Victoria’s staying queen Mepunga Ruby is attempting to reign supreme with successive wins in the $160,500 Group 1 Sportsbet Fanta Bale Super Stayers (730m) at The Meadows on Saturday night.
And her trainer, Jeff Britton, hinted the 11-time G1 finalist is not ready to abdicate her throne and quite capable of going back-to-back in the $100,000 to-the-winner final – Race 6, 8.22pm.
Only one other greyhound – Destini Fireball (2013/2014) has achieved the feat since the inception of the Super Stayers in 1998.
Last year, Mepunga Ruby (Mar ’19 Fernando Bale x Mepunga Rosie) ruled with an ‘iron paw’. She disposed of her ‘subjects’ by almost nine lengths in 42.13sec, which is still a personal best.
“Her heart is still in it; she’s still chasing hard… She’s strong and is quite capable of running over the top of them…”
Ironically, the 2022 Super Stayers is her most recent and only G1 win – albeit she’s contested five G1s since.
In her quest for a second Super Stayers, Mepunga Ruby – a winner of 25 races from 49 starts and $568,080 in stakes – finished second (beaten 2.4L) to NSW distance diva Stagger Out Lee in 42.57sec.
In a ‘pick-it-with-a-pin’ Sportsbet market for the final, Mepunga Ruby (Box 7) has been marked at $5.50 behind Ariarne Bale and Cawbourne Magic – both at $4.40 – followed by Stagger Out Lee ($6.00) and Aston Velvet ($6.50).
“She’s probably a few lengths off what she did last year,” Britton said. “But she’s still capable of winning a race like this – particularly if she gets a sit on them.
“Her heart is still in it; she’s still chasing hard. She’s strong and is quite capable of running over the top of them, although we would have liked her drawn closer to the ‘fence’.”
Britton will launch a two-pronged challenge in the final courtesy of Korda (Oct ’20 Mepunga Blazer x Mepunga Molly), which finished second (beaten 1.9L) to Aston Velvet in 42.65sec.
Rated a $7.00 chance, Korda (Box 1) has won eight races from 40 starts and is contesting his third G1 final.
Early this month, he finished second (beaten 1.5L) to Mepunga Ruby in the G3 Gold Cup at Albion Park in Brisbane.
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Britton believes Korda comes right into calculations and is not a ‘second string’, saying “there’s not much between him and Mepunga Ruby at the minute, she’s just a little bit stronger”.
“He’s very young; an up-and-comer. He’s got a lot of confidence, and it’s great to have a frontrunning stayer in this type of race.
“If they jam up, anything’s possible. He’s capable of an upset, and I don’t think box one will be a disadvantage as he runs straight early.”
Britton considers Stagger Out Lee, which is attempting a Zoom Top/Super Stayers double, as the main danger to his duo.
“She’s hit a purple patch and is going super at The Meadows. She’s racing full of confidence,” he said.
Mepunga Ruby and Korda are descendants of legendary breeder and GRV Hall of Famer Barry Smith’s prepotent ‘Mepunga’ line. (He bred and owns Mepunga Ruby.)
Britton also paid homage to all-time great Fanta Bale – the Super Stayers is named in her honour and in fact she won the 2018 edition.
“Fanta Bale was amazing to watch, very exciting, just a superstar really. She won over all distances at the elite level, drew crowds to the track and was fantastic for the industry.”
FLASHBACK: MEPUNGA RUBY (B4) sparkles, turning last year’s Fanta Bale Super Stayers final into a one-act affair.
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