Lara trainer Brendan Pursell is chasing a rare Group 1 Sandown Cup-Bold Trease double.
Only four trainers have snared Sandown GRC’s staying ‘jewels in the crown’ in the same year: 2006 Lauren Gorman (Sargent Major); 2008 Shane Whitney (Chinatown Lad/Fallen Zorro); 2014 Darren McDonald (Sweet It Is); 2017 Robert Britton (Fanta Bale); 2018 Robert Britton (Tornado Tears/Barcali).
And Pursell is hoping he’s the fifth! He won the Sandown Cup with Bronski Beat in May and has Sweet As Emm in Friday night’s Bold Trease (715m).
Bronski Beat was sold to New Zealand interests in late July, and at his past two starts has broken the 660-metre track record at Manawatu Raceway in Palmerston North.
But Pursell has a ready-made replacement in Sweet As Emm who is on the second line of TAB betting at $6.50, behind raging hot $1.80 favourite Houdini Boy, for the $105,000-to-the-winner final.
Amazingly, Sweet As Emm (Mar ’17 My Bro Fabio x Born Ali) was the fastest Bold Trease qualifier (41.54sec) at her first distance start in 630 days. Her previous staying victory was at Sandown on February 28 last year.
WATCH: Sweet As Emm (3) sets a 41.54sec time standard in last week’s G1 Bold Trease heats – her first staying start for 630 days!
Sweet As Emm’s staying career was stalled for seven months, from December last year to July this year, after having a toe amputated on her front left foot. And she’s also contended with a few niggling injuries since.
“A few things have gone wrong and she’s been slightly rushed into the Bold Trease series,” Pursell said. “It hasn’t been the perfect preparation, but she gives her all and has always been strong.”
But Pursell added that Sweet As Emm, who has drawn Box 2 in the final, had pulled up fine after her heat win and was right to go.
“It’s good to finally get a decent box draw,” he said. “She’s a mad railer and needs the inside.”
In fact, Sweet As Emm has won six races (with a second and a third), in 11 starts from the ‘check’ trap.
Pursell likes Sweet As Emm’s chances and rates Houdini Boy, Sunset Bourbski and Blazing Cartier as the hardest to beat.
“Given her lack of racing in recent months, I think she’ll improve on last week’s run,” he said. “If she leads and pinches a break, she’ll give it a shake.”
Bred and owned by highly respected Warrnambool breeder Noel Mugavin, Sweet As Emm has won 18 races (with five seconds and 10 thirds) from 52 starts.
A versatile performer, Sweet As Emm was a finalist in the 2018 G2 Laurels 515m (5th), 2019 G2 McKenna Memorial 595m (3rd) and this year’s G2 Geelong Gold Cup 520m (7th).
“Noel says she’s a lot like her mum (Born Ali) in terms of ability and adaptability,” Pursell said. “I’ve been training greyhounds for him since coming over from Tassie, to work for Rob Britton, around five years ago.”
In early 2016, Pursell – a former harness trainer-driver – seized on an opportunity to assist Britton with his large team at Lara.
Initially, he was responsible for the handling of Britton’s greyhounds on an adjoining property. Pursell didn’t shift camp but eventually decided to obtain his Victorian greyhound trainer’s licence.
The G1 Bold Trease final is Race 5 at 7.42pm on Friday night. It’s part of the inaugural Metro Festival of Racing incorporates five nights of racing at The Meadows and Sandown Park during November with almost $2 million in prize money being distributed.