Joe Borg’s Proven Impala reminded everyone why she is a star of the sport on Thursday night, demonstrating a tenacious chasing performance to take out the group two McKenna Memorial at Sandown Park. Proven Impala was the deserved favourite ($3.30) going into the event after her slashing victory when qualifying for the $40,000 to the winner feature, running the fastest of the six heats- a scintillating 34.13 seconds the week prior. Although she had the time on her opposition, it was no easy task for the 29 kilogram speedster, drawing poorly in box five against one of the strongest McKenna fields all lining up for a crack at the prize.
Going into the event, Borg knew what his powerful bitch was capable of, but also realised she would have to be on her best behaviour at box rise to be in with a chance.
“It was an awkward box so I knew she would have to nail the start and she got out beautifully; better than in her heat. She is normally a pretty good beginner but prior to last night she had been missing the start slightly at her past few starts so I was glad to see her begin so well”, Borg said.
“I think she understands everything I say to her, she is so human-like. I had a pet talk with her and told her she had to nail the start on Thursday and she just looked at me as if she knew what I was saying”.
Running into the first turn, Proven Impala was quickly joined by Graeme Bate’s champion Irma Bale. The four time group winner did everything right from box eight, beginning brilliantly and carving across the field to take up the lead on the outside of Proven Impala.
Into the straight for the first time, it became clear it was going to be an exhilarating race between Australia’s best two staying bitches, with Irma Bale showing tremendous mid race speed to kick clear down the back.
For enthusiasts it was the duel we had been hoping for.
“I saw Irma Bale race up on her outside and I knew she would probably have to use a bit more fuel to get to the lead from out wide”, Borg said.
“I prefer her (Proven Impala) on the rails which was where she was coming into the first turn and Irma Bale had to accelerate to get in front”.
“I started getting confident coming up to the home turn when she pushed through; I thought we would have a chance of picking her up”.
Perched close behind on the rails Proven Impala had the final say, bursting through to score narrowly in the last stride in 34.36 seconds. Surf Mail also ran a great race when two and three quarter lengths third.
“She went super, I am overjoyed”, Borg beamed, “It was such a thrilling race to have two champion bitches, Irma Bale and Proven Impala battle it out and they really went to war with each other”.
“They have raced each other on numerous occasions. Irma Bale has beaten us a few times and we have beaten her a few times. Fortunately we got the upper hand in the last stride…It’s a fantastic feeling”.
“I am absolutely joyous, wrapped and I feel humbled that the owners have let me train her”.
The daughter of Velocette and Thanks Blue has been an exceptional racer winning 27 of her 70 starts with a further eighteen placings. The McKenna Memorial was the second group feature claimed by the black bitch who also took out the group one Rookie Rebel at The Meadows earlier this year. Proven Impala has been racing competitively over the sprint and middle distances for quite some time now and has qualified for a fantastic five group features in 2013 alone.
Despite now claiming two group race finals, Proven Impala has lived in the shadow of Irma Bale and the mighty Miata for much of her career. Remarkably, the three staying divas were all whelped in the same month, October 2009.
Being such a strong performer on the race track, it is surprising that Proven Impala has not been more prominent in group race finals, with the box draw for many of them relegating her to an unfavourable wide alley.
“She enjoys the rails and that’s where she likes to do her racing”, Borg said.
“If she had drawn closer to the rails in some of her other group races she might have gone closer but that’s the luck of the draw”.
With a busy calendar ahead for stayers over the next few months, Proven Impala will continue on in search of group race glory until the end of the year, when motherhood will likely be on the cards.
“She has pulled up really well and she will be going towards the AWM Distance Championship at The Meadows on Saturday week before the Nationals”.
“She won’t be retired yet, she is still racing keenly, she has lost nothing ability wise or time wise and she still enjoys her work. At home she works herself in the runs and she is a real professional on and off the track”.
Borg is confident of good performances from Proven Impala in the upcoming series’ she attempts, with both finals to be held at her favourite track.
“The finals are at the Meadows and I think that is where she does her best racing”.
“I also think that in two weeks she will be a better stayer; I have been deliberately mixing distances to help her stay and backing off her workload knowing what is ahead”.
With an exciting few weeks coming up on the Australian group racing calendar, all eyes will be on Proven Impala to see how she bounces back from her group two triumph.
In the meantime the champ will be relaxing at home in preparation for her next big test, with Borg adding that she thoroughly enjoyed her cheeseburger to celebrate on the way home from her Sandown success.