Young Anakie trainer Correy Grenfell and wife Samantha are taking aim at back-to-back victories in the Group 2 Chasers Function Centre Bendigo Cup (425m) after Yozo Bale and superstar Tiggerlong Tonk ran the quinella in 2020.
On that occasion, Yozo Bale upstaged more fancied kennelmate Tiggerlong Tonk, with track record-holder Shima Shine finishing third and Hard Style Rico, which went on to win the G1 Melbourne Cup, fourth.
Yozo Bale, which also won the Ballarat Cup last December and was runner-up in both the Geelong and Warrnambool Cups this year, will be back to defend his crown in Saturday night’s Cup heats.
While dual G1 winner Tiggerlong Tonk will make his first appearance since running second in the G2 Healesville Cup on September 12 in the sixth – and arguably toughest of the eight sudden death qualifiers.
However, Grenfell is extremely bullish about the chances of rising star Nikoli Bale, which is $5.50 from Box 1 in TAB’s market on the opening heat, and is sure to raise some eyebrows by rating the last start Geelong Derby winner as his best heat chance.
“Nikoli Bale is dead-set flying,” said 27-year-old Grenfell.
“I had massive wraps on him after pre-training and was saying I thought he’d win a Group race for sure, but then he tapered off a bit.
“I stepped him up to ‘600’ trying to get him to show some early speed. I spoke to Sam (wife) and decided to take Nikoli Bale and his brother Kinson Bale back to the country circuit to get some speed back in their legs.
“They’re both going great now but Nikoli Bale is so much stronger.
“He beat Mr. America twice at Geelong and the way he’s been jumping and the heat ‘Tonk’ is in, I’d say Nikoli Bale is my best chance on Saturday, especially off ‘the red’.
“I’m so excited about what this dog could be. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if come Melbourne Cup time he’s running 29.10-29.15sec at Sandown!”
Tiggerlong Tonk, remarkable winner of 42 of his 89 starts, has been raced sparingly in recent months as he prepares for a stud career, but the evergreen veteran is still matching it with the best.
“We’ve had a couple of (semen) collections since Healesville but I trialled him at Bendigo on Tuesday and he hasn’t lost anything at all,” Grenfell said.
“We’ve got 11 straws that are available to broods that are on season at $2200 each.