Mepunga Smokey pictured with handler Craig Solkhon 📷 Image courtesy Kurt Donsberg

  • Tuesday, 12 Sep, 2023,
  • by Gerard Guthrie

Britton eyes ‘Mepunga’ SA double

Jeff Britton is poised to enhance his fantastic feature race record at Angle Park when exciting littermates Mepunga Smokey and Mepunga Surprise line up in Thursday night’s Group 3 SA Derby and SA Oaks Finals.

Runaway heat winner Mepunga Smokey (box 7) is chasing a sixth straight victory in the Derby (race 8, 9.43pm), where he’s Sportsbet’s $2.70 second elect behind fellow Victorian, Schillaci (box 1), at $2.05.

Mepunga Surprise (box 1) is $2.70 favourite for the Oaks (race 6, 8.58pm), despite finishing second in her heat.

Not two until next month, the ‘Mepunga’ siblings are superbly bred, by Barcia Bale out of G2 winner and G1 Adelaide Cup and G1 Rookie Rebel placegetter Mepunga Isla, raced by Hall Of Fame breeder Barry Smith.

“I’m probably more confident with Mepunga Surprise than Mepunga Smokey because of the box.”

Britton boasts three runners in both $25,000 to-the-winner finals.

Purified (box 3 – $7.50) and Weblec Jewel (box 6 – $9) boost the Anakie trainer’s Oaks hand, while Weblec Wolf (box 5 – $8.50) and Departed (box 8 – $13) complete his Derby representation.

“Over time, Adelaide has been great to me,” Britton said.

“One (Mepunga Smokey) went great last week and I’d say the rest were only average.

“I can’t work dogs out. They have to have a look at Angle Park, so I trialled six over there.

“Three of them trialled over ‘500’ at Angle Park and Mepunga Smokey went the slowest of the three. I looked all week to find something wrong with him. Who’d be a tipster!”

WATCH: MEPUNGA SMOKEY (B3) extended his winning streak to five when careering away with his G3 SA Derby heat last Thursday night, clocking 30.32sec in a 11.75L romp.

Mepunga Smokey headed to Adelaide after scorching efforts at The Meadows (29.67sec) and Sandown (29.29sec) at his previous two outings.

He started $1.50 from box three in the second of two Derby heats, and it was one-way traffic as he romped home by 11.75L in a sizzling 30.32sec.

It was Mepunga Smokey’s fifth win in a row, ninth from his past 12 starts and ninth from 17 overall, having surprisingly taken six starts to break his maiden.

Mepunga Smokey was shaded for BON honours by Schillaci, trained by Jihad Talgi, which was slightly more impressive on the clock (30.27sec) and margin (13.25L) in the first of two heats.

While he was delighted with Mepunga Smokey’s heat romp, experience tells Britton a wide draw for the decider is cause for concern.



“He’s always had a motor, but when he started off he was giving them two lengths start,” Britton explained.

“He’s just kept improving and his habits have really turned around, I think through racing and a bit of experience. He seems to be coming out really well now.

“Schillaci is still going to be very hard to beat. The red box or an inside draw is just huge there (Angle Park). It seems to be very hard to win from wide draws.

“He needs to fly the boxes and probably needs some help getting across.

“When I won the Adelaide Cup with Do It, he had box two and Aston Rupee drew ‘the pink’. Aston Rupee was a superstar of a dog, but I was quietly confident, because a wide draw at Angle Park can bring anything undone.”

SA Oaks finalist Mepunga Surprise in full flight at Sandown 📷 Jason Mckeown

PAWNOTE: Adelaide has proven to be happy hunting ground for Jeff Britton. He’s won the SA Oaks on four occasions with Mepunga Spark (1999), Mepunga Nicky (2011), Oakvale Destiny (2014) and Pepper Fire (2016) , while he’s won the Derby twice, via Wizards Chess (2002) and Mepunga Pegasus (2019). He’s also won the G1 Adelaide Cup with Mepunga Nicky (2011) and Do It (2021).

Britton is expecting significant improvement from Mepunga Surprise in the Oaks, after she drew box one, the first time in her 12-start career she’s drawn inside three.

“Whenever they trial, she goes better than Mepunga Smokey,” Britton said.

“She’s my best chance in the Oaks by a mile, and I’m probably more confident with her than Mepunga Smokey because of the box.

“She’s never drawn box one in her life, and I expect her to improve a lot.

“Barring trouble, I think she’ll be very hard to beat.

“She’s had bad track sense and when she was finding so much trouble, I stepped her up to get her out of trouble and she won twice over 660m at Ballarat.”

Gerard GuthrieGerard Guthrie

Gerard Guthrie

One of Australia’s leading greyhound racing journalists since 2000 with the Greyhound Recorder and now with Greyhound Racing Victoria. Part-owner 2013 Group 1 Paws Of Thunder winner Sheikha. (The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of GRV)

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