LEADING Victorian trainer Brett Bravo won’t forget his first visit to Maitland in a hurry, after his Richmond Derby hero Hone In continued his sensational recent form with a record-breaking performance in last Thursday’s Group 2 Maitland Gold Cup heats.
Five days after Striker Light’s gallant second to Up Hill Jill in the Golden Easter Egg, Bravo returned to NSW with Hone In, an October ’14 son of Spring Gun and Benalla Doll, which won heat and final of the Group 2 Richmond Derby in early March.
Bravo’s decision to bypass the Easter Egg with Hone In and target the $40,000 to-the-winner Maitland Cup paid off handsomely.
Drawn in box one in the third of eight heats, Hone In started $2.30 favourite, shading another Victorian star, Melbourne Cup placegetter Kouta Mayhem ($2.90).
Hone In began sweetly off the rails to lead Queenslander Snug and he proceeded to run his rivals ragged, trouncing Snug by 4.25 lengths in a scintillating 24.63, eclipsing Old Spice’s previous 450m record of 24.68, established in May 2016.
“He’s a seriously quick dog and we’ve got him fit now,” Brett Bravo said.
“Don’t get me wrong, his runs at Richmond were really good but he’d had stress fractures in his hock and he’d had a limited preparation. Prior to Richmond he hadn’t had a 500 for about three months.
“He got hit in the pen after the Richmond Derby and bruised his calf so he had a couple of weeks off. Wentworth Park can be a very tricky track first-up and at his age and with the problems he’s had I didn’t want to risk him in the Easter Egg heats.
“After Richmond he ran second at Warrnambool and The Meadows, so he came to Maitland a fit dog and it didn’t surprise us at all to see him break the record. He came out of the boxes cleanly and the track was in pretty good nick.
“When another Victorian dog, Cavatron, won the first heat in 24.75 I expected Hone In to run a little bit quicker, going off the times they both run in Victoria. Hone In has gone within a length or so of the track record at three tracks down here; 27.04 at Horsham, 25.47 at Warragul and 29.26 at Sale.
“He can run around two turns, as he showed at Richmond, but I don’t like putting him around two turns too often because of the injury problems he’s had. I’m trying to get longevity out of him. After Maitland he’ll go to the Warrnambool Cup, which is another horseshoe track.”
Hone In has now won 18 of his 55 starts, but he’s gone to a different level under the guidance of Brett and Kelly Bravo, his third trainers, winning 11 from 20.
“Kelly pointed out that in his last 12 starts he’s had eight wins, three seconds and a third,” Bravo said.
“The dog’s had an injury-interrupted career and I told his owners I wanted to win a Group race with him because he was good enough, which we did, and now he’s broken a track record at three and a half, which is a credit to the dog.”
After having two finalists in the Richmond Derby, Victorian trainer Paul Abela claimed another heat double at Maitland courtesy of Cavatron (24.75) and Aston Dinnigan (24.82), while Jason Mackay is hoping his beaten Richmond Derby favourite Aston Duke can turn the tables on Hone In after a 24.78 heat success.
The other four heat winners were Jason Magri’s Tristan Cannon (24.83), Big Black (24.95), trained by Donna Campbell, Anthony Azzopardi’s Lucky Chap (24.99) and Sharron Webster’s Lagoon Pirate (25.01).
Despite drawing awkwardly in six for Thursday night’s Cup Final, Hone In is the $3.90 favourite with Ladbrokes, ahead of Aston Duke at $4.20, Cavatron $4.60 and Aston Dinnigan $5.
“Box six is never ideal in any final,” Bravo offered.
“But the one (Cavatron), two (Aston Duke), three (Aston Dinnigan) and four (Tristan Cannon) all have speed and will head to the fence, while Lucky Chap in seven and the pink (Lagoon Pirate) will run their lanes.
“Hone In has proved he’s the quickest dog in the race and now he just needs the chance to race.”