The 2014 Adelaide Cup series contains a series of conundrums.
First is that GRSA shifted the final to this Friday night, away from its customary Thursday slot, for whatever local reasons. This sort of switcheroo seldom works out. NSW is trying it now for Friday meetings which were once all at Wentworth Park. Victoria does it all the time for feature races and always loses money on the deal. People are accustomed to their favourite slots and don’t much like them being changed. Still, Friday night will pull in the casual gamblers, no matter what races are running.
Second, in its heat local champ Ernie Bung Arrow stumbled over the supergrass on its way out of the boxes and played no real part in the race. That would be a big disappointment to all, not just the locals, on its way back from injury as well as an unsuccessful visit to Melbourne.
Third, Victorian trainers took their usual strong interest in the series (but none from NSW) but made some odd choices of dogs to compete on the tight Angle Park track. Three notable and in-form runners were Allen Deed, Campaspe Will and Wind Whistler, but all of these are moderate beginners and need space to work up to speed. Seldom do such types succeed at Angle Park and so only the former managed to get through to the final, and then only just.
However, Allen Deed’s heat performance was extraordinary, coming from near last down the back to overhaul all but the leader. His mid-race pace reminded you of his power-packed 29.43 run at Wentworth Park last month when, following a moderate start, he rounded up most of the field in the back straight and then thundered home to catch the leader half way down the straight and win running away. He has never been in better nick.
Fourth, in a burst of generosity, Tattsbet has put up a book of only 120% for its Fixed Odds offers on the final, rather than the more common 130% that it and Tabcorp prefer. However, you will not get great prices for the two favourites, Oakvale Destiny and Allen Deed in boxes 1 and 2, as both are under the odds at around 6/4. But that means others will be overs if you fancy an upset.
Of course, that’s the big question. Will the two gun dogs manage to get a run through the field? Neither is a natural leader. Oakvale Destiny found the heads opening up for it in the heat and so got close enough to run down the leaders. Angle Park offers no guarantees of history repeating itself there. Allen Deed made its own luck in the heat but faces an even tougher assignment in the final. Most of the runners will be coming over in front of the inside two on the way to the first turn.
Otherwise, Mepunga Armagh from box 4 could be leading around the turn, and probably has a bit of class on the outside four dogs. Anything which wants to catch it will have to be doing everything right.
History tells us that the Adelaide Cup is always won by the first or second dog around the turn – but most often the leader. For the last 14 years they have been 2001 Brett Lee, 2002 Brookside Bear, 2003 Waterview Star, 2004 Hotline Hero, 2005 Collide, 2006 Miss Spicy, 2007 Big Time Max, 2008 Whippy’s Image, 2009 El Galo, 2010 Dyna Lachlan, 2011 Kilty Lad (1) Mepunga Nicky (2), 2012 Spud Regis and 2013 Ernie Bung Arrow. (Two editions of the race were run in 2011). All but a couple of these speared out and led all the way.