Mighty Morton chasing Group 1 gold

Star Victorian sprinter Morton’s career has been somewhat a ‘bitter-sweet symphony’ as he approaches his 20th – and statistically most important – race start.

Morton (B6) prevails in a thrilling three-way finish at The Meadows
Morton (B6) prevails in a thrilling three-way finish at The Meadows Picture: Jason Mckeon

But Avalon's "Team Sharp" will be in a 'happy place' if "Buddy", as he's affectionately known, takes out the $359,375 Group 1 Garrard's Gold Bullion final (520m) – Race 8, 9.34pm – at Albion Park on Thursday night.

In fact, a mouth-watering $250,000 first prize would be 'music to the ears' of co-trainers Jessica andJason Sharp, their close-knit family and owner Darrell Heathcote.

"It would be life-changing," Jess exclaimed. "We've never had a dog like him.

"He's given us the passion when you can sometimes lose heart. We've already had a few journeys with him, anything else is a bonus."

Morton (Dec '21 Tommy Shelby x Chloe Louise) has won 12 races, with two seconds and three thirds, from 19 starts and $164,995. He won last month's G2 Queensland Derby and finished third in last year's G1 Silver Chief.

However, his 'tale of the tape' could/should be much longer!

"It would be life-changing… We've never had a dog like him."

There was controversy and rumblings when Morton missed selection for last year's invitational G1 Topgun and then, surprisingly, he was not picked up by a slot holder for the $1,000,000 to-the-winner The Phoenix.

Both events were held at The Meadows where Morton clocked a scintillating 29.55sec on October 21 last year – the second fastest time on the track/distance for 2023 – and around 3L off the 525m track record set by Allen Deed (29.38sec) on January 3, 2015.

To add 'insult to injury', Morton has won seven races (with one second and two thirds) from 10 starts on the Camp Road circuit. It's fair to say he's a track specialist there. He's also posted 29.71sec and 29.77sec wins, further illustrating he's no one-hit wonder at The Meadows.

To his credit, Jason was more intent on letting Morton 'do the talking' but he did have this to say: "I thought he was the best dog going around at The Meadows. We can never get that race (the Topgun) back.

"But it's in the past, you've just got to bury it. You can't keep dwelling on it. Hopefully he gets selected in the Temlee."

So, let's return to the scene of Albion Park last week where Morton semaphored the equal fastest heat time (29.90sec). Subsequently he's $4.60 in early betting markets for the final.

He's also unbeaten in three starts at Albion Park including the Qld Derby in 29.65sec from box five – the same box he'll exit from in the Gold Bullion.

"He should improve on his heat win as we backed him off a little bit given there's the Australian Cup Carnival to come," Jason said.

"The 'yellow' trap is not as bad as it looks because a lot of the speed is on his inside. He also goes okay from middle boxes.

"It also depends on what Jay Is Jay (Box 8) does out of the boxes. The first 50 metres will be crucial. Hopefully he gets a clear run at them rounding the first turn and into the back straight."

Morton's racing life, to use an oxymoron, has been frustratingly feel-good – a hodgepodge of emotions for the Sharp clan.

But, if there's any solace for their occasional dismay, as the lyrics go in The Verve's controversial 1997 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' which they 'stole' from The Rolling Stones: "… that's life, tryna make ends meet…"