Adam Richardson jokes that prominent owner/breeder Barry Smith (pictured) put him under the pump when he was given promising Geelong Oaks finalist Mepunga Isla to train.
“Barry’s always had a good opinion of Mepunga Isla and he said this was my test to see how I handled a good one,” Richardson laughed.
So far, 42-year-old Richardson, together with partner Sam Hooke, has passed the challenge with flying colours.
Mepunga Isla, a daughter of Cosmic Rumble and multiple Group finalist Mepunga Rosie, continued the impressive start to her short career in last Friday’s Geelong Oaks heats, chalking up her fifth win from nine starts.
Drawn in box eight in the first of two heats, Mepunga Isla was the $2.70 second elect from box eight, with Angela Langton’s three-time Group winner Circle Of Dreams, also bred by Barry Smith, the $2.30 favourite from box four.
Circle Of Dreams was best to begin as Mepunga Isla settled in third place before Mepunga Isla swept to the front approaching the home turn and kept going strongly to defeat Imminent ($6.30) by 2.89 lengths in a best of night 25.61s.
“I was really happy with her,” said Richardson, who’s based at Bushfield, near Warrnambool.
“It was probably the hardest of the heats and to see her run past a Group 1 winner (Circle Of Dreams) was pretty impressive.
“I wasn’t really surprised because I took her to Geelong on the Saturday morning and she trialled pretty quick and box eight gave her a bit of room to move.
“She just needs to get out of the boxes a little bit better.
“When she started off she was really pinging the lids but after winning the Healesville Vic Breeders she had a bit of a break with an Achilles problem and she just hasn’t been jumping as well since.
“But once she hits the ground she can really muster and she’s very strong.”
The second Oaks heat was won by Mepunga Isla’s litter sister Mepunga Maggie, a recent Group 3 SA Oaks placegetter, trained by Jeff Britton, which started $1.60 favourite and was successful in 25.87s, her seventh win from 23 starts.
Richardson’s confidence that Mepunga Isla can repeat her barnstorming heat victory in Thursday night’s Oaks Final received a significant boost when she was once again allocated box eight and she’s TAB’s $2.25 favourite ahead of Circle Of Dreams (box 5) at $3.80.
“I’m very happy with the draw and hopefully she can repeat what she did last week,” Richardson said.
“But it’s a tough field. Circle Of Dreams was coming off a bit of a break so she’ll improve.”
Richardson doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that it would mean a great deal to claim the $6300 to-the-winner Oaks for Barry Smith.
“Barry is pretty much my mentor and one of my best mates,” Richardson explained.
“I’ve had dogs on and off since I was 16 or 17 but since I met Barry about six or seven years ago I’ve been getting around 30 winners a year, which isn’t bad for a little trainer with four or five dogs.
“Barry started off giving me a few dogs that weren’t city class and I did alright with them so he gave me Mepunga Isla to see how I went with a better one. I do get a bit nervous and sometimes the pressure can get to me behind the boxes!
“Barry has taught me so much and I’m very lucky to have someone like him in my corner.
“I’m over the moon to be in the Oaks Final. I was very proud to win the Vic Breeders at Healesville with Mepunga Isla and I’d love to win this race for Barry too.”
WATCH: Mepunga Isla (8) takes out a heat of the Geelong Oaks last Friday.