As John Westerlo battles through chemotherapy, the veteran trainer is eyeing a timely boost when rising star Mandalorian faces his biggest test to date in Saturday night’s Group 2 Backmans Greyhound Supplies Cranbourne Cup heats (520m).
Three days short of his second birthday and with only ten starts under his belt, Westerlo and wife Carol have thrown homebred Mandalorian in at the deep end.
But with four wins from his last five starts, including flying 29.28s and 29.36s victories at Sandown and a runaway last start best of night 30.34s effort at his Cranbourne debut, the astute Westerlo says Mandalorian deserves his shot at Group glory.
WATCH: Mandalorian win from box two at Sandown Park in a time of 29.28s.
“He’s a pretty serious dog so you’ve got to start looking at these serious races,” said Westerlo, who’s based at Clyde.
“He’s really turned the corner and when he ran 29.28s at Sandown you think gee whiz!
“This is definitely his biggest test but I don’t think it’s a red hot Cup.
“The heats aren’t as strong as you’d expect but while it’s a winnable race, things still have to go your way.
“He’d never been to Cranbourne before so we took him there to give him a look last start. Everything went to plan; he drew the red and won well. It was like a solo trial but we got $1500 for winning it!”
Drawn in box three in the third of five Cup heats, Mandalorian, a son of the late, great stud dog Barcia Bale and Butterfly Bling, is $4.20 in TAB’s market.
The Jackie Greenough-trained Often Imitated (box 8), beaten favourite in the middle distance Maidment Memorial at Sandown Park at her most recent appearance, is the $2.15 favourite.
Westerlo has a second string to his Cranbourne Cup bow in the more experienced Ultimate Bling, which is dropping back to 520m after competing over middle distances of late.
Ultimate Bling is a $6 chance from box four in heat two, with Angela Langton’s rails runner Black Signature the $2.40 favourite, shading David Burnett’s Snags McKenzie, last start winner of the Australian Sprint at Sandown, at $2.50.
“Ultimate Bling is a good, honest chasing dog,” Westerlo said.
“He’s no superstar but he’s run 30 ‘dead’ at The Meadows, he’s run 30.20s at Cranbourne and he’s broken 34 seconds at Sandown over 595m.
“He’s had a couple of weeks off so he’s mad fresh and he’s a chance but Mandalorian is our best chance without a doubt.”
While Westerlo has a sizeable opinion of Mandalorian, he’s even more impressed with litter brother Dark Arrow, which has won two of his eight starts but fell at Warragul on Tuesday night, fortunately avoiding serious injury.
“He’s a very fast dog but he just hasn’t got any early speed,” Westerlo offered.
“When they haven’t got it, they haven’t got it.
“His first go at Warragul he ran 25.55s and Walk Hard (2014 Warragul Cup winner), which is sitting here on the lounge playing with a Chihuahua while we’re talking, ran 25.46s when he broke the record in the Cup heats.”