Champion trainer Jason Thompson holds the key to Friday night’s Geelong Derby final (460m) with inside duo, boom youngster Rebellious (Box 1) and comeback speedster Mr. America (Box 2).
Rebellious improved his sensational record to 13 wins from 18 starts when clocking the fastest time in last Friday’s three heats, 25.55sec, while Mr. America, the winner of 10 from 20, was run down in the shadows of the post by Samantha Grenfell’s Nikoli Bale in 25.58sec.
Rebellious, a superbly bred son of Barcia Bale and On The Runway, a litter sister to Thompson-trained G1 winners Poke The Bear and Out Of Range, has bounced back with two emphatic victories after back-to-back defeats over 515m at Sandown Park.
After a short let-up, Rebellious ran a fast 24.57sec at Sale, before making it two from two over 460m at Geelong as the $1.30 favourite in his Derby heat.
He’d clocked a near-record 25.24sec in July, just two lengths outside the benchmark held by another Thompson-prepared star in Black Magic Opal.
Thompson was pleased with Rebellious’ heat performance, especially the way he finished off, but concedes the move from ‘the pink’ last week to the rails for Friday’s $6500 to-the-winner final is a concern.
“Rebellious had a couple of weeks off with a minor problem and his two runs back have been very good,” he said.
“The best part of his heat was the last 200m. He was two in front turning for home and won by six or seven. He’s really strengthening up.
“Box one is probably not ideal. He’s better off drawn middle to wide and he won’t want to do anything wrong.
“Hopefully Rebellious and Mr. America can avoid each other. I think Mr. America will clear Rebellious anyway.
“Mr. America is normally a very good beginner and while he won’t cut hard to the fence, he will want to head there soon after the start.”
Thompson confirmed Rebellious will step up to Group company for the first time in Saturday week’s (October 9) G2 Bendigo Cup heats and cautioned he has by no means been deterred by the potential superstar’s two seconds at Sandown.
WATCH: Rebellious (8) is the fastest qualifier for Friday night’s Geelong Derby Final after a runaway 25.55sec heat victory.
“After Friday he’ll go to the Bendigo Cup heats and then I’ll get him back to Sandown and get him ready for a Melbourne Cup campaign,” Thompson said.
“We haven’t seen the best of him at Sandown yet. His two runs there were okay, although he didn’t look as comfortable as he has on half-circle tracks. But when he gets back to Sandown again I’m sure he’ll have adjusted.”
While Mr. America was edged out in his Derby heat, Thompson is ecstatic with the way the son of Se Tali Sundance and Motel Girl has returned from a career-threatening Achilles tendon injury and subsequent six months on the sidelines.
A G2 Horsham Cup finalist back in March, Mr. America has won two from five since resuming and ran a close fifth in the recent G2 Healesville Cup final.
“I’m absolutely rapt with him,” said Thompson.
“To come back from a very, very serious injury and get back to the form he showed as a young dog is amazing.
“He hasn’t lost anything and all credit goes to Des Fegan (veterinary surgeon), who did the surgery on his Achilles. In the past when this surgery wasn’t available, there’s no doubt the dog wouldn’t have raced again.
“He’s getting better and better with every run. He made the Healesville Cup Final and was probably the unlucky runner in the race, if there was one. Then his sections were very quick when he won at Shepparton (25.02sec BON).
“He had to work to get to the front in his heat and needed the run because it was only his second half-circle run in six months.
“If he can begin like he did at Shepparton, he should cross Rebellious and if he leads he’ll be hard to beat. With the box draw, I’d say he’s my best chance.”
Three heats of the Geelong Oaks were also held last Friday, with Andrea Dailly’s G3 Cranbourne Classic winner Lala Kiwi the fastest qualifier, posting 25.87sec, shading Gracie Bale, trained by Daniel Gibbons, which ran 25.89sec.
However, the Oaks has been thrown wide open with Lala Kiwi and dual G1-winning kennelmate Qwara Bale both heading to South Australia for Thursday night’s G1 Adelaide Cup heats.
The Derby final is race 8 at 9.19pm on Friday, with the Oaks race 6 at 8.35pm.
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