SPACE Star will be aiming to bounce back to his brilliant best on Saturday night when he contests the third and final heat of the $75,000-to-the-winner Group 1 Association Cup (720-metres) at Wentworth Park.
Trained by Robert Britton, the son of Bekim Bale and Tonto Tears has not been sighted since finishing third behind Luna Jinx in the Group 1 Superstayers final at The Meadows earlier this month.
Prior to that, the black chaser had been in terrific form, winning the Group 2 Summer Distance Plate at Wentworth Park followed by emphatic victories in two Group 1 events — The Galaxy at Cannington and the invitation-only Zoom Top at The Meadows.
Britton said after such a busy racing schedule, Space Star needed a rest before the Association Cup heats.
“He has had a very long preparation, we thought it was time to give him a freshen up,” Britton explained.
“He has had a break since his last run three weeks ago and will go into the race on Saturday very fresh and whatever he does there he should improve on.”
Space Star, which is $1.80 to win his heat with Bet 365, will exit from box six on Saturday night and will once again do battle with Luna Jinx ($5.00), which has drawn favourably in box three for trainer Len Ketelaar. Britton said that the blue bitch would be one of the hardest to beat alongside South Australian hopeful, Psychotic Gold ($12).
“There is no doubt that Luna Jinx is a quality bitch and Petar Jovanovic’s dog (Psychotic Gold) is a genuine chance too. They appear on paper to be strong heats right across the board so they are races where you really don’t want to make mistakes.
“I guess the main aim is just to make it through to the final and if he does make it he should strip fitter the following week.”
Britton says he is not overly concerned about the box draw, but mentioned his charge would need to do everything right to win.
“I’m not worried about the box, it’s all about him coming out and getting some sort of clear run,” he said.
“He missed the kick in his last race and that was his undoing — if you miss the kick from any box you will be riding for a bit of luck. I just hope he comes out a little bit better.”
Space Star has really made the step up in class since moving to Britton’s kennel from NSW late last year, winning nine of his 13 appearances under the care of the leading Victorian conditioner.
Britton said the 35.5 kilogram greyhound is finally starting to mature and develop into a very strong stayer.
“I would say he has got a lot more miles in his legs now and he has seasoned into a stayer,” he said.
“He is a very big dog and he can be awkward in a field, I think he just needed to mature and that’s happened. He had a few good boxes in a row too and I think that really helped his confidence.”
After breaking the 725-metre track record at The Meadows two starts ago when running 41.93, all eyes will be on the clock when the speed machine returns to his home track.
While Britton said it isn’t beyond him, he mentioned that it was not a focus going into Saturday’s heats. “If he jumped to the front he is capable of running the hands off the clock but that’s the key to it — the night he broke the track record he absolutely pinged the lids and he was five or six in front by half way.
“I’m not really interested in the track records, I’m more interested in him getting a clear run and winning because, as they say, they don’t pay on times.”
At just over two-and-a-half years of age there is no telling what Space Star is capable of doing, with Britton commenting that the dog is now switched on and developing into a serious race dog.
“He really wants to be there and the good part about him is that not only can he lead and win, but a couple of times he has shown that he can really knuckle down and come from behind. To me, that’s the sign of a really good stayer when they can do it both ways.”
First and second from each heat plus the two fastest seconds will progress through to the Group 1 Association Cup final to be run next Saturday night at Wentworth Park.