By Luke Corda
Middle-distance runner Gun Aston Ulysses looks set for a strong McKenna Memorial campaign after winning the opening race of the Gr8 Eight Series special event on Thursday night at Sandown Park.
The hugely versatile son of Aston Dee Bee has led since the inside draw and never been led as he took a 34.12 triumph over Whatever I Say and Mepunga Warrior. The win was his 26th of 73 starts.
Coach Paul Abela was a relaxed man once his boy ‘Frankie’ took control.
“I think he’s only been knocked down once in the 600m and that was in the Rookie Rebel,” he said.
“Once he gets to the front I’m actually pretty confident they won’t knock him down. He’s a big 37kg dog so once he gets to his place he’s difficult to rule it out.
The victory brings Aston Ulysses’ total earnings to over $200,000 and, unbelievably, he has never won a group race, despite his five finals.
With the McKenna Memorial Series coming up in two weeks, Aston Ulysses are presented with another opportunity to end their quest for Group success.
“The McKenna is the next target. There are a few 600m races coming up and he will be racing in all of them.
“It would be great (to win the McKenna Memorial) but it’s not about me or my mom and dad, it’s about the dog. The dog deserves a good run. He has done all the 600m races, but he still draws badly.
Aston Ulysses drew box 7 in the G3 Gold Cup, box 6 in the G2 Golden Sands and box 6 in the G1 TAB Rookie Rebel.
Abela hopes ‘Frankie’ finds a fortune in the upcoming draws.
“We love red. And we want more.
“He’s the most honest dog I’ve ever trained. He’s a big gentle giant and he deserves a bit of success.
The Group 2 McKenna Memorial rounds will be played on June 30 with the final on July 7.
Later that night rising British star Scofflaw soared out of Box 8 and set a record 29.39 in difficult conditions.