Midnight Dare Primed For McKenna Tilt

JASON Thompson will be chasing back-to-back McKenna Memorial wins when Midnight Dare steps out at Sandown on Thursday in the $40,000 to-the-winner feature.

Adam Dobbin

10 July 2019

HUGELY exciting youngster Midnight Dare will need to overcome a “horror” box five draw if she’s to deliver trainer Jason Thompson back-to-back Group 2 McKenna Memorial (595m) victories at Sandown Park this Thursday night.

In an interesting subplot, Thompson landed last year’s McKenna Memorial finale with top flight galloper Out Of Range, the son of Fernando Bale scoring by a length from box five over Neo Cleo, who incidentally lines up as favourite from box one in this year’s decider on Thursday for trainer Rob Britton.

“You have to give her a chance because she’s that good and capable of anything but box five is a horror draw – she’s got a wide runner on her inside and a railer on her outside,” lamented Thompson in the lead up to Thursday’s final.

“We had a throw at the stumps with this series because she wasn’t ready at all for the 595m last week. She’d only had the one start going into that run in about eight weeks.

“I thought her run was huge and there’s no doubt she should have won. Going like she did off such little work I walked away with no doubt she’s going to get a strong 700 metres later on.”

Winner at six of her nine starts, and responsible for some astonishing times, Midnight Dare (Buck Fever x Midnight Capers) finished three-quarters of a length second to Neo Cleo in last week’s heats, the winner posting 34.36.

“The overall time was a bit off some of the other heats but I don’t think anything ran home as good as her,” added Thompson.

“I would have given her a real good chance had she drawn closer to the fence but it’s going to be a case of closing your eyes and hoping for the best at the start. She could lead or she could be the meat in the sandwich and spat out the back as well.”

A star-studded field will take their place in Thursday night’s $40,000 to-the-winner middle distance feature, with Bet365 installing Sale Cup winner Neo Cleo a $2.80 favourite from the gun rails alley, chasing yet another Sandown Park group race success.

Second favourite is 34.24 heat winner Sweet As Emm for Brendan Pursell at $3.60, while Dyna Chancer, a 34.13 heat winner for Correy Grenfell, is currently a $4.00 chance.

Midnight Dare and Often Imitated have been quoted $8.00 chances from their tricky draws, while interestingly, fastest qualifier (33.98) Apex Within is at an $11.00 quote from box eight.

“After Thursday night I’ll head to the (Group 1) Maturity with her (Midnight Dare), being a two week series it fits in well and she can handle the drop back in distance … after that I’ll have a look to probably stepping her up in distance,” added Thompson.

All things being equal, the leading Pearcedale conditioner looks set to take a formidable team into the Group 1 Maturity Series at The Meadows which begins Saturday week, headed by pre-post series favourite Black Opium.

“She’s back home from Queensland,” informed Thompson of the star sprinter.

“If you have a look she’s finished second in three Group 1s now to dogs that have raced out of their skin on the night. My Redeemer jumped in front and flew in the Melbourne Cup, Dyna Patty the same in the Australian Cup and then Sennachie broke the track record in the Brisbane Cup last week.

“It’s taken outstanding performances to beat her and she’s still only young. I said to her owners her time will come and when it does, she’ll likely string three or four big ones together.”

While Black Opium will be Thompson’s headline act for the upcoming Maturity, where she’ll be chasing that elusive group 1 victory, he’s earmarked two pups – still maidens – as well worth keeping an eye on, providing they knock over their maiden status in the meantime.

Their names, Roper River Jake and Hooked On Scotch.

“Roper River Jake is second reserve for the maiden final (at Sandown) on Thursday, if he doesn’t get a run he’ll go there on Sunday for a maiden,” said Thompson about the exciting son of Kinloch Brae and Midnight News, owned by Dave and Danielle Pringle.

“To give you an idea, Aston Chandon goes good – she won her heat and is a big chance in the final on Thursday … I’ve trialled her and Roper River Jake together a few times and he beats her eight – he’s real handy.

“Hooked On Scotch should have won the maiden final at Warragul on Tuesday night, he’s had no luck at all at his two starts.

“In a few months time people will look back and say how the hell did he get beat at his first two starts at Warragul. He’s that good.”

Hooked On Scotch lacks nothing in pedigree, a son of Barcia Bale and Nicki Fields, the dam’s first litter to Fernando Bale producing group 1 winners Poke The Bear and Out Of Range, along with some other star chasers.

“The Maturity is on the radar for the two of them … it’s an age race over two weeks and I’ve got no doubt they’re good enough if they get their chance.”