One of the main dangers to two-time country cups hero Ferdinand Boy celebrating a $100,000 payday in Sunday afternoon’s Group 2 SEN Track Healesville Cup final (350m) is kennelmate and ‘cousin’ Hill Top Jonah (pictured with trainer David Geall).
In addition to the $50,000 Cup winner’s purse, Ferdinand Boy, trained by David Geall, is chasing a $50,000 bonus offered by GRV for snaring three country cups in a calendar year after victories in the G2 Ballarat and G2 Shepparton Cup.
But while Ferdinand Boy has cut a swathe through the provincial feature race circuit in 2021, he was upstaged in last Sunday’s Cup heats by superbly bred and closely related kennelmate Hill Top Jonah.
Hill Top Jonah, also a son of Fernando Bale, is out of Geall’s G1 Topgun and Golden Easter Egg heroine Up Hill Jill, a half-sister to Ferdinand Boy’s dam Nayla Swift, and he’s a litter brother to the brilliant Koblenz and G1 Maturity Classic finalist Hill Top Jack.
Hill Top Jonah has been a revelation since heading to Healesville after returning from injury, being unbeaten in six starts up the straight, with his 19.13sec qualifying performance the fastest of last Sunday’s six heats.
“I’ve been a little bit surprised with him,” Geall said.
“Just that he’s run so fast and he’s backed it up a couple of times now.
“I have to give credit to Dr. Des Fegan (veterinary surgeon). Hill Top Jonah chipped some toe bones and it was so minute it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. But Des found them and since the surgery and some time off the dog has won six in a row and really raised the bar.
“He could always run, although Koblenz always had a bit on him up to 400m, and to run the fastest time in those super Cup heats is a credit to the dog.
WATCH: Hill Top Jonah (2) improves his perfect Healesville record to six from six when setting the pace in last Sunday’s G2 Cup heats, clocking 19.13sec.
Ferdinand Boy in full flight at Healesville.
“He was drawn in the hardest heat but we were confident because we knew he was very well drawn in Box 2.”
After drawing Box 1 for Sunday’s final, Hill Top Jonah is the $3.20 second elect in TAB’s market, with Tiggerlong Tonk (Box 6) $2.60 favourite and Ferdinand Boy (Box 5) on the third line of betting at $4.40.
“We were hoping Hill Top Jonah would draw inside Ferdinand Boy because he does like to head to the fence in a hurry,” Geall explained.
“Hill Top Jonah does have exceptional early pace – he ran 6.45sec to the first mark last week – and he’s been pretty consistent in doing that.
“He’s got his box; he’s just got to use it now.”
Ferdinand Boy has performed impressively at Healesville over the last six weeks, winning three from six and running close seconds in fast time in his Cup heat and The Arrow match race series, as well as third in the Victorian Straight Track Championship.
However, Geall believes he isn’t at his explosive best up the straight.
“Ferdinand Boy can win the race but I just think he is better suited to the horse-shoe tracks,” Geall offered.
“He still ran very fast time in running second in his heat (19.18sec), but while I acknowledge that, I just don’t think he’s quite at his best there.
“It’s a very short catching pen at Healesville and after watching the replay a dozen times I get the feeling that when the lure disappears he thinks that’s the end of it.
“He has had a horrendous run of box draws at Healesville too.
“I’d love to win the race with either of them. I don’t have any favourites but my wife, Rose, said she would like Ferdinand Boy to win!
“But Ferdinand Boy has shown a good knack of producing on the big stage at the right time. Not only in the cups, but also in the Shepparton Classic, Warrnambool Derby and Horizon at Sale.
“I’ve been in a couple of Healesville Cups with Emerald Rainbow (2019) and Coco Benz (2014). They were both good enough to win but got beaten, so it would be nice to win it this time.”
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