Superstar sprinter Hooked On Scotch narrowly missed adding a second track record to his ever-expanding resume on Friday night with a barnstorming victory in his heat of the Group 2 Warragul Toyota Cup (460m).
Trained by Jason Thompson, Hooked On Scotch broke the Sandown Park 515m record when clocking 28.94s in a heat of the Melbourne Cup and he came into the Warragul Cup heats off a near-record performance in the Group 1 Hobart Thousand on December 19.
While he’d been beaten at his two previous appearances at Warragul, running third in both heat and final of a maiden series at his first two starts, Hooked On Scotch started $1.40 favourite from box two in the last of four heats.
Hooked On Scotch settled third behind Bendigo Cup winner Crimson Vixen ($5.90) and outsider Speed Star ($36.40).
WATCH: Hooked On Scotch (B2) win his Warragul Cup heat in a time of 25.342sec.
Crimson Vixen led well into the home straight but Hooked On Scotch unleashed a sensational finishing burst to win running away, scoring by three lengths in 25.342s, just missing 2017 Melbourne Cup winner Aston Dee Bee’s course record of 25.338s.
Aston Dee Bee was also trained by Jason and Seona Thompson and it was fitting to see Hooked On Scotch steal the heat show after the Thompsons announced earlier in the day that Awesome Lodge would generously donate $250 from every winner they train throughout January to the Red Cross Fire Appeal.
On a night of fast times, brilliant NSW sprinter La Grand Quality also impressed and will line up in his second Victorian country cup after running a close fourth in the Ballarat Cup last month.
WATCH: La Grand Quality (B3) win his Warragul Cup heat in a time of 25.401sec.
La Grand Quality will be striving to follow in the footsteps of his superstar sire El Grand Senor, which won the Warragul Cup in 2011 after claiming the Melbourne Cup and Topgun late in 2010.
Trainer Darryl Thomas brought La Grand Quality to Victoria for the Ballarat Cup heats and the lightly-raced excitement machine showed what he’s capable of by breaking the 390m track record in a trial and then producing the fastest heat performance.
La Grand Quality started even-money favourite from box three in the third heat and after quickly finding the front he accounted for Wears Woodleigh ($20.70) in a slick run of 25.40s.
Prolific speedster Peter Galo set the scene in the opening heat, remarkably claiming his 16th win from his last 19 starts and 39th from 63 overall.
WATCH: Peter Galo win the opening Warragul Cup heat from box one in a time of 25.411sec.
While half those wins came at Peter Galo’s happy hunting ground of Healesville, Garry Selkrig’s iron dog showed he is just as adept around a corner, making every post a winner from box one as the $1.90 favourite, defeating second elect Slingshot Hammer ($2.60) in 25.41s.
In a testament to Peter Galo’s longevity and durability, he will now make his fifth appearance in a country cup final, spanning a four-year period, having won the Shepparton Cup in 2018 and also contested the Healesville Cup (2017), Bendigo Cup (2018) and Geelong Cup (3rd in 2019).
There was another odds-on favourite from an inside alley in heat two, with Anthony Azzopardi’s Melbourne Cup winner and last start Ballarat Cup runner-up Whiskey Riot starting at $1.40 from box two.
WATCH: Melbourne Cup winner Whiskey Riot (B2) win his Warragul Cup heat in a time of 25.462sec.
Whiskey Riot began well and after getting the better of Submission ($19.40) he raced clear in a commanding display, defeating Awesome Catch ($21.20) by 4.81 lengths in 25.46s.
Hooked On Scotch will take a power of beating after drawing box eight, from where he broke the Sandown record, for the $47,000 to-the-winner Cup Final, to be held next Saturday night.
2020 Group 2 Warragul Cup box draw.
1.Wears Woodleigh Ian Brown
2.Peter Galo Garry Selkrig
3.Awesome Catch Robert Camilleri
4.Slingshot Hammer Robert Camilleri
5.Crimson Vixen Norm McCullagh
6.La Grand Quality Darryl Thomas
7.Whiskey Riot Anthony Azzopardi
8.Hooked On Scotch Jason Thompson
9. Speed Star Andrea Dailly
10. Duce Royal Benjamin George