By Luke Corda
Mepunga Warrior stole the show on Thursday night at Sandown with a dominant victory in the final Group 2 McKenna Memorial Heat.
The versatile sprinter was away fast from Box 2 and settled in sweetly behind Hill Top Jack with a lap to go. From there he hounded Hill Top Jack along the back straight before swiftly hopping to his outside and overpowering him to win by 4.25 lengths.
The time was a slick 33.98s – the quickest of the Heats.
Mepunga Warrior’s consistency is becoming a marvel. Of his past eight starts he has missed a placing just once – all in quality fields with a mixed bag of box draws.
Despite failing to hold on for victory, Hill Top Jack’s second place was enough to secure a spot in the Final.
The pair will jump from the wide boxes next week – Mepunga Warrior in Box 7, Hill Top Jack in Box 8.
Stout Monelli was a brilliant 34.06s winner in the opening Heat despite it being his first go at the track. His triumphant habits know no boundaries as the WA and SA star looks to snag Group success in Victoria.
Riccarton Rick overcame a Box 4 draw and held second position for the entirety of the race, punching a ticket to the Final. Aston Ulysses powered home as the fastest third place finisher of the Heats and also progressed – much to the delight of a relieved Paul Abela on track.
Rufus Scrimgeour caused a boilover in the second Heat, bursting through from Box 4 before pinching victory along the fence over Xinmin Bale. He was a large $26 to win with TAB.
The Cockerell family weren’t in attendance but Lisa’s mother, Marlene, was over the moon and showered Rufus Scrimgeour with love.