MEPUNGA Blazer (Barcia Bale x Mepunga Nicky Jun ’15) stole the show at The Meadows on Saturday night with a stunning win in the age-restricted Group 1 Maturity Classic (525m).
Trained by Jeff Britton and owned and bred by Barry Smith, the black dog went into the $100,000 to the winner feature as the favourite off box six following a sensational 29.64 semi-final victory the week prior.
When the lids flew open, Mepunga Blazer was only fairly into stride, but was able to avoid early interference, slipping into second spot behind Aston Dinnigan (Barcia Bale x Aston Elle Apr ’14) around the first turn.
Once he got balanced up, Mepunga Blazer hit top gear, racing clear to defeat kennel mate Paradiso Lass (My Bro Fabio x Key To Eden Sep ’15), which gained a start as first reserve following the scratching of Fast Times, by one and a half lengths in 29.81.
The win took Mepunga Blazer’s record to eight wins and two minor placings from 14 starts, with his prize money earnings now elevated above $135,000.
Britton, who also trained 2014 Group 1 Maturity winner Mepunga Hayley (Bekim Bale x Mepunga Harmony Jun ’12) for Smith, said he was quietly confident heading into the feature.
“Box six was a worry going into the race, but I knew he had the ability so I was hoping he’d get through the first corner without any damage,” Britton told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“Luckily he missed the trouble and worked his way into second – from there I knew was going to be pretty strong and hard to hold out so I was just hoping that he’d keep going
“I’ve always held a really high opinion of him in terms of ability so it is great to see him step up and win a big race like this one.”
Britton also had plenty of praise for Paradiso Lass which is only 22 months of age and was lining up for just her 17th start on Saturday night.
“She was lucky to get in the final due to the scratching, but with that being said her runs had been terrific leading up to that stage.
“She hasn’t been blessed when it comes to box draws so she had to do it the hard way and she did enough to make it through to the final.
“We were rapt with the run – she isn’t two until September – so hopefully this is the start of her career and she can continue to improve.”
Mepunga Blazer will now head to Sandown Park to contest a heat of the Victorian Sprint Championship this Thursday night, with the winner of the final on August 10 set to represent the ‘Big V’ in the Group 1 National decider at Albion Park.
— Trent Langskaill (@trentlangskaill) July 29, 2017
With Mepunga Blazer boasting a flying 29.23 personal best at Sandown Park, Britton says he will be a big threat in the series, but concedes he will have to continue to step up when he meets the top sprinters in the state.
“Hopefully he gets a good draw at Sandown Park – he has had a few wide draws there which haven’t helped him – and of course he will need to do everything right against the older dogs.
“There are plenty of cases where they don’t go on with it after winning an age-restricted group race – there is always a chance that when they get up through the grades they’ll give the game away once they get a few knocks.
“You’ve just got to hope they go forward with it, but I definitely think he is capable of doing so – he has the ability to win the big open-age group races.”
A massive win to Mepunga Blazer to take out the Maturity Classic
Hope to see him in Qld for the Nationals !!!! pic.twitter.com/CAI3A3k0Xn
— Michael McInally (@MMcInallyPhotos) July 29, 2017
Britton also congratulated Smith for his work with his greyhounds, with the duo sharing a long history together, having also won the Group 1 Adelaide Cup with Mepunga Blazer’s dam, Mepunga Nicky (Premier Fantasy x Mepunga Diamond Jul ’09).
“Barry deserves all the success he gets. I’ve been training for him for a number of years and every dog he sends me is in tip top condition.
“He is a very smart man when it comes to breeding, so it is good to see him rewarded for all the time and effort he puts into the industry.”