LEADING conditioner Robert Britton is confident that his comeback stars will shine this week in the heats of the Victorian Sprint and Distance Championships.
Britton has dual Group 1 winner Above All, $2.80 with Bet365, engaged in a heat of the Sprint Championship at Sandown Park this Thursday night, while champion stayer Space Star will make his highly-anticipated return in a Distance Championship qualifier at The Meadows on Saturday night.
Kiwi chaser Above All, the winner of the 2014 Group 1 Hobart Thousand and 2015 Group 1 Silver Chief Classic, will jump from box one in the third of five Sprint Championship heats against the likes of Margins (box two), Shared Equity (box four) and perennial runner-up Dyna Double One (box seven).
It will only be Above All’s second race start in five months after pulling up injured following his luckless fourth in February’s Group 1 Temlee, won by My Bro Fabio. At his first start back on July 19, the son of Magic Sprite and Kara Janx burst from the boxes, scoring a comfortable 29.25 victory at Sandown Park.
Britton said that he was pleased with that performance.
“ I was very happy with how he got through his first run because he has had a very short preparation and I think he can only improve now,” Britton said.
“I will be really pleased when I have a full month of 500-metre racing into him, but at this stage I couldn’t be happier.”
Britton said that Above All does not look to have any lasting effects from his injury and is confident that he is getting back to his best.
“It was a bad injury, he tore the flexor tendon that goes onto the stopper bone, but time seems to have healed it and I think that he has come back as good as ever.
“It is one of those injuries that either heals or it doesn’t, but at this stage it looks like it has so I am very confident that it wont be an issue.”
Prior to his injury, Above All had been tardy to begin at times, but showed good dash at his first run back, clocking 5.06 early over the 515 metre trip.
Britton is hopeful that his lightly raced chaser, a winner of 11 races from 18 starts, can begin on terms this week and show everyone what he is capable of.
“If he does have an achilles heel that is probably it,” Britton said.
“As a pup he used to miss it half a length and it was the difference between him being an absolute freak and a dog that had to work through a field.
“ I think at his last two or three runs last preparation he jumped well and I am hoping that he was learning – I think he is getting better as he is getting older.
“In these types of races you do need to begin with them.”
Britton has a high opinion of Above All and is keeping his fingers crossed that he can stay sound, with plenty of improvement expected as his fitness levels increase.
“That was his first 500 for five months last Sunday, so I do think he will improve, I just hope we can get a decent preparation with him this time.
“He is an outstanding greyhound – to run away from a field of good dogs in the Hobart Thousand and to beat them by eight lengths and break the track record in the process – dogs just don’t do that.”
Britton is also happy with the progress of Space Star, which has not been sighted since injury struck in the Group 1 Bold Trease back in May, but believes the 35 kilogram powerhouse may need a few runs to reach his best.
“Time has beaten us a little bit with him, I would have liked to have had another 2-3 weeks, but injury wise he is fine – it is just his condition that is a bit of a concern,” he said.
The son of Bekim Bale and Tonto Tears has won five Group races under the tutelage of Britton, who is just hoping for a safe trip and that Space Star can do enough to qualify for the State Distance final.
“I am hoping that he will get a trouble free run and just make it through to the final, whatever happens on Saturday night he will improve.
“ The dog is a couple of weeks away from his best, if he gets beat this week it won’t be the end of the world – he has come back as good as ever in terms of ability.”
The Victorian Sprint and Distance Championship finals will be held next Thursday and Saturday at Sandown Park and The Meadows respectively.
Heats of the SA Sprint and Distance will be held at Angle Park this Thursday, while only the QLD Sprint qualifiers will be run at Albion Park.
Tassie will start their journey next Monday, with the Sprint Championship heats being conducted at Devonport.
There were not enough nominations for the QLD and TAS Distance Championships, with one off finals to be run and won on the same night as each state’s Sprint finals.
NSW will start its Championships quest next Saturday night at Wentworth Park.