Legendary Warrnambool trainer Norm McCullagh is hoping it will be a case of second time lucky in a country cup final for his classy speedster Crimson Vixen after she set the pace in Sunday afternoon’s Group 2 Triple M Bendigo Cup heats (425m).
Crimson Vixen made her first appearance in a Group event in May when she finished a close third to Dyna Patty in her hometown Warrnambool Cup after leading.
She was then well-fancied in the Group 1 Sapphire Crown Final at Sandown Park but met severe interference and fell on the first turn when in a prominent position.
After that disappointment, veteran mentor McCullagh, who famously guided the immortal Bold Trease to four consecutive Sandown Cup titles between 1986 and 1989, turned his attention to the $47,000 to-the-winner Bendigo Cup.
Crimson Vixen made an impressive Bendigo debut in preparation for the Cup heats on June 14, clocking a best of meeting 23.71s in a grade 4/5 event.
The daughter of Barcia Bale returned to Bendigo for Sunday’s Cup heats, where she duelled for favouritism with Italian Plastic in the fourth of seven qualifiers.
Crimson Vixen ($2.20 favourite) came out running from box four and as race caller Rob Testa observed, she “decimated’ her rivals, trouncing runner-up Italian Plastic ($2.50) by 6.29 lengths in a best of day 23.54s.
It was Crimson Vixen’s 11th win from 19 starts and she is drawn to take a power of catching in Friday night’s Cup Final after being allocated box two.
There was a massive upset in the opening heat where $1.40 favourite Orson Allen, backing up just three days after finishing runner-up in a heat of the Group 1 Brisbane Cup, was never a factor when sixth to Peter Sutcliffe’s 23.94s winner Zipping Sassy ($15.90).
Favourite Jebrynah ($2.20) dug deep after a tough run to claim the second heat in 23.77s, improving his imposing record to 17 from 25.
Angela Galea’s Time To Talk ($3.40) made every post a winner from box one in heat three to lead throughout in 23.89s, defeating Charging Yaala and $2.50 favourite Dyna Hunter, which came from last to finish third.
Youngster Curt Lee, trained by Glenn Rounds, boosted his record to 10 wins from just 14 starts when leading all-the-way in the fifth heat, posting 23.77s, while John Barbara’s well-fancied Runnin’ Royalty claimed heat six in 23.76s.
A field of five contested the seventh and final run-off, with Premier Rumble, prepared by Brooke Ennis, a dominant 23.69s victor, the second quickest qualifying effort.