Standing Their Ground – Can The S.A. Brigade Keep The Cup At Home

It’s been twelve months since Ken Gill and Ernie Bung Arrow sent an entire state into a frenzy by winning South Australia’s only Group 1 feature. Now that the locals have got that winning feeling over their Eastern rivals, they’ve nominated again in heavy numbers for the 2014 version in an attempt to keep the treasured prize on home soil.

There were only five heats in last year’s Adelaide Cup series, however the depth of South Australian racing has increased noticeably since that time and now seven heats have been penned for Thursday nights’ bumper card.

The good news for locals is that Ernie is back to defend the title and has been given his favourite box in heat six. Having missed the majority of 2014 through injury, questions will still be asked if Ken Gill’s star performer is ready for the occasion. It was reported early in the month that Ernie Bung Arrow was going to bypass the Cup heats, but after the dog’s first up win over 388 metres, plans seemed to have changed.

The good news is that if he comes out running like usual, there aren’t too many dogs in the race that possess the strength the run him down. Maybe only Especially and Mepunga Armagh would be able to sit second and beat Ernie home, but on the flip side, there are plenty of dogs that can set a nippy early sectional. In other words, coming over from a wide draw might not be as easy as it has been in other races and without much of a preparation, the expectations might be a bit high on the reigning champ.

By the time that comes around though, there could already be several S.A runners through to the final, with many of them given good draws or hitting peak form.

In the fifth heat for example, there are four local chasers and all are in with a live chance. Aston Kane has become a bit of a Monday night specialist, but has an imposing overall record and a slashing best time of 29.57. His last start in the Derby final can be forgotten, as he missed the kick and was never given a crack at the leaders. His form leading into that was top notch and amazingly he has never started from box one. He gets the cherry now at the right time and looks a great chance to lead all the way.

Valladares lines up in box eight in the same race and poses the biggest threat to Aston Kane. His first step is never flash, but no dog musters speed faster than the Lauren Harris trained youngster. For those that didn’t see it, take a look at his win from the 14th of August and you’ll see why he will loom large using the room given to him here. He is expected to be good odds considering that Musquin Bale and Mepunga Hayley will take a lot of the interstate money.

Wedged between those two will be Farmeroo who always shows early dash, while Dakota Premier will be on the rails coming home as hard as any.

Early speed will certainly be an asset in the second heat also, where Galilee Spirit is looking for five wins straight. Bob Isaacson’s brindle speedster has been pinging out of the boxes in the past month and has gone sub-30 in his last three starts. With little speed around him, Galilee Spirit is the obvious leader and will take a power of beating, especially if Allen Deed takes out a few on the first bend exiting box one.

In saying that, Galilee Spirit has been beaten as favourite before and doesn’t put up much of a fight if unable to lead. He’ll need to be taken on trust, but this does look a favourable scenario though given the dynamics of the race.

Proven Juddy and Sporting Tears are the only other S.A chasers engaged, but both appear delicately placed in middle boxes. Proven Juddy is a talented chaser and a winner of 20 races and likes room to move in the early stages. If given that luxury, he will be hard to catch if he can find the bunny.

Nebula represents another great chance for a South Aussie victory in the third heat, especially after his brilliant win over Valladares last Thursday. Admittedly, Nebula doesn’t always jump out quite as well as that and will need some luck to get into the race from box eight, but does know how to win and can run enough time to win a Cup heat.

Kalden Gambino also looms as a great bet in heat three, with Campaspe Will and Texan Titan alongside who are traditionally slow out. He also adores the rails, with nine wins from 13 starts from the inside two boxes. Set The Scene for Laurence Cahalan is the total opposite and will revel on the outside and run on strong. Must include him in the multiples.

State sprint champion, Wild Soul looks to have a hard job to overcome his Victorian Nationals counterpart, Crackerjak Dak. This task will be made particularly difficult exiting from box five with many other runners placed where they want to be. Footluce Diva has come of age the past month and has the red rug where it has won four from five. Kalden Balerion is next door and boasts a 29.75 best time, while Emerley Senorita had a great Derby series, when it made the final from the same box it has here.

The rest of the local brigade appear to have their work cut out, but from those capable of causing an upset, look for Genghis Kahn in heat one or Punishment in heat four. Genghis Kahn has built a reputation as a 600-metre specialist, but put together a great run over the 515 last week for Kathleen Johnstone. While the time on that occasion was only average, he does have a best of 29.68 which would go close in any race. The challenge for Genghis Kahn is keeping close enough to the pack from a wide draw in order to throw down a challenge in the final 200 metres.

Punishment will get a lovely card into the race outside Dustnado who pings out. Punishment was beaten on Monday night, but likes the outside draws and has a good second section. He will need some interference behind in order to hold off the final charge of Oakvale Destiny and Heidi Go Seek, but will be good odds and represents value.

The seven heats are races three to nine on Thursday night and kick off at 7:55pm local time. The Adelaide Cup final is being run on a Friday for the first time, and will take place on October 10.