The last time veteran Warrnambool trainer Norm McCullagh travelled to Sydney with a greyhound was way back in 1987 when his legendary stayer Bold Trease added the Association Cup to his remarkable resumé.
McCullagh enjoyed an amazing ride with the freakish Bold Trease, tagged the Warrnambool Warrior, incredibly winning four successive Sandown Cups between 1986 and 1989.
More than thirty years after his last Sydney foray, 79-year-old McCullagh is now targeting NSW’s richest race, the $250,000 to-the-winner Group 1 Golden Easter Egg (520m), with his lightly-raced up-and-comer Crimson Vixen (pictured above).
The impressive winner of eight of her 12 starts, her last five in a row, including claiming Melbourne and Australian Cup runner-up Black Opium’s scalp in the Ballarat Oaks, Crimson Vixen will face a baptism of fire on Saturday night when tested for the first time in Group company.
“I’ve got a pretty big opinion of her and I reckon she can only get better because she’s only 26 months old,” McCullagh said. “She’s just been going through her grades, so maybe there’s a bit of inexperience.
“These are the best dogs she’s ever raced against but she’s got early pace and she’s run a bit of time; she’s broken 30 seconds at The Meadows and run 29.54sec at Sandown.”
While Crimson Vixen lacks experience, a perfect draw in box two and an impressive Wentworth Park trial have seen the TAB install her as the $2.90 favourite in the sixth of ten star-studded Easter Egg heats, set to jump at 9.13pm.
“Everyone has been telling me that you only ever get one chance at these races and they tell me Wentworth Park is a leader’s track, which will suit her,” McCullagh said.
“She’s never really been in a field before because she’s always been out in front.
“She trialled up in Sydney last Tuesday. She only had a box-to-box (trial) but her early splits were very good and that made up our minds to go back for the heats.
“We couldn’t ask for a better draw because she likes the fence, so hopefully she can jump out and be competitive.”
McCullagh is wary of Crimson Vixen’s local opposition, with rails runner Good Odds Harada the $4.40 second elect and multiple record-breaker Pindari Express, the winner of 11 from 17, at $6.
Victorian sprinters are chasing a tenth straight Golden Easter Egg victory and if TAB’s market is any guide the southern domination of NSW’s flagship event is set to continue.
Three Victorian stars share ‘all-in’ favouritism at $8 – last start Perth Cup winner Orson Allen, Black Opium and her powerhouse kennelmate Poke The Bear.
Australian Cup heroine Dyna Patty is at $14, with Crimson Vixen a $21 chance.