classy Marley Bale to score by a nose on the line.
Saturday’s win was Harlon’s third consecutive victory and ninth from 26 starts overall, with Fearnley impressed with how he has performed throughout the gruelling three week series thus far.
“This is one of the few times throughout his career where I have been able to get him really fit,” Fearnley said.
“I have been pumping a lot of work into him lately and he is handling it very well – he is the sort of dog where the more you work him the better he goes.
“I think he is really starting to mature into a nice race dog now. He is two-and-a-half in February so he is heading towards the peak time of his career and I think he is improving.”
Harlon’s chances of claiming the $100,000-to-the-winner feature were strengthened when he came up with the coveted rails draw for the final, with online bookmaker Bet365 quickly installing him as the $2.25 favourite.
Fearnley says his charge is firing on all cylinders ahead of the decider and will be assisted by the favourable box.
“I couldn’t be any happier with him heading into the final. He is bouncing out his skin and he is very high on confidence at the moment which is a big thing,” he said.
“He has been beginning very well lately and he is a good railer – so we were over the moon when he come up with the red last week – it is the ideal draw for him.”
Harlon comes into the race with plenty to like about his form. The fawn and white speedster has broken 30 over the track and trip at The Meadows, courtesy of a 29.93 win in his Silver Chief heat two runs back, and has a touch of class about him having finished second behind the mighty Fernando Bale in this year’s Group 2 Traralgon Cup final.
While Harlon is the top pick as far as bookies are concerned, he does face a tough challenge against a host of capable chasers.
Also in contention for the prize is the talented Jason Thompson-trained trio of Invictus Rapid (box four), Moreira (box five) and Aeroplane Bob (box seven), while the Andrea Dailly-prepared Marley Bale (box six) will be aiming to turn the tables on Harlon after last week’s semi placing.
Fearnley says it is a big thrill to be taking on the industry’s big guns as he strives for his first Group win after more than three decades in the sport.
“I like racing against the big trainers – I like the challenge – and I will be in against them this week in the final.
“The way I look at it the big trainers all started out with one or two dogs and have earned everything they have won and realistically they wouldn’t keep getting the best dogs unless they were also getting the best results.
“You don’t want to be given a Group race, you want to earn it – if Harlon can win on Saturday night then he will have truly earned it.”
Group 1 Silver Chief Classic (525 metres) – 02/01/2016
Box One – Harlon (Michael Fearnley) – $2.25 with Bet365
Box Two – Ernest Bale (Steve Collins) – $4
Box Three – Midwinter (Andrew Stewart) – $51
Box Four – Invictus Rapid (Jason Thompson) – $8
Box Five – Moreira (Jason Thompson) – $6
Box Six – Marley Bale (Andrea Dailly) – $6.50
Box Seven – Aeroplane Bob (Jason Thompson) – $21
Box Eight – My Silver Chisel (David Burnett) – $10
1st Res – Allen Terminator (Mark Delbridge) – $13
2nd Res – Aston Ebert (Jason Thompson) – $21