Remarkably, Jesaulenko’s finishing time of 23.54 was faster than any of the remaining heat winners, but with eight qualifiers conducted, the son of College Causeway and Elite Fairy was made first reserve for the $47,000 to the winner final.
However, Jesaulenko’s luck has turned around, gaining a start in the decider following the scratching of rails runner Aussie Infrared which tore a chest muscle when winning his heat on Sunday afternoon.
Whilst feeling unfortunate for the connections of Aussie Infrared, Morris was pleased to have received the call-up for Jesaulenko on Tuesday. The Traralgon-based trainer says she was elated with her greyhound’s heat effort.
“It was a brilliant run in his heat – I couldn’t have been happier with him and although I was a bit disappointed not to make the final initially that’s greyhound racing unfortunately,” Morris told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“As fate would have it we have got a run in the final from the red box so I guess in the long run the luck has gone our way.”
Morris said she is happy with the box draw, an alley from which Jesaulenko has only drawn four times throughout his 72 start career, yielding two wins and a third.
“He is suited in box one – the last time he had it was eight months ago in a heat of the Melbourne Cup and he used it beautifully then.
“It’s where I want to be drawn because there is a lot of pace on the outside and Aston Bolero (box two) normally jumps to the right a bit which should give him a bit of room early on.
“Jesaulenko will have plenty of space so it will all be up to him.”
A winner of 33 races including the Group 2 Traralgon Cup, a win on Friday night would take Jesaulenko’s career earnings beyond the $387,000 mark.
Morris acknowledges the 32-kilogram chaser will have to do everything right to win the final, but highlighted that some slick recent beginnings put him right in contention.
“I took him to Healesville to freshen him up and give him something different and it has worked a treat because he has been beginning brilliantly lately.
“He has got to begin like he has been but if he does I don’t think it will be a problem – he will hold his line well from the inside and they’ll have to go around him.”
The current favourite for the final is Zinzan Brooke, a $3.60 chance with Bet365 which will be looking for his first success at group level at his 29th career outing. A winner of 21 races, the son of Knocka Norris and All Fired Up has drawn box seven for the final.
Other big names include defending champion Aston Bolero (box two), young gun sprinters Aston Dee Bee (box three) and Kouta Mayhem (box eight), Golden Easter Egg winner Striker Light (box four) and Group 1 Harrison-Dawson champ Black Mumbo (box six)
Remarkably, only one runner is over double figures – Tiggerlong Cruz (box five) for Avalon trainer Samantha Ferguson who recently welcomed a new baby into the world with her partner Corey Grenfell.
Despite facing a tough task, Morris remains confident her greyhound, a runner-up in both the Melbourne Cup and the Temlee, has what it takes to win.
If he wins, Jesaulenko will become the first greyhound carrying the reserve rug to salute in the Bendigo Cup (as far as the records indicate), with the last reserve to gain a start being Hannie Bale which finished seventh in the 2012 race.
“I give him a very good chance,” Morris said.
“He’s now had two starts there and has improved each run – prior to that he had never seen the track. I think he can go back on Friday night and show them what he is capable of.
“He has pulled up really well – he was checked by Dr. Des Fegan on Tuesday and is feeling great so it is all up to him now.”
The Group 2 Bendigo Cup is race seven at Bendigo on Friday night and is scheduled to jump at 9.08pm.