Mepunga Ruby will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the ‘Unmissable’ Australian Cup Carnival after returning to her brilliant best with a dominant clean-sweep of the Group 3 Albion Park Gold Cup (710m) series.
Jeff Britton trained the quinella in last Thursday night’s $100,000 to-the-winner Gold Cup Final in Brisbane, with $2.40 favourite Mepunga Ruby leading all-the-way in 41.93sec, defeating kennelmate Korda ($10) by 1.5 lengths.
Winner of the G1 Super Stayers during last year’s Australian Cup Carnival, Mepunga Ruby returns to home soil for Saturday night’s $121,500 Group 1 Sportsbet Zoom Top Invitational (730m) at The Meadows – race 6 at 8.21pm.
It will be the veteran’s tenth appearance at G1 level and second start in the Zoom Top after running fifth as $1.80 favourite in 2022.
“She’s going pretty well for a dog that’s nearly four,” said Jeff Britton.
“She had five months off after she broke a metatarsal up in Newcastle. She had an operation and had a plate put in, but you wouldn’t know it’s there.
“She mightn’t be going quite as well as she was a year ago, but she’s not far off it. She’s full of confidence and loves The Meadows.”
“I went into the Brisbane race thinking that if everything goes well, with the travelling and draws, she was a really good chance, but Saturday night is a totally different ball-game.”
WATCH: MEPUNGA RUBY (B3) led all-the-way in the G3 Gold Cup Final (710m) at Albion Park last Thursday, defeating kennelmate KORDA (B4) in 41.93sec in a Jeff Britton quinella.
After being sidelined for a large chunk of 2022, Mepunga Ruby has returned in grand fashion and is yet to miss a place in eight starts – all in elite company – since resuming.
The well-bred March ’19 daughter of Fernando Bale and Mepunga Rosie has won four times, with two of the defeats being seconds in feature events.
First-up from her lengthy break she was runner-up to Moraine Suzie in the G1 Topgun Stayers – another Meadows invitational event – in November, and she was only beaten three-quarters of a length by Cawbourne Magic in the G3 Christmas Cheer at Wentworth Park.
Winner of 25 from 47 overall, including five from nine at The Meadows over 730m, Mepunga Ruby will renew acquaintances with both Cawbourne Magic and Moraine Suzie in the Zoom Top.
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Mepunga Ruby has drawn box seven for the $75,000 to-the-winner feature and sits on the third line of Sportsbet’s market at $5, behind $2.90 favourite Cawbourne Magic (box 1) and Moraine Suzie (box two) $4.20.
“When box draws come out, I think your first instinct is best,” Britton said.
“When I saw the draw for the Brisbane final (box three), straight away I thought this is good. But on Saturday night, she’s going to have to come out well and will probably need some luck trying to get across.
“I’d like to see her a bit closer to the fence. In these staying races, it’s always a short run to the first corner.
“She and Korda (box 5) both run straight, so it could be Korda keeping her out.
“She’s just got to get out, more or less like she did up in Brisbane, and put herself in the race.
“It’s a very good field, but it seems like there’s a lot of come-from-behind dogs in it, which might help.”
Korda, which also hails from legendary breeder Barry Smith’s potent ‘Mepunga’ line, being a son of Mepunga Blazer and Mepunga Molly, bred by George Farrugia, also secured a Zoom Top berth, courtesy of placings in last week’s Gold Cup and the Bold Trease.
Korda, which has won eight of 38 starts but has only been unplaced once in his past 11, is the $26 outsider of the hand-picked field after drawing box five.
“He’s been very consistent and his second in Brisbane last week would’ve got him in the race,” Britton said.
“He was only a couple of lengths behind Mepunga Ruby, so if he puts himself in the race, things can happen behind you, and he’d be some sort of a chance.”