After battling injury and a loss of confidence throughout much of 2020, John Westerlo’s staying prospect Dark Arrow will be chasing a fifth straight win when he steps up to 725m at The Meadows tonight.
Dark Arrow’s 26-start career can be divided into three distinct phases.
The well-bred son of Barcia Bale and 2014 Sandown Cup finalist Butterfly Bling, a litter brother to Westerlo’s classy sprinter Mandalorian, won five of his first 12 starts before enduring a 10-race losing sequence.
But with victories at his last four starts, he’s ending a frustrating year on a high note.
“He looked like being a world-beater but then he had a horrible fall at Warragul and everything stemmed from that,” said Westerlo.
“He’s had a lot of problems with his joints and lost his confidence.
“I’ve had a lot of good stayers over the years but they usually don’t weigh 37 kilos! It’s pretty hard on them carrying that extra weight over a longer distance.”
“We all need confidence and it’s very hard to get it back when you lose it but at the moment he’s pain-free and going well.”
Dark Arrow has graduated quickly up to tonight’s 725m assignment over the last month, winning over 460m at Geelong, 545m and 660m at Ballarat and 660m at Bendigo.
The grade 5 heat (race 4 at 7.28pm) will give Westerlo a good guide to Dark Arrow’s distance credentials.
“It’s a good little test for him,” Westerlo said.
“I’m just trying to place him and hopefully get his staying career up and running.
“I’m not pushing him too hard because he’s had that many setbacks and I don’t want any more.
“My motto has always been to keep yourself in the best company and your animals in the worst!
“He’s got no pace early but he’s very strong and I’m pretty sure he’ll handle the 700m, although you’ve always got that doubt in your mind until they do it.
“I’ve been in the game a long time, as you know, and I’ve had a lot of good stayers over the years but they usually don’t weigh 37 kilos! It’s pretty hard on them carrying that extra weight over a longer distance.”
Dark Arrow is a $5.50 chance with TAB, with his rivals headlined by joint $2.30 favourites Good Juan and Classy Ethics, which both contested the heats of the Group 1 Bold Trease at Sandown Park.
“There doesn’t look to be many leaders in the race and I’d expect him to be in front of most of them,” Westerlo said.
“I can see him rolling to the front at the winning post. There’s a couple of dogs in the race with a question mark on them and I think if they pick him up it will only be in the last little bit.”
WATCH: Dark Arrow (1) romps home at Bendigo last start, stretching his winning streak to four.