Eketahuna out to upset hot favourite in State Distance Championship

FINALIST: Eketahuna (inside) narrowly beats Country Shadow in a heat of the National Distance Championship at Mowbray last week. Eketahuna is a $6 chance to win Thursday night's final.
FINALIST: Eketahuna (inside) narrowly beats Country Shadow in a heat of the National Distance Championship at Mowbray last week. Eketahuna is a $6 chance to win Thursday night's final.

Veteran Bracknell greyhound trainer Morrie Strickland expects his promising stayer Eketahuna to run well in the state final of the National Distance Championship at Mowbray on Thursday night.

But he concedes that the Victorian-owned dog will need a lot of luck to win it.

“He’ll be flat out beating the favourite (Vrontios) who I think will be too good if it’s a cleanly-run race,” Strickland said.

“But, if my dog gets away well, he’ll stick with him and probably run second.

“The trouble is, he’s not consistent at the start – he’s hit or miss.”

Strickland said that Vrontios was a more seasoned stayer than Eketahuna who has had only two runs over 700m.

“His pet distance is around 600m – the 720m is probably just a shade too far for him,” the trainer said.

Eketahuna, named after a small town in New Zealand, failed at his only two starts in Victoria before owner Michael Church sent him to Strickland late last year.

He has since won four races including last week’s championship heat.

Strickland is chasing his first win in the distance final.

“I’ve won a couple of sprint finals but that’s a few years ago now,” he said.

Eketahuna is a $6 chance with Sportsbet which offered $2 about Vrontios on Tuesday but now has the favourite back into $1.70.

The state sprint final is considered a more even contest, with Leith-trained speedster Buckle Up Rose heading the market at $3.30.

Two Bills, just back from Victoria, is pressing for favouritism after firming from $3.60 to $3.40.

Last year’s winner, Gold Lenny, is a $7.50 chance to become the first dog to go back-to-back in the race’s 53-year history.

The $75,000 national finals are at Sandown on August 24.

SAME YOLE STORY AT HARNESS MEET

With 37 of the 63 runners at the meeting, it was no surprise that leading trainer Ben Yole won half the card at Mowbray on Wednesday night.

Yole had three all-the-winners – Black Ops and Gems, both driven by Troy McDonald, and Monarkmac driven by Rohan Hadley.

For Black Ops, it was the first win in 37 starts this season and for Monarkmac the first win in 10 starts since coming from Queensland.

Ex-Victorian Gems, on the other hand, has been a real find for the stable having won all three starts in Tasmania.

The Rohan Hillier-trained Im Compliant also maintained his unbeaten Tasmanian record. He is now six from six since coming from New Zealand.

Wesley Vale trainer John Castles landed a quinella with Flashy Ruler and Keep Playing.

Flashy Ruler was the middle pin of a driving treble for Rohan Hillier who ended the night with a win on Kristy Grant-trained Rollon Jack.