While boom NSW sprinter La Grand Quality set Ballarat alight in the Group 2 Cup heats, trainer Darryl Thomas can’t believe he’s favourite for Saturday night’s Cup Final (450m).
La Grand Quality was coming off a record-breaking 390m Ballarat trial when he produced the fastest heat performance last Saturday, clocking a scorching 24.91s at just his eleventh start.
The son of 2010 Melbourne Cup winner El Grand Senor will make his first appearance at Group level in the $47,000 to-the-winner Ballarat Cup and he’s TAB’s $2.80 favourite, ahead of recent Melbourne Cup victor Whiskey Riot at $3.50.
“I think it’s the wrong market,” Thomas offered.
“I don’t know if that’s me trying to stay level-headed or not realising how good he is, but it’s his first go at this level and he’s favourite ahead of the Melbourne Cup winner. Wowser!
“You’ve also got the Topgun winner, Get It Gizmo, and the Melbourne Cup runner-up, Western Envoy, off the red, and his run was as good as the winner in the Melbourne Cup. And Crimson Vixen won the Bendigo Cup.”
Ironically, Thomas and La Grand Quality are being hosted by Whiskey Riot’s trainer Anthony Azzopardi for their Ballarat Cup assault.
La Grand Quality ventured to Victoria for the first time with a sizeable reputation after breaking the Maitland 450m track record and he then set tongues wagging when smashing Ballarat’s 390m record in a solo trial.
Darryl Thomas conceded he was throwing La Grand Quality in the deep end in the Cup heats and while his lightly-raced prospect passed the examination with flying colours, his trainer isn’t getting carried away.
“This is massive for the dog but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Thomas.
“We’re staying humble and we’re just very happy to be in the final. I’d love to win – that’s what we’re here for – but I won’t be disappointed at all if he doesn’t.
“The heats were a massive step up for him and he stepped up but the final is going to be harder again. They won’t give him an inch.
“I’m not happy about drawing four – how could you be happy about it – but looking closely at it I don’t think it’s too bad.
“The three (Crimson Vixen) heads to the fence and is probably the leader and the five (Keeper Of Keys) was drawn outside me last week and gave us plenty of room at the start.”
While La Grand Quality has to contend with box four on Saturday night, he’s no stranger to middle draws, having exited boxes four, five and six at his last six starts, netting five wins, including a track record.
“It’s very exciting for me and for his owner Kellie (Fogarty), who bred the litter,” Thomas said.
“Kellie’s had the heartache with La Grand Quality being involved in a couple of car accidents and she’s been so patient, which is very hard to find when you’ve got a dog like this. She hasn’t questioned anything I’ve done and has given me free reign.
“I couldn’t be here without my mum, Darrallene, who’s looking after the team at home. She’s given me the opportunity to stay down here and give the dog every chance.”
WATCH: La Grand Quality win his Ballarat Cup heat from box six.