It took an absolute champion to deny local legend Barry Smith victory in his hometown Warrnambool Cup in 2000 when Mepunga Ben was edged out by the great Kantarn Bale, which like iconic breeder Smith is a member of GRV’s Hall Of Fame.
“Kantarn Bale was at his peak – what a dog he was – but he only beat Mepunga Ben by a half-head in the Warrnambool Cup and he also beat him narrowly in the Silver Chief,” Smith recalled ruefully.
Smith, who’s based at Mepunga East, approximately 20kms from Warrnambool, isn’t optimistic about going one better in Wednesday night’s Cup Final, where his hopes are with the promising Mepunga Warrior (box 6), $17 in TAB betting.
Back in 2000 Mepunga Ben was trained by Allan Britton, another Hall of Fame luminary, while Mepunga Warrior is prepared by Allan’s son Jeff.
Mepunga Warrior, a son of Fernando Bale and Mepunga Rosie, left last start Perth Cup victor Tiggerlong Tonk in his wake in a slick 25.03sec heat victory.
However, as was the case 21 years ago with Kantarn Bale, which returned to win a second Warrnambool Cup in 2002, Smith and Mepunga Warrior have run into a superstar in $1.75 favourite
Shima Shine, a near-record 24.76s heat winner.
“Mepunga Warrior has a fair bit of ability and he’s going to be a handy city dog over middle distances and probably ‘700’ too,” Smith said.
“But you’ve got to be realistic and he probably needs another 100m at least.
“He went very well in his heat but he got a dream run through and that’s the problem when you’re not a great beginner, you’ve got to get through the traffic.
“It’s probably Shima Shine’s race to lose but it’s a big thrill just to be there and I’d be rapt if he could run a place. Hopefully he can surprise me!”
WATCH: MEPUNGA WARRIOR (2) came from midfield to win his Warrnambool Cup heat in determined fashion over the brilliant TIGGERLONG TONK (6) and FABRIOLA ZAD (3) in 25.03sec.
Jeff Britton, who has enjoyed wonderful success in partnership with Smith over the last decade, agrees, rating Do it ($6) as the better of his two chances.
Do It, another son of Fernando Bale, finished over the top of Shepparton and Ballarat Cup winner Ferdinand Boy in his 25.18s heat victory and has drawn box one, from where he’s won three of four career starts with the sole defeat being a ¾ length second in a G1 Silver Chief heat.
“Do It is the better chance of the two,” said Britton.
“The red is where he wants to be. He’s got a lot of ability but he hasn’t really been a great race dog. He’s not a real out and out speed dog either; ideally it would be another 50 metres.
“Mepunga Warrior is only young – he’s only just turned two – and he’s more of a 550m dog.
“He got a clear run last week but I doubt whether he will this week from box six.
“It’s all about Shima Shine. If he jumps and gets a clear run then he’s the winner. He’ll ruin the race! But we know he can miss the start and if that happens there’s probably six winning chances.”
Mepunga Warrior is the latest in Smith’s extraordinary list of breeding success stories.
“Mepunga Rosie is just a beautiful brood bitch; she’s thrown city winners in every litter,” Smith said.
“Her first litter (Cosmic Rumble) had Mepunga Isla and Mepunga Maggie. Next she went to Mepunga Blazer and they’ve won races over 500, 600 and 700 and then it was the Fernando Bale litter, which is ‘Warrior’.
“She’s just had her last litter, which was eight pups to Mepunga Cruzer, who’s a full brother to Mepunga Blazer from a different litter.
“Mepunga Cruzer only had four starts before he broke down. He won all four and ran 25.01s in a maiden final at Warrnambool and 25.42s first start at Geelong.
“Jeff (Britton) doesn’t say a lot about the dogs but he told me ‘Cruzer’ is the fastest dog he’s ever put a lead on.
“I reckon he’s had six or eight bitches. He’s never going to get a big number because he’s always going to be in the shadow of his brother.
“We thought ‘Blazer’ would be good (at stud), we hoped he would be good and now the proof is in the pudding. The dog in Western Australia (Sunset Spitfire) went pretty well against Tommy Shelby last Saturday!”
2021 G2 MACEY’S BISTRO WARRNAMBOOL CUP
Wednesday 5 May (Night) – 450m
$67,000 – $47,000 (1st); $13,335 (2nd); $6,665 (3rd)
- DO IT (Jeffrey Britton, Anakie)
- DREAM WIZARD (Sean Lithgow, Devon Meadows)
- QWARA BALE (Andrea Dailly, Anakie)
- DENZELL BALE (Samantha Grenfell, Anakie)
- SHIMA SHINE (Andrea Dailly, Anakie)
- MEPUNGA WARRIOR (Jeffrey Britton, Anakie)
- JAX BALE (Andrea Dailly, Anakie)
- YOZO BALE (Correy Grenfell, Anakie)
(fastest to slowest):
- 24.76sec Shima Shine
- 24.93sec Qwara Bale
- 25.03sec Mepunga Warrior
- 25.07sec Yozo Bale
- 25.09sec Jax Bale
- 25.10sec Dream Wizard
- 25.16sec Do It
- 25.17sec Denzell Bale
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