Steve McKenna isn’t feeling any extra weight on his shoulders, despite training the only local greyhound in tonight’s $85,000 Group 2 Mega Merch Ballarat Cup, to be run at 9.18pm.
“I’m not feeling any pressure, really. If he was the favourite I might, but he’s an underdog so there’s no real expectation even though he is the only locally-trained dog in the race,” McKenna said.
Agent Jack is rated a $6.50 chance from Box 7 after a powerful finish in his heat saw him clock the impressive time of 25.139sec, a little over a length shy of the fastest time of the night (Allen Deed – 25.055sec).
That was only his second race for McKenna, in a career that has netted 11 wins and two placings from just 20 starts.
“The truth is that he’s not really suited to this race, because it’s only over 450m, which is too short for him,” McKenna said.
“He is much better suited to longer races, and has run some brilliant times over 600m at The Meadows and 595m at Sandown.”
“I’m actually hoping he’ll develop into a nice stayer, and his next mission after the Ballarat Cup will be the (Group 1) Sale Cup over 650m, which will be the longest distance he has ever raced over.”
Agent Jack came to McKenna a few weeks ago after a change of hands which saw the trainer’s dedicated owner from WA, Tony Forte invest in a 75 per cent share in the greyhound.
“Tony bought him from the same people he bought Hurunui Hitman from a couple of years ago. I was lucky enough to train Hurunui Hitman for Tony, and he won a Geelong Cup and also ran third in the Melbourne Cup, so we had a lot of success with him.”
“However, missing out on being a part of a massive race like the Melbourne Cup really hurt Hurunui Hitman’s previous owners, so this time around they have kept a 25 per cent share in Agent Jack,” he said.
McKenna said that Luca Neveelk and Secret Spell (Box 8) were the greyhounds best placed to claim the $60,000 first prize tonight.
“Luca Neveelk and Secret Spell are the only real pacy dogs in the race, so they’ll be hard to beat. But in saying that, there would only be a few dogs capable of breaking 25 seconds over the 450m at Ballarat, and Agent Jack is one of them, so with a bit of luck you never know. He has got the ability.”
McKenna, who has lived in the Ballarat region for 18 years, has only had one other finalist in a Ballarat Cup, that being Rating One, who he trained temporarily in 1999. Rating One finished seventh to Tom’s Legacy that night.
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