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Benchester back in Shepp spotlight

Record-breaking speedster Benchester will contest his second consecutive Group 2 CKH Painting Shepparton Cup final (450m) on Saturday night. But unfortunately for trainer Mark Morrissey history has also repeated with the box draw.

In 2020, Benchester, which holds Shepparton’s 385m record, had box four when he ran fourth to Hard Style Rico in the Cup final and after drawing four again, he’s the outsider of the field at $26.

“Two years in a row and the same box again,” Morrissey offered ruefully. “It doesn’t help at all.”

The winner of 21 of his 53 starts, Benchester was a $21.90 outsider in the last of five Cup heats held on Monday.

The son of Magic Sprite and Dewana Babe was tackling a top shelf field that featured G2 Warragul Cup victor Aeroplane Eric ($2.40 favourite), Oriental Amber ($3.60), winner of her last six, and Ferdinand Boy ($4.20), last start winner of the Shepparton Classic.

Benchester was best to begin from box three and led clearly before being headed by Fernando Boy, but he stuck to his guns in the straight to only be beaten one length in 24.99sec, clocking a new personal best of 25.06sec in defeat.

“I thought he was massive odds,” Morrissey said.

“It was a very even field and when Mick Carter’s dog in box two (Extra Speed) was a late scratching my confidence grew because it has early pace, and I was worried it might have caused me a bit of grief trying to get across.

“My chances improved when it was scratched and Benchester was able to lead, and he boxed on well.

“He’s been trialling well and I think he’s back to his best. He ran nearly the same time as he did in last year’s heat and final so he hasn’t lost anything.”

But while Morrissey believes Benchester is going as well as ever, he concedes he faces a huge task to win the Cup at his second attempt, which somewhat surprisingly, considering the prolific speedster’s record, have been his only two appearances at Group level.

“It’s a good effort to make the final two years in a row but he would need everything to go right to win it,” Morrissey said.

“He would need to lead and have some trouble behind him to get a bit of a break.

“The dog that beat us (Ferdinand Boy) went really well and I also think Brett Nye’s dog in box five (Barooga Smoke) is going to get a good run because my dog will be heading to the fence pretty hard.

“We’ll try and stick around the country cups with Benchester; up to 450m is where he sits. I took him to The Meadows for a couple of runs but it just knocked him around trying to get that bit extra.”

WATCH: Benchester (3) reached his second consecutive G2 Shepparton Cup when a gallant second to Ferdinand Boy (6) in a heat on Monday.

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Gerard Guthrie
About Gerard Guthrie - One of Australia's leading greyhound racing journalists since 2000 with the Greyhound Recorder and now with Greyhound Racing Victoria. Part-owner 2013 Group 1 Paws Of Thunder winner Sheikha. (The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of GRV)
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