Murray takes home the Murray Bridge Cup

\"\"(From left) Nikki Murray, Jarrad Murray, Lesley Murray and Ray Murray – with Ray’s granddaughters in front, Grace (9), left, and Isla (3) – after Air Marshall claimed the Murray Bridge Cup. (Photo: Kurt Donsberg)

South Australia roundup with KURT DONSBERG

The 2021 Daish Irrigation and Fodder Murray Bridge Cup looked like a cracker on paper and it didn’t disappoint!

With heats run the week before, the final line up included local stars Coorong Lucy (2020 SA GOTY Finalist) and Air Marshall (2020 SA Short Course GOTY) and interstate contenders Weblec Ace, Run Baba Run and recent arrival Undercut

In front of a massive crowd, and in perfect conditions, all 8 finalists were paraded before the throng of punters, where eight lucky kids – who won a money-can’t-buy prize of walking a finalist to the boxes with their handlers – met them, and headed off to the 455m start.

Arriving at the boxes, those wagering had it narrowed down to three runners with Coorong Lucy the punters elect at $3.80 with Undercut and Air Marshall on the second line of betting at $4.20 and $4.80 respectively.

In typical fashion, the odds went in first followed by the evens, the green light flashed, the bunny rolled and with that the Cup was set to go. The lids went up and it was a good even line out. Run Baba Run, off the red, made full use of the cherry and went to a narrow early lead with Air Marshall from the four right on her hammer.

Both dogs broke 8 seconds for the first split, which is humming, and put a space between themselves and the pack. Zipping in to the first turn Air Marshall poked his nose in front, running the bend like the best third leg of an Olympic relay, while Run Baba Run held the rail and did her best to hold on. Danyo’s Wylie, another local, made his move on the bend coming into the fray three wide, but drifted off entering the home straight as the two leaders pulled away. There was interference behind the leading three with Bold Mirage easing and pulling out of the race and pre-race favourite Coorong Lucy not in the mix at all and never looking like a winning chance.

Up the home straight it was a two-dog affair with Air Marshall in front, but the little fawn girl of Run Baba Run never gave up pushing him all the way. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for Air Marshall, the line was too close and the latter saluted by ¾ of a length stopping the clock in a best of the night time of 25:42 – the same winning time as Hot Sophie in the previous year’s final. Run Baba Run finished a gallant second with Undercut rattling home for third just ahead of the fast finishing Weblec Ace – who found the 455m trip a touch short.

It was the first feature final win for the 2018 Banjo Boy x Aunty Chopper boy after making no less than four feature finals in 2020 – including last year’s Murray Bridge Cup. He always managed to find finals where another dog was just a bit quicker, but not this night.

I caught up with owner/trainer Ray Murray the following morning. They say there’s no rest for the wicked and Ray was on the quad bike running other dogs up his straight track, but he was full of praise for ‘Mason’ the pup he’s owned and reared since he was 3 months old.

“He made four feature finals last year and he got close in a couple, but he is just starting to mature now and really find his feet.

“After his heat win when he went 25:27. I was really confident. The dogs either side of him didn’t have as much early speed so I thought we’d be in a strong position. He’s a dog that prefers the middle draws so he can keep a straight line to the first corner and then use his acceleration. That’s what wins him races”

Q: He\’s also proving to be very versatile winning up the straight track as well as the one and two turn tracks over distances from 350m up to 531m?

“He is. It’s funny, if you asked me 6 months ago what his best distance is I would have said 400 metres, but he’s getting stronger with age and turning in to a genuine 500 metre dog.”

Q: And plans moving forward, what races will you target with him?

“We haven’t thought too far ahead yet but there is a $5,000 bonus if he can with the Mount Gambier Cup later in the year. It’s a long way from home and if we did go he’d run without a look at the track which isn’t ideal so we’ll have to see.”

The win takes Air Marshall to a very imposing record of 28 wins from 50 starts with 14 minor placings and stake money of more than $51,000

GEMTREE MAXIMUS READY TO LAUNCH

Gemtree Maximus, ‘Jango’ around the kennels, was a dog that showed big things were in store for him long before his first race. He had trialled sensationally before his debut, and the ears of several punters and owners pricked right up.

Trained by Paul Rehmann and owned in partnership with good friend Rebecca Weinert, both knew Jango was going to be good, but they weren’t sure how good.

With significant offers to purchase the June 2019 Worm Burner x Lochinvar Akira boy, the Murray Bridge pair turned them all down and set their sights on racing.

Rebecca said she ‘felt sick all day’ on the day of his debut run, but the nerves proved unwarranted as Gemtree Maximus jumped well from box four to lead and go on to win in commanding fashion by 4¼ lengths.

Trainer Paul Rehmann after the race said: “He is the fastest dog I\’ve seen at this age after 30 years involvement. I was convinced long before he was born that Lochinvar Akira would throw a potential champion and we\’re very grateful to Cam Butcher for the free Worm Burner service. He\’s still a bit nervous at this stage but I expect him to improve a lot over the next two months.”

And improve he has. Of his next seven starts he has won five and dropped his times along the way.

His recent win on March 4 was a best of the night performance of 29:75. That race was the SA Launching Pad Series Final. It was another all the way win for Jango and he proved not only is he a successful dog, he’s also consistent and can perform under pressure.

That win secured his ticket in the Launching Pad Series at Sandown and, to give their boy every chance, the team travelled to Sandown to give him a look at the track.

While his time was only 29:95, and some may dismiss him as a genuine contender, do so at your own peril.

“Ordinary trial, which is entirely on me not the dog,” Paul said after the Sandown hit out. “We had a nail issue going in and despite working non-stop to have it ready to go its turned out to have an impact on his performance on the night. Expect considerable improvement on race night.”

If you’re wondering if Paul is a good judge or not, this was his final comment after Gemtree Maximus won his maiden two months ago: “We are thinking about chasing the Launching Pad with him.”

The Launching Pad Series started on the March 18 and runs for three weeks with a total prize pool of $420,000.

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