"Kembla has been a good track for us. I feel like we've had a connection there since King Colorado won before going up for the JJ Atkins".
This was Ciaron Maher talking to the Mercury on Wednesday, more than 72 hours prior to Detonator Jack's demolition job on the $1m Illawarra Mercury The Gong on Saturday.
The Maher and David Eustace team is the most formidable force in Australian racing right now, as reflected in the massive expansion into NSW, including buying a farm at Berry and the use of state-of-the-art Racing NSW facility in the Southern Highlands.
So it was inevitable the region's richest race, the exclamation point to the glitzy spring carnival featuring The Everest and The Big Dance, would be pulled into the Maher-Eustace orbit.
King Colorado was three wide the trip back in May, but showed his enormous potential with a 1.5-length victory at start No.2, then headed to Eagle Farm to take out the JJ Atkins, on a path to running in the Winx Stakes, Golden Rose, Caulfield Guineas and Cox Plate. Detonator Jack had the local hope Cuban Royale for company as they peeled off the turn, but was in an entirely different post code by the time he had let down and crossed the line.
"It was a pretty easy watch, actually," Maher told Sky Racing. "He's always threatened to win a big one and I think he'll go on to the Ballarat Cup now."
Whether in NSW or Victoria, Detonator Jack had been close to the mark all preparation, notably flying late for third in the Five Diamonds (1800m) last start and so coming back to the mile did indeed, prove to be effortless. Favourite Osipenko, trained by the established giant in the industry in Chris Waller, was awkwardly away and left chasing gamely for third, 2.5 lengths away, with emergency Loch Eagle - included when top weight Cepheus was scratched after the downgrade of the track - second.
"He got a long way back on a track he wasn't favoured on," Waller's assistant trainer Charlie Duckworth told Sky. "It was a pass mark, but disappointing at the same time."
Maher and Eustace had started the day with Unanimous taking out the Benchmark 78 (2000m), signalling their intentions for domination, then completed the job with Danaustar, under brother Declan Maher's name in the last.
Robert and Luke Price flew the flag for Kembla Grange, with Victory Lane winning the Midway (1400m), while Cuban Royale fought on for sixth in the big one.
In the lead-up to The Gong, the Mercury did a lap of the track with Illawarra Turf Club chief executive Steve Keene, to get an insight into the multi-million dollar upgrades which have started with the redevelopment of the inside surface.
The vibration through the ground could be felt as the graders and 50-tonne dump trucks rattled along.
But nothing made the earth move like Detonator Jack.