Clarence Town trainer Peter Honnery had a big night at the Paws of Thunder heats with Connie's Boy, after Richmond Vale's Jason Mackay had mixed fortunes at box draws for the group 1 National Futurity and Derby with his four finalists.
Connie's Boy will be the sole Hunter-trained dog in the group 1 Paws of Thunder final (520m) at Wentworth Park on Friday night after he finished second to Western Envoy in the opening heat on Saturday night.
From box three, he railed under pressure throughout then finished strongly to take second spot before drawing well in two for the $75,000-to-the-winner final.
On Friday night, Mackay was the star as he qualified two runners in both the National Derby and Futurity (520m) with four heat winners at Wentworth Park.
Recent kennel addition Hard Style Rico was the standout, chasing down Derby series favourite Simon Told Helen in heat two to win by one and three quarter lengths in the fastest time of the night, 29.84 seconds.
The Victorian had been with Mackay for just eight days and the trainer expected him to improve for the final.
"He's a special young dog," Mackay told GRNSW. "To give the leader, the black, a start like that, and beat him a length and three quarters, you've got to sort of look to make sure it really happened.
"That's probably the best young dog around, the leader, and somehow he's given him two or three lengths start and beaten him by two lengths. That's a proper young dog."
Asked where Hard Style Rico ranked among the young dogs he has had, Mackay said: "He'd have to be up there with the best you can get, simple as that. It's all in front of him."
Aston Sapporo gave Mackay a second Derby finalist, leading all the way in heat four in 29.87.
However, they didn't draw well for the $75,000-to-the-winner this Friday night. Hard Style Rico will start from box five and Aston Sapporo has seven.
Hard Style Rico was a $3 second favourite with TAB behind Simon Told Helen ($2.25), which drew four.
Brandy Hill trainer Mark Davidson's Zipping Vernon was second in heat one of five but missed a start in the final on times. He was second reserve.
Mackay started heat night with wins from Aston Maeve and Zipping Veyron, which clocked the fastest Futurity times of 29.87 and 29.86 respectively.
Zipping Veyron burst to the lead from box five and Mackay wanted a middle or wide draw for the final, which he got with box four. Aston Maeve was the $2.60 favourite after securing the coveted draw in one. Zipping Veyron was $3.50.
On Friday night, Aston Maeve started well in heat one of the Futurity from box three and was outside early leader Sneaky Marquee approaching the first turn.
She quickly took over on the bend and was never headed to finish one and a half lengths clear.
Zipping Veyron was also impressive in heat two, exploding out of box five to lead by as many as six lengths down the back straight. She went on to win by two and a quarter lengths.
"She got a little injury last week and we have had to do a bit of maintenance on her this week," Mackay said of Zipping Veyron.
"But that's her forte. Nail the start, with good sections, and try and pinch a break and hang on, and she did that tonight.
"She's got those break-neck sections. She probably doesn't want inside. She wants to draw middle or wide. She likes to funnell dogs, not get funnelled herself, but she's a nice honest little bitch. She's improving all the time and she's took a bit of a liking to this joint. She went nice.
"Aston Maeve is a novice in this sort of company, only had the three starts and she's got an impressive record at home on the local tracks, but she's never been through the boxes here."