Desert Bunny shocks trainer
BENEATH the winning smile after Desert Bunny surged home to win yesterday's $17,000 Westlawn Finance Grafton Cup Prelude (2108m), Coffs Harbour trainer Brett Dodson was cursing himself.
And it was the same for winning owner Cody Morgan, a former champion apprentice and buck jump rider.
“I really thought he was half a run short,” Dodson said. “I even spoke to Cody (Morgan) a couple of days back and told him the same thing. Cody would be spitting chips right now.”
Starting at $7, and piloted adroitly by Gold Coast-based rider Matthew Bennett, the six-year-old Desert Bunny hopped out of the ground rounding the home turn to record a half-neck win over the fast-finishing pair Rodeo Playboy ($11) and locally owned King Of The Nile ($7), the horse to follow.
Dodson, renowned for his uncanny ability to patch up crocks and turn them into winners, is also feared by bookmakers when he strongly fancies one of his charges. Not yesterday.
Tackling the Prelude was “plan F”, Dodson said.
“Originally we had him in a race at Ballina, then it was to be the Murwillumbah Cup, but when the races were called off at Ballina he wasn't ready for Murwillumbah,” he said.
“We've had to change tack half a dozen times.
“Even before today I had to give him a run over 1500 metres at Port Macquarie on a bog track, just to get him half right for the Prelude.”
Despite the win, Dodson said Desert Bunny would miss Thursday's $150,000 Wykes Tyrepower Grafton Cup (2350m).
“He's nominated for a Ratings 70 race next Wednesday. The cup distance doesn't suit,” Dodson said. “After that I'll sit down and work something out with Cody.
“He's likely to go to Brisbane now the carnival's over up there.”
Morgan has made a successful transition since weight got the better of him as an apprentice into an astute buyer of tried horses. He purchased Desert Bunny from South Australia.
Last year the gelding won the Port Macquarie Cup under Dodson.
Prior to Dodson getting the gelding this preparation, Morgan's friend Leon Davies, who also trains Prussian Secret for him, prepared the gelding.
“He had a couple of starts with Leon, who trimmed him up and sent him over,” Dodson said. “It's been a good association.”
Dodson said Desert Bunny's slow getaway yesterday was one of the keys to its win, the seventh in 27 starts.
“It helped him relax,” Dodson said. “Everything worked out perfect.
“Sometimes he can tug (pull) a bit. He's a big, playful horse, good-natured, easy to work with, but if he gets pulling in his races, it affects his finish.
“Matthew (Bennett) gave him the gun run.”