The son of Vee Man Vane and Off Springer has had six starts from box one for five victories. He also boasts a personal best of 29.34 over the track and distance at Sandown.
Virtue said that he was pleased with his chaser’s box draw which places him where he needs to be.
“He certainly wants to draw inside. He is such an excitable race dog, not so much in nature, but when he gets in the boxes. He is a hit and miss beginner and there is nothing we can do about that. At least he is on the fence so he has a chance to muster if he blunders the start a little bit”, Virtue said.
Banjo Boy, who has won 16 races from 39 starts, has had four runs back from a three month spell. Contrary to what has been publicised, Virtue says that his recent layoff was not injury enforced. Rather, he explained that he used Banjo Boy’s break over winter to extract straws from the newly registered stud dog ahead of spring.
Despite his limited preparation, the white and black speedster appears to be nearing his best. The 35 kilogram powerhouse’s last two runs have both resulted in victories in best of night figures at both Sandown and The Meadows.
His last run was on October 18 at The Meadows where he scored a five length win in 30.02. Since that run Virtue has trialled him at Sandown in preparation for his assignment this Thursday.
“I trialled him at Sandown because I hadn’t really had a guide as to what the dog was running on his own. He went 5.03, 18.61 and 29.23.”
While it was an impressive display, Virtue expressed concerns that, since returning from stud duties, Banjo Boy appears to have lost some of his late race strength.
“His first two sectionals are very close to when he was running 29.10, if he runs up to that you would think he would lead.18.61 down the back is probably as quick as any dog has run in the past 10 months.”
“He is not quite as strong. That may be fitness, although he has had five or six runs, or it may just be him getting older and the wear and tear. That makes him vulnerable.”
Virtue rates Allen Deed, this year’s Adelaide Cup winner, the one to beat from box seven in the four dog field.
“He (Allen Deed) is racing well and if he gets an uninterrupted run he’ll be hard to stop. This format is really suited to the strong dogs because there shouldn’t be many that get in their way and he is certainly the strongest dog in the race.”
“With that being said I have got plenty of respect for the Queenslander (Iva Vision) too, I think he is pretty strong.”
“I think it is a very even race apart from the seven. Awesome Project’s record at Sandown is terrific. He has beaten Banjo Boy twice and we have beat him once. The advantage is that I have got the fence, I just hope we can lead.”
Virtue said if he has any hopes of taking out the $50,000 to the winner feature, Banjo Boy needs to be out on the bunny in front. Even then Virtue says he may not be good enough to hold out the late challenge from behind.
“I think the best he (Banjo Boy) can go is around 29.20 and that might not be good enough. If Allen Deed gets a clear run he may still run quicker than that.”
It will be Banjo Boy’s second crack at the Sandown Shootout having run third in the feature behind Xylia Allen last year. Virtue said although he was a little disappointed with his run last year, he is optimistic of him putting in a better run in 2014.
“I don’t know if he was just overwhelmed going into the occasion or whether he wasn’t suited to the field of four, I don’t know what it was.”
“By the same token that was a different preparation and this time he is a more tough, grounded down dog. He has raced top company pretty much all this year when he has run so he is quite used to it.”
“It would be very good to win for his record and trying to establish him as a stud dog. It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t win but it would be a big bonus if we do.”