Warrnambool golden girl Crimson Vixen will take aim at her second country cup title on Saturday night after running a gallant second to superstar Hooked On Scotch in the heats of the Group 2 Warragul Toyota Cup (460m).
Hooked On Scotch sprouted wings in the home straight to reel in Crimson Vixen in near track record time last Friday; however she won’t have to deal with Australia’s greyhound of the moment in the Cup Final after he was scratched due to injury.
“Hooked On Scotch jumped out of the sky,” Hall of Fame trainer Norm McCullagh said.
“It won’t hurt Crimson Vixen’s chances at all that he’ll miss the final. It puts her in with a rough show.”
Crimson Vixen celebrated the biggest win of her 25-start career when landing the Bendigo Cup last July, while she also contested the finals at Ballarat and Warrnambool, finishing third on both occasions after leading.
A hock problem has restricted Crimson Vixen to only five appearances in six months since her Bendigo Cup triumph, but despite a limited preparation she gave a great sight in the Ballarat Cup Final last month.
She was airborne through the first and second sections before being run down late by Western Envoy and Whiskey Riot, which also ran the quinella in the Melbourne Cup.
Crimson Vixen then headed to Warragul and made her track debut in the last of four Cup heats, where she was the $5.60 second elect behind last start Hobart Thousand winner Hooked On Scotch, the $1.40 favourite.
Crimson Vixen showed her customary early speed to lead from box seven but had no answer to the paralysing finishing burst of Hooked On Scotch, which clocked 25.34s, just one hundredth of a second outside the course record.
“She’s had a bit of a crook hock but she’s going pretty well,” McCullagh explained.
“She’s very quick early but she burns herself out. You can’t burn the candle at both ends.
“She led them up at Ballarat, they broke 25 seconds and only caught her in the last 15 yards.
“She improved from heat to final at Ballarat so hopefully she might find a length or two this week. We trialled her over 400m at Warragul and she went pretty well but the heat was her first start there.
“I haven’t been down to Warragul for a long, long time. It’s a big trip for me!”
With the shock scratching of Hooked On Scotch the day after his barnstorming heat victory, TAB has installed Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot as $2.50 favourite, ahead of NSW visitor La Grand Quality at $3.60, with Crimson Vixen at $6.
“You’d like to be drawn in a bit closer but if she comes out box five won’t worry her,” said McCullagh.
“Whiskey Riot will probably be camped on her tail from box seven and run her down but we’ll see what happens.
“She hasn’t had much luck in these big races because there hasn’t been much interference behind her.”
Crimson Vixen will turn three in February but the daughter of super sire Barcia Bale has been sparingly raced, winning 14 from 25.
“Her hock seems to be okay but we’ll look after her a bit,” McCullagh said.
“We might put her in the Australian Cup but we don’t want to wear her out.
“We’ll definitely use her as a broodbitch and I’ve already had people ringing up to see when we’re going to breed with her and asking if there’ll be any pups for sale.”