Favourite Mortified and trainer/breeder Chris O’Brien are attempting to break a 20-year drought for NSW in Saturday night’s $458,500 Group 1 Sportsbet Australian Cup Final (525m) at The Meadows.
Mortified could not have been more impressive in her flying 29.76sec heat victory, leading all-the-way from box eight at her interstate debut, her 12th win from 20 starts.
After drawing “nicely” in box two for Saturday night’s $300,000 to-the-winner Cup Final, O’Brien’s homebred daughter of the great Fernando Bale and Banjo Tifia, a G1 Golden Easter Egg finalist in 2019, is Sportsbet’s $3.50 favourite.
“Winning it would be a dream come true, but I’m trying not to think too much about it.”
If successful, Mortified would be the first NSW-trained sprinter to win the race since Most Awesome dead-heated with Victorian Blackjack Tom in 2003.
Just qualifying for the Australian Cup is a career highlight for O’Brien, who hails from Nowra Hill on the south coast of NSW, as did Mortified’s close relation, champion Paua To Burn, an Australian Cup finalist in 2006.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” said O’Brien.
“It’s a thrill just to be in a prestigious race like this. Winning it would be a dream come true, but I’m trying not to think too much about it.
“Mortified was $1.60 favourite for the (G1) National Futurity off box one, but she seemed to slip on the mat and ran fourth, which was very disappointing. Then she came out and ran 29.62sec at Wentworth Park the next week!
WATCH: “There’s a statement!” NSW star MORTIFIED (B8) has been installed Australian Cup favourite after a dominant all-the-way heat victory, clocking a fast 29.76sec on debut at The Meadows.
“She’s probably favourite on Saturday because of her box draw and with a few others drawing out wide.
“I’m certainly not cocky, but I’m confident she can run a good race.”
O’Brien made the almost 20-hour round trip to The Meadows to trial Mortified ahead of her Cup tilt and was rewarded when she ran her heat rivals – including Melbourne Cup winner Yachi Bale – ragged, producing the third quickest qualifying time.
“She really seems to like the track and the boxes down there,” O’Brien said.
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“Before the heats, I gave her a box-to-box trial at The Meadows and she went 5.04sec, 17.77sec, which I was really happy with.
“It was a nine-hour trip down and we were only there for five minutes, but I thought I’ve got a good dog, so let’s see what she’s got.
“She pinged out in her heat, so hopefully she’ll do the same thing this week.
“I’m happy with the box draw. I think it would’ve been tough if she’d drawn out wide. I think she’d have to lead or be up close to win. She does her best work up the back.”
Mortified is the product of two decades of astute breeding for O’Brien, beginning in 2006 with his purchase of Tifi, a granddaughter of Paua To Burn’s dam Alice Dooley, and a full sister to 2007 National Sprint champion Bit Chili.
Tifi in turn produced Tifia, which gave O’Brien his biggest win to date in the 2012 G3 Magic Maiden at Wentworth Park and is Mortified’s grandmother.
Tifi’s progeny also included NSW Greyhound of the Year Double Twist and Solar Pak, dam of G1 winners Feral Franky and Good Odds Harada.
“Our line has produced a lot of good dogs and I’ve had some handy ones, Tifia, Tifi and Bulkender,” O’Brien said.
“Banjo Tifia made the Easter Egg Final, but she was nothing like her daughter. Mortified is definitely the best dog I’ve had.
“Mortified’s litter also includes Modern Swinger (3 wins from 4 starts) and Quantifiable (6 from 15). I’m looking at the (G3) Launching Pad with both of them.
“I’ve been lucky, but there’s been some tough and frustrating times too, so making an Australian Cup Final gives you that belief in your dogs and belief in yourself as well.”
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