Mantra Lad earned the right to defend his title but it was Graeme Bate who left the biggest impression on the Victorian heats of the Group 1 Schweppes National Distance Championship at Sandown Park tonight.
Bate, who also prepares 12 runners in the Victorian heats of the National Sprint Championship, took out all three Victorian National Distance Championship heats.
A last-start winner of the Group 2 AWM Distance Championship at The Meadows, Amity Bale ($1.30F) showed characteristic early speed from the boxes to lead clearly and was never threatened, racing to an 8.5 length win the first heat in a slick 41.99.
The run was the equal eighth fastest ever at Sandown Park, and Amity Bale is likely to start a short favourite in next week’s final.
In the second heat, reigning National Distance champion Mantra Lad began only fairly from box 1 but soon pushed up under Kulu Warrior ($5.60) to take the lead entering the straight the first time.
Despite carving out solid sectional times, Mantra Lad couldn’t shake off the underrated Beware, and on turning for home Beware had the five-time Group race winner in his sights, storming home to win by a head in 42.38.
Despite the loss trainer Graeme Jose remained upbeat about his charge’s title defence.
“He’s only had the one 600m (trial since his last run on 2 July) so I thought there was a chance he’d get run down.
“He’s pulled up really well so he’ll be much better next week. Everything is on track for the National final in Perth.”
Regardless of where he finishes in next week’s State final, Mantra Lad is assured a berth in his seventh Group 1 final courtesy of his number 1 rating in the Australian Greyhound Racing Association rankings. The highest ranked greyhound who makes, but does not win its State final gains the eighth and final berth in the $50,000 to the winner National final.
Bate completed the clean sweep when Jarvis Bale proved too good in the final heat.
Vintage Octane ($1.80F) was sent out a short favourite on the back of his last-start track record (600m) at Geelong, but despite racing to an early lead found Jarvis Bale too strong in the run to the line. Jarvis Bale raced away to win by 2.5 lengths in 42.35.
The Victorian final of the $72,500 Group 1 Schweppes National Distance Championship will be run at Sandown Park on Thursday 20 August. The National final will be run at Cannington, Perth, on Saturday 5 September.
Victorian National Distance Championship Final (715m)
- Box 1 – Headley Bale – Andrea Dailly – $11
- Box 2 – Kulu Warrior – Robert Britton – $13
- Box 3 – Mantra Lad – Graeme Jose – $2.80
- Box 4 – Jarvis Bale – Graeme Bate – $11
- Box 5 – Which Wabbit – Robert Britton – $31
- Box 6 – Amity Bale – Graeme Bate – $2.50
- Box 7 – Beware – Graeme Bate – $11
- Box 8 – Vintage Octane – Darren McDonald – $8
- 1st Res – Dooka – Michael Vaughn
- 2nd Res – Melandri – Robert Britton