A stint in New Zealand is the unlikely catalyst behind Bago Bye Bye’s shock emergence as a major player in Saturday night’s Group 1 Australian Cup Final (525m).
At his first start back in Australia after a sensational Kiwi campaign, where he won 10 from 13, highlighted by the New Zealand Cup, the Shaky Isles’ richest race, Bago Bye Bye set The Meadows alight in last weekend’s Australian Cup heats.
And nobody was happier to see him back where he belongs than his Queensland trainer Darren Russell.
“I wasn’t happy to lose him and I wasn’t 100 per cent sure if I was going to get him back,” said Innisplain-based Russell.
“We sent him over to New Zealand hoping it might turn him around. It was the best thing for the dog at the time and he’s come back a different dog.
“He’s a race dog now and he’s showing box speed too. Before he went over there he was an awful beginner; it didn’t matter how much box-work you did with him.”
Despite his imposing form across the ditch, Bago Bye Bye went around at $7 in the last of eight sudden death Cup heats but produced easily the fastest performance, overcoming box eight to clock an airborne 29.54sec on debut at the track.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Russell said.
“I trialled him at The Meadows the previous Monday, when it was blowing a gale, and he ran 29.84sec. After that, Anthony Azzopardi (leading trainer) told me he would run 29.60sec. Anthony’s a very good judge!
“We’ve been down in Victoria for a couple of weeks and I gave him two trials. He also broke 30 in his first trial.
“I was very disappointed when he drew box eight for his heat because it’s very hard to win from out there at The Meadows. We were going to have a good go at him, so we backed him to win the final instead and got $81!”
Bago Bye Bye is a $5 chance in TAB’s Australian Cup market after drawing four; however an upbeat Russell isn’t overly concerned about the potentially awkward alley.
“I’m happy with that,” he said.
“The six (She’s Gifted) should keep the seven (Black Opium) and eight (Miss Splendamiro) out and the three (Dyna Oscar) looks like a slow beginner.
“If he drew one or two I would’ve said he’s the best chance in the world. But if he can be running in the first three going around the first turn, he’s got the best run home and he can win the race.”
Russell was at pains to stress that should Bago Bye Bye claim the $250,000 winner’s purse, it will be an exclusively Australian celebration.
“The dog has nothing to do with New Zealand, except that he raced there,” Russell offered.
“I’m an old Balmain boy from Sydney, although the Queenslanders mightn’t like me saying that, and his owner, Greg Watts, lives in Wauchope.
“Before Bago Bye Bye went to New Zealand I told Greg this was his champion and not to sell him.
“Greg has had plenty of offers since he won his first start at Ipswich in a heat of the Vince Curry. But he strained his hip support and I had to scratch him from the semis. Then we took him down to Sandown for the Launching Pad; that’s the opinion we’ve always had of him.
“We brought him back from New Zealand to give him a chance. The plan was going to be 700 – I’ve got no doubt he’ll run it – but as soon as we started trialling him he was going past dogs like Go Lassie Go and at his first trial back at Albion Park he ran 29.73sec.
“We’re going for the good races now. After the Australian Cup, we’ll look at the Easter Egg; he’ll run 29.50sec at Wentworth Park.”