Boasting two leading contenders in Saturday’s Group 3 Top Cat Video Cup final (725m) at The Meadows, Jeff Britton has labelled rising star Mepunga Ruby (pictured with handler Angela Langton) as his best chance, ahead of multiple feature race winner Hank The Hustler.
Mepunga Ruby’s recent form over middle and staying distances is almost impossible to fault, with the daughter of Fernando Bale and Mepunga Rosie winning 10 of her last 13 starts, finishing second in all three defeats, and 12 from 19 overall.
Hank The Hustler, a superbly bred son of Fernando Bale and G1 winner Oakvale Destiny, has also been a model of consistency, winning five of his last 10, highlighted by the G3 Fireball and Victorian National Distance final, both at The Meadows.
“Mepunga Ruby has gone to a new level in her last four or five starts,” Britton said.
“She improved a lot in a couple of weeks and her form has held up so far.
“We were hoping she would stay but you never know until they do it. She’s been running it out well and she’s still fairly young so I’m hoping there’s still some upside with her.
“Hank The Hustler has been racing really consistently and he’s been up for a while too. He has won from out wide at The Meadows but it can be hard to get across so I don’t think he’s badly boxed.
“They’re two good chances but I think Mepunga Ruby has got to be the best chance, only because she’s drawn Box 1.”
While Britton’s duo head betting, he concedes they’ll have their work cut out beating fastest qualifier Five Star (Box 6), trained by Paul Abela, which at $4.40 is the only other finalist at single figures.
WATCH: G3 Top Cat Video Cup favourite Mepunga Ruby (1) defeats fellow finalist Major Sacrifice (2) to win the G3 Speed Star (725m) at The Meadows on August 25.
Three heats were held last Saturday, with Five Star, returning to the form which stamped him as the next big thing in the staying ranks when he won the G3 Lizrene Speed Star (715m) at Sandown and Pink Diamond Champion Distance series at Bendigo in June.
The trio’s respective winning times provided an eyebrow-raising turnaround from the recent G3 Speed Star series, also held at The Meadow, where all three were victorious in their match races, with Mepunga Ruby’s 42.60sec the winning run, ahead of Hank The Hustler (42.79sec) and Five Star (42.81sec).
“Five Star might have to get held up for one of ours to win.
“Mepunga Ruby’s heat was a shemozzle and she was lucky to win but she has run 42.60sec at The Meadows.
“She’s drawn Box 1 but she’s still got to get out quickly because there’s a fair amount of pace in the race.
Britton is also keen to test Mepunga Ruby’s litter brother Mepunga Warrior, runner-up in the G3 Speed Star (600m) at The Meadows, over ‘the long’ but first things first, he gives the multiple Group finalist a great chance in Race 7 on Saturday over 525m off Box 1, from where he’s won four from six.
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