David Geall and record-breaking star Ferdinand Boy will take the first steps towards a third country cup crown in Sunday afternoon’s Victorian Straight Track Championship heats (350m) at Healesville.
Two heats will be held, with Ferdinand Boy to make his straight track debut in the second run-off, which is Race 8 at 1.29pm.
It was announced earlier this week that the qualifiers from next weekend’s Victorian final won’t head to the National Final at Capalaba in Queensland, which has been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
With an eye on the Healesville Cup in September, Lara-based Geall has entered Ferdinand Boy, brilliant winner of 23 of his 42 starts, highlighted by this year’s G2 Shepparton and G2 Ballarat Cups, for Sunday’s heats.
“It’s become very hard to place him because he’s been upgraded to Grade 3 for 425m and beyond,” Geall explained.
“We were going to the Healesville Cup so I gave him a trial there last Friday and he went very quick.
“I thought he might take a couple of runs to get used to Healesville but he’s such a mad chaser.
“I have found in the past the dogs can get a bit confused running in a straight line for a whole trip because they’re so used to slowing down to get around a bend but he trialled so well I decided to put him in the heats.”
Two starts back, Ferdinand Boy, a superbly-related son of Fernando Bale and Nayla Swift, a half-sister to Geall’s two-time G1 winner Up Hill Jill, broke Shepparton’s 385m record, adding it to the 450m benchmark he established when winning the Cup in March.
Then at his most recent appearance, at Sandown Park, everything went wrong when he uncharacteristically missed the start and then fell on the first corner.
“He pulled up really well after his fall,” Geall said.
WATCH: Ferdinand Boy (5) breaks Shepparton 385m track record on July 5 after a stirring duel with Fernando Bluey (3).
“I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for him to miss the start that badly. I thought he’d come out and be in ‘six’ in front and see what happens from there.
“That did put a bit of a dampener on pursuing the city with him at this stage. I don’t want to try to make a 500m dog out of a 450m dog until the time is right.”
It’s another huge weekend for Geall, who has two finalists in Saturday night’s G1 Maturity Classic at The Meadows in Hill Top Jack (Box 2) and Fernando Mick (Box 4), which are $21 and $5.50 respectively in TAB betting.
Geall also has the $2.60 Maturity favourite in Koblenz, winner of 16 from 22, but the first reserve requires a scratching to sneak into the field after being edged out in a heart-stopping heat battle with fastest qualifier Aston Fastnet.
“I didn’t think we would qualify two and Koblenz would miss out,” Geall said.
“It’s just a pity that him and Aston Fastnet were drawn in the same heat but I give both the other two chances. One is a 29.80sec dog at The Meadows (Fernando Mick) and the other is a 29.90sec dog, so they’re both very handy.
“Hill Top Jack is a really reliable beginner, he’s a railer and he’s a strong dog.
“He’s probably a couple of lengths off a few of them but he has drawn well.
“Fernando Mick is a little bit faster than Hill Top Jack and he’s always a chance because if he gets a bit of space after 10 or 20 metres he accelerates extremely fast.”
If Koblenz doesn’t gain an eleventh-hour call-up to Saturday’s ‘main event’ he’s $3.90 in a star-studded FFA ‘appetiser’, where his rivals include Equalizer, Aston Rupee and Shima Shine.
“That’s a G1 race in itself,” Geall said.
“I guess we’ll lead, he’ll run 29.80sec and they’ll have to run him down but there’s a few in there that are capable of doing it.
“It’s the hottest field he’s been in, but this dog doesn’t mind pressure and that won’t daunt him at all.”
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