JASON Thompson and Anthony Azzopardi will meet in two feature races in two different states within 48 hours this week, with both trainers qualifying runners for the Group 2 Launching Pad (515m) at Sandown Park and the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg (520m) at Wentworth Park.
Azzopardi will put the polish on the favourite in the Launching Pad, with Major Jackpot currently the $1.85 favourite with William Hill following on from his scintillating 29.12 semi-final victory last week.
The son of Smooth Fancy and Teddy’s Jackpot stepped well from box two and was never headed, with Azzopardi happy to see the black dog finally show what he is capable of at his third Victorian outing.
“He took a while to settle in, but now he has really settled in to all the motions here and he certainly showed his best on Thursday,” Azzopardi told Sky Sports Radio.
“The (Victorian) boxes buggered him up a bit. Being a high grill he was bombing the start.
“He has put it all together now though, hopefully he can do it again on Thursday night.”
Owned by Robert Cooke from northern NSW, Major Jackpot has won six of his 12 starts heading into this week’s $150,000-to-the-winner feature, with Azzopardi hinting he would be ideally placed in the upcoming Speed Star series at Sandown.
“It (the Speed Star) would really suit him down to the ground,” he said.
“We will have a chat after the race to see where his future lays, whether he stays down here or heads home.”
Major Jackpot has drawn ideally in the Launching Pad final, having come up with box two for the second week in a row, with slow beginner Buck Forty drawn on his inside.
“He has basically got the red because the one is very slow early,” Azzopardi said.
“All he has to do is begin like he did (last week) and run his race and I think he is a very good chance of winning it.”
Thompson, who trains Buck Forty ($6) in the Launching Pad, concedes Major Jackpot is the dog to beat, but says his runner is ideally drawn along the fence after a strong 29.49 semi-final success off box one.
“Based on what happened last week if the dog in box two does what it did last week and runs 29.12 he is going to be winning the race,” he said.
“I think the dogs that have drawn around him (Buck Forty), if he comes out safe, shouldn’t really interfere with him until he gets to the first corner and if he can possie up well there, hopefully he will be in the finish.
“He has got a lot of ability but what you can trial on your own to what you can do with seven others can be completely different.
“Even though he is very fast he still needs to learn how to race, and how to race coming from behind because he is never going to lead a half decent 500m race at the winning post the first time.
“I am hoping we will see improvement with that confidence from last week’s run.
“He had only won a maiden going into the series so it was a big step up for him (in class).
“He needed that win badly to get race confidence up going into the final.”
Thompson will also put the red rug on his competitor in the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg in Sydney on Saturday night, with Moreira coming up with the prized inside alley.
The son of Kinloch Brae and Donna Ricca did it the hard way in his semi-final last weekend, overcoming box eight to overhaul the speedy Knight Sprite in the shadows of the post to record a 29.93 win.
He now moves into his favourite starting box and has since been installed as the $3 favourite with William Hill.
“He qualified well, it was a good, tough effort, and to come up with box one is very important for him if he is going to figure in the finish,” Thompson said.
“He had to draw box one, two or three.
“He is the most desperate railer…it is a massive advantage for him to be able to come out of the boxes and be straight there on the fence.”
Moreira was one of the in-form greyhounds going into the series, having contested some of the nation’s biggest races against the top greyhounds in the lead up to the Egg.
“He has been up for a long time, this will be his fourth group 1 for the year,” Thompson said.
“He is coming off an Australian Cup final, the Silver Chief, the Rookie Rebel and FFA racing in Melbourne.
“He is so hard and tough and he is ready for a race like this.”
Thompson said his chaser doesn’t need to lead to win the race and has drawn comparisons between him and Don’t Knocka Him, which Thompson trained to win the 2012 Group 1 Golden Easter Egg off box one.
“They both sort of scraped through (their heats) and into the semi-finals,” he said.
“Particularly with Moreira, he got a lot of benefit out of a look at the track in his heat.
“He is very strong, he is tough.
“To draw box one with no speed until you get out to box four, if he can take advantage of it…he is going to come out of the first turn second or third and if that is the case he is going to be right there (at the finish).”
One of the greyhounds Moreira is likely to be chasing down in the closing stages is Azzopardi’s Asa Killa Queen. A noted front runner, the son of Kinloch Brae and Cawbourne Shine has drawn box six in the $250,000-to-the-winner event.
“Not disappointed too much (with the box draw) because he has got early pace,” Azzopardi said.
“If he can get three quarters in front of them then I know he is going to head straight to the rail after that.
“If he can jam them up and get the fly he could be a winning chance, but if the one, two or three get right behind him then we are going to be in all sorts of trouble.
“If he could kick five or six clear down the back then he is going to be a winning hope.
“Every dog is worthy, it all comes down to the first corner and who gets the run through.
“In a race like this nine times out of 10 the leaders win it.
“It is good to have pace. Pace wins races.”
The Group 2 Launching Pad is race eight at Sandown Park on Thursday night and is set to jump at 9:39pm AEDT.
2016 Group 2 Launching Pad – 515m
Box One – Buck Forty – $6
Box Two – Major Jackpot – $1.80 with William Hill
Box Three – Carjack Arrest – $17
Box Four – Pagan Midnight – $10
Box Five – Hukanui – $34
Box Six – Dundee Osprey – $3.70
Box Seven – Dream Edition – $14
Box Eight – Demon Bale – $12
1st Reserve – Fantastic Roxy – $23
2nd Reserve – Zipping Zeus – $16
The Group 1 Golden Easter Egg is race seven at Wentworth Park on Saturday and is scheduled to start at 9:35pm AEDT.
2016 Group 1 Golden Easter Egg – 520m
Box One – Moreira – $3
Box Two – Brad Hill Billy – $7
Box Three – Rare Pearl – $10
Box Four – Dawkins Bale – $3.20
Box Five – Knight Sprite – $9
Box Six – Asa Killa Queen – $18
Box Seven – Blue Revolver – $26
Box Eight – Mitcharlie Mia – $9
1st Reserve – Black Bear Lee – $9.50
2nd Reserve – Marley Bale – $14