Juniper Pearl has jumped every hurdle Brett Mackie has placed in front of her but her unblemished middle distance record will receive its litmus test in Sunday night’s Group 1 98.3 Gold FM Sale Cup heats (650m).
Described as a “real bonus dog” by Tooradin trainer Mackie, Juniper Pearl has won 10 of her 21 starts and all four over 600m, highlighted by the Group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial at Sandown Park on Melbourne Cup night.
“She keeps answering everything I ask her to do,” said Mackie.
“At the start I thought she might be a handy little front-runner but she’s really developed into a nice race dog.
“Put it this way; she didn’t break-in first go and then at her second go she broke in tier 3 standard.
“We were pretty rapt just to get a start in the John Dillon and then to win it was great. That was the first Group race I’ve won.”
WATCH: Juniper Pearl claim the 2018 Group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial (595m) from box seven.
Mackie, who returned to training in November 2017 after a twenty-year hiatus, during which he focused on rearing and breaking-in, admits his decision to test Juniper Pearl over further ground was borne out of necessity.
“The reason I stepped her up was that she started missing the start and was getting knocked around a bit,” Mackie explained.
“She’s going pretty good but I wasn’t sure whether to go to the Sale Cup until she won at The Meadows last Saturday. She didn’t lead but she came from behind to win, so I decided to have a crack at Sale.”
Juniper Pearl is the $6 second elect from box three in Sunday’s third Sale Cup heat (race 8 at 8.22pm), where rails runner Neo Cleo is the clear-cut $1.40 favourite after a dominant win in the Sale Distance Championship over the Cup course last weekend.
“I would have liked the draw to be a little bit different,” Mackie said.
“We’ve got to get around Neo Cleo. Neo Cleo has her box on Sunday so we’ve just got to front up and take our medicine and hopefully qualify for the final.
“I trialled Juniper Pearl at Sale and she ran the same splits that Neo Cleo has run there the last two weeks but she was a bit slower to the first mark. You’ve got to do everything right in these races but it should be a great race.”
Three Sale Cup heats will be held, with Barcali, last start winner of the Group 1 Bold Trease over 715m on Melbourne Cup night, the $1.60 favourite with TAB in the opening heat, while Dyna Chancer ($2.80) and Group 1 Hume Cup hero Black Impala ($3.30) head the market on the second run-off.