To say veteran Seaspray owner/trainers Barry and Heather Harper have home-track advantage on their side in Sunday night’s inaugural running of Sale GRC’s lucrative new feature race The Horizon (440m) would be an understatement.
The Harpers, who have only six race dogs in their kennel, are hoping to celebrate their greatest moment in the sport with home-bred Omega Dodge, which upset $1.50 favourite Dream Wizard in a barnstorming heat win.
“God, yes,” was 73-year-old Barry Harper’s response when quizzed if claiming the Horizon’s $25,000 winner’s purse would be a career highlight.
“I ran second in the Melbourne Cup in 1994 with Zippity Magic, which was beaten about four inches by Light Of Fire, but this would be my biggest win for sure.”
While Omega Dodge is tackling one of the superstars of the Victorian sprinting ranks in Ferdinand Boy, winner of the Group 2 Ballarat and Shepparton Cups in 2021, among others, local knowledge is very much in his favour.
The son of super sire Barcia Bale and Omega Brittany is familiar with every grain of loam on his local track, with 26 of his 31 starts and all eight of his victories coming over Sale’s 440m course.
Omega Dodge was chasing his third straight victory in last Sunday’s Horizon heats where he was an $8.10 outsider but finished too powerfully for Dream Wizard in 24.76sec.
It was the second quickest qualifying effort behind Ferdinand Boy’s 24.60sec.
“He’s a very good little chaser,” Harper said.
WATCH: Local hero Omega Dodge (5) upstages Dream Wizard (1) with a powerful 24.76sec The Horizon heat win last week.
“He tore a back leg muscle a long time ago and it took quite a while to get it right. But he’s going really well now; a bit more age and maturity is all I can put it down to.
“I was pleasantly surprised with his heat run. It was a very strong win.
“He’s Heather’s dog and she wanted to put him in the heats but I was umming and ahing. But he’s going good and I thought why not.
“Because of his old injury he can’t rail on the home turn so he drifts out a little bit wide, which costs him a bit time-wise.
“He must have a good following because he was backed from 12/1 into 8/1 last week.”
Another huge boost to Omega Dodge’s chances in Sunday’s final, which is Race 8 at 6.59pm, is what Harper describes a perfect draw in box seven.
“That’s not going to do him any harm at all,” he said.
“Even though he’s won from the ‘red’ he does all his best racing from seven and eight.
“In these finals there’s usually five dogs that want to get to the fence and he won’t get into any trouble out there.
“It’s a very hard race but I think he should run a place. But once we close those doors behind them we’re in the hands of the gods!”
Fittingly for the first edition of the Horizon, there’s a very strong local representation.
Darriman-based William McMahon boasts two finalists in the classy Dr. Tucker, winner of 12 from 20, highlighted by the Group 3 Great Chase, and litter sister Dr. Madison, while Dawn Johnston from Boisdale qualified Massimo, which has won 10 from 21.
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