The son of Fabregas and Bella Portrait was far from disgraced in his heat last week when narrowly defeated by one-turn professional Luca Neveelk in 25.71.
“I was really happy with his run, he had to work hard because he was the wide runner for a lot of the way,” Clarke said. “For a young dog to match it with probably the best 450-metre dog in Australia, it was just a fantastic effort.”
Big Ticket has had just 16 starts from which he has recorded nine wins and four minor placings.
The highlight of his career thus far was in December last year when he ran fourth in the Group One Hobart Thousand final behind the likes of Above All and Dyna Villa. After that run, Clarke gave Big Ticket a short break from the racetrack to revitalise the two-year-old pup.
“It was a lot for such a young dog with the travel and spending three weeks away from home, we thought it may have taken the edge off him a little bit so we freshened him up for 10 days,” he said.
“We gave him a hit-out up the straight at Healesville and then put him in at Shepparton and he went terrific. I think the rest has done him good.”
Big Ticket has drawn awkwardly in box five for the Warragul Cup final, but Clarke believes he has enough pace to overcome the draw and be right in contention for the title.
“He has probably got the best acceleration of any dog in the field,” he said.
“If he gets clear running it wouldn’t surprise me if he could find the front at some stage. If that happens we have got a chance but it is a very hard field and we are just hoping for a bit of luck.”
Clarke rates Luca Neveelk the dog to beat after drawing ideally in box one. The Gerry Kleeven-trained sprinter, which has won 25 from 32, was first up in his heat after being scratched from this month’s Cranbourne Cup final due to illness.
“I think he [Luca Neveelk] got scratched with kennel cough so he probably needed that run as well,” he said.
“He is a brilliant dog and I have lots of respect for him, his trainer obviously knows what he is doing and full credit to them if they win.
“They will be very hard to beat off the red box but we have a fast dog, too, and we will be in there trying.”
The other key players in the final appear to be Ride The Rails (box four), Caustic Bale (box three) and Ronray Spirit (box eight).
Owned by Pat Sofra, Big Ticket looks to have an incredibly bright future and Clarke is rapt he was given the opportunity to come along for the ride.
“I trained his mother, a bitch called Bella Portrait. His owner is a friend of mine and I have trained a few dogs for him over the years. He asked me to break in a few pups for him and told me that if there were any worth training then I could have them and this fella happened to be in amongst them. I’m glad he was.
Clarke is confident Big Ticket will make the transition to two-turn racing in time.
“We trialled him at Sandown and he ran five-dead to the first mark and 18.61 to the back. He has had one 500 in a race and he tore a triangle muscle so we don’t really have an indication of how he will go, but I anticipate that he will run a nice 500.”
The Group Two Warragul Cup is race eight on the card on Friday night and will jump at 9.35pm AEDT.