Jeff Britton will take an imposing two-pronged attack into Friday night’s Group 1 Paws Of Thunder Final in Sydney after claiming a stunning heat double courtesy of Oakvale Beauty and Western Envoy.
Oakvale Beauty (pictured), winner of the Group 2 Sandown Laurels in December after running a close fourth in the Melbourne Cup, beaten only a length, produced the fastest qualifying performance, clocking a best of night 29.64s at her Wentworth Park debut.
Sent around at a staggering $11 in the second heat of four heats, Jeff Britton could have been forgiven for taking a second look at the daughter of Group 1 winner Oakvale Destiny to ensure she was still on all fours.
While box seven was a concern, there is absolutely no substitute for quality as Oakvale Beauty demonstrated, scorching down the outside to lead at the first turn.
She dominated from that point, defeating favourite Start A Riot ($3.40), trained by Keith Hellmuth, by 2.5 lengths in a Victorian quinella.
Melbourne Cup runner-up and Ballarat Cup winner Western Envoy, back in action after a brief let-up after picking up a minor infection, was one of only two runners at single figures in the opening heat; the $3.10 second elect from a suitable draw in two.
Million Dollar Chase winner Good Odds Harada was $1.60 favourite from the pink.
Western Envoy began well and headed off fellow Victorian Aston Valetta rounding the first turn and then broke clear down the back, going on to defeat Connie’s Boy by 2.25 lengths in 29.81s, his first Wentworth Park success in four attempts.
Locals won the remaining two heats, with King Cratos (Jason Magri) clocking 29.85s and local hero Feral Franky (Ray Smith) running 29.91s, with boom Victorian youngster Who Told Stevie finishing third.
Western Envoy fared best of the Victorian quartet in the Paws box draw and will exit three, with Oakvale Beauty to contend with six, while Start A Riot drew four and Caishen, trained by Anthony Azzopardi, was allocated seven.
After drawing box one, Feral Franky is TAB’s $1.90 favourite, with Western Envoy on the second line of betting at $3 and Oakvale Beauty an $11 outsider.
There will also be a strong Victorian representation in the Group 2 Summer Distance Plate after two heats of the 720m feature kicked off Saturday night’s Wentworth Park meeting.
Jeff Britton’s brother Robert started a memorable night for the family with Blazing Cartier ($5) upsetting the fast-finishing locally-trained favourite Just Terms ($1.85) by three-quarters of a length in 42.25s.
Andrea Dailly’s Boom Down started $1.95 favourite in heat two and while he could only finish fifth, Jeff Britton’s True Detective and Matt Lanigan’s Weblec Eagle will represent the Big V in the final, running second and fourth respectively to 42.19s winner Blue Moon Rising.
Paws Of Thunder draw: 1. Feral Franky, 2. Connie’s Boy, 3. Western Envoy, 4. Start A Riot, 5. Buck’s Future, 6. Oakvale Beauty, 7. Caishen, 8. King Cratos. Reserves: 9 Nangar Diva, 10. Cawbourne Marty.
Summer Distance Plate draw: 1. Blazing Cartier, 2. Just Terms, 3. Blue Summer Sky, 4. Weblec Eagle, 5. True Detective, 6. Show Me Confetti, 7. Blue Moon Rising, 8. China O’Brien. Reserves 9. Boom Down and 10. Dreamin’ Is Free.