Harry Manolitsis will unleash a two-pronged assault on next Saturday’s Group 2 Warragul Toyota Cup Final (460m) after winning two of the five heats held on Friday night, courtesy of Elevated and Italian Plastic.
Qualifying two finalists was quite a remarkable training feat, considering Devon Meadows-based Manolitsis only has three greyhounds in work.
“The pair of them are both going well,” Manolitsis said.
“I was bullish about Elevated’s chances – she’s a very quick animal – but I thought the dog (Italian Plastic) was in a fair race. I thought there was probably four chances in his race.”
Elevated, winner of the Group 1 Sapphire Crown and runner-up in the Group 2 Shepparton Cup in 2018, launched Manolitsis’ tilt at the Warragul Cup in the opening heat, chasing her third straight victory since resuming from a let-up.
The $2.40 second elect from box three, Elevated and $2 favourite Dyna Hunter dominated betting and the market was spot on as they staged a stirring two-greyhound duel, with Elevated railing strongly in the home straight to run down Dyna Hunter.
Elevated scored by 1.71 lengths in a best of night 25.48sec, her 12th win from 27 starts.
“Elevated hurt herself in the Speed Star at Sandown in September and I gave her about 11 weeks off to rest up and get her right again,” Manolitsis explained.
Manolitsis then completed his heat double in the third run-off when Italian Plastic, a Group 2 Geelong Cup finalist last year, prevailed in a thrilling three-way blanket finish.
Italian Plastic ($4.30) settled third behind odds-on favourite Fully Loaded ($1.70) and edged out the fast-finishing Sure To Excite ($17.80) and Fully Loaded in 25.89sec, with only .16 of a length separating the three placegetters.
Like kennelmate Elevated, Italian Plastic has now won his last three starts and an impressive overall 18 from 37 strike rate.
“He goes nice too,” Manolitsis offered.
“He’s three or four lengths slower than Elevated but I rate her very highly. She’s as quick as any dog in the country when she’s right. In her trials she’s broken records and run near-records.
“Italian Plastic got there on the line but it was a huge effort to pull three or four lengths off a dog like Fully Loaded. I was watching the race with Jamie Ennis and Jamie told me I got up. It was only .04 of a length so Jamie’s a very good judge!”
While Manolitsis rates Elevated as “definitely” the pick of his two finalists, he concedes drawing box seven makes her task a difficult one.
“If I’d chosen her box I would have picked inside. She likes railing and that’s where she’s comfortable. That’s one of her assets,” he said.
“But in saying that, she does run true to her box, although drawn out there she won’t be able to cross them.
“It’s a tough race. There will probably be five or six of them going into the corner and they’ll sort themselves out there. It’s just one of those races and draws are everything.
“Italian Plastic is drawn lovely in box two. He’ll be sitting behind the speed and he’s a pretty honest dog as his win ratio tells you.”
Jason Sharp’s 2018 Group 3 Healesville Cup winner Kouta Mayhem will be chasing his second country cup after an upset victory in the second heat, where he clocked 26.20sec as a $20.90 outsider, with $1.40 favourite Black Opium running sixth.
The final two heats saw Orson Allen, trained by Correy Grenfell, defeat Big Flood in 25.53sec, while Rocky Crisafi’s youngster Jebrynah improved his perfect Warragul record to four from four in the final qualifier, leading all-the-way in 25.61sec.