*Apex Within with trainer Rod Clark after their McKenna Memorial heat win last week. Photo credits; Jason McKeown Photography.
Fortune didn’t favour Rod Clark in last Friday night’s Group 2 Bendigo Cup Final.
Clark’s $34.80 outsider Wally Milne was cut out on the home turn when in a threatening position; however the Toolleen trainer hasn’t had to wait long for a shot at feature race redemption.
One night before Wally Milne’s luckless sixth at Bendigo, Clark’s talented middle distance specialist Apex Within, the winner of 28 of his 59 starts, produced the fastest qualifying performance in the heats of the Group 2 McKenna Memorial (595m) at Sandown Park.
“Wally Milne was right there in the Bendigo Cup but unfortunately he had nowhere to go,” Clark said ruefully.
“He just needed a bit of room and he would’ve been there somewhere.
“You need everything going for you in these big races and hopefully we can redeem ourselves on Thursday night.”
While Apex Within has won over all three distances at Sandown, Clark says the 595m of the $40,000 to-the-winner McKenna Memorial is ideal, with last Thursday’s best of night 33.98s heat victory his fourth success from seven starts over the course.
Apex Within also has breeding on his side, with his champion ‘aunty’ Xylia Allen having won the time-honoured middle distance event in 2014.
WATCH: Apex Within (box three) win his McKenna Memorial heat at Sandown Park last week.
“We were very excited to win the heat but then a bit deflated when we saw the box draw,” Clark said.
“I’d love to have an inside box. He’s not blessed with early speed so box eight will make it a bit tough but we’ll run for a bit of luck and hope the good Lord is looking down on us!”
While Clark concedes the outside alley won’t help, Apex Within is somewhat surprisingly a $16 outsider in TAB’s McKenna Memorial market, with Robert Britton’s dual Group 1 winner Neo Cleo the $2.50 favourite from box one.
“He’s a very, very fast dog on his night” Clark said.
“He had to balk off Jason Thompson’s dog (Deliver) in his heat too, which probably cost him a couple of lengths.
“Rob (Britton) has Neo Cleo flying and she should get all the breaks off the red but you can’t say Apex Within has no hope because he really has.”
Clark is no stranger to an elite middle distance performer, having won the Group 1 Hume Cup in 2011 with Shintaro Samurai, and he has no doubt Apex Within has what it takes.
“Shintaro Samurai was a great little dog but Apex Within is lengths and lengths faster. He really is,” Clark offered.
“He’s been a slow maturer, which is why we’ve raced him sparingly in town.
“It’s been all about placing him where he can keep out of trouble up until this point but now’s the time to dip our toes in the water against the better dogs in the bigger races and hopefully patience will pay off.”