Eight heats of the world’s richest straight track race will take place amid the Yarra Ranges on the banks of the Watts River this Sunday, when the 2014 Group Two Healesville Cup series kicks off.
The $45,000 to-the winner event is held over the 350 metre loam trip and has attracted plenty of quality in 2014.
Due to changes in the racing calendar, it will be the second Healesville Cup for 2014 with trainer Kel Greenough given the unique opportunity of winning the same race twice in a year. He won the race in February with Frosty Jay Jay and will have High Speed Chase and Unleash De Fear engaged in this Sunday’s heats.
Here is a look at the main chances in each of the eight heats;
Race 4 – Healesville Cup – Heat 1 – 1:25pm
The Darren McDonald trained Harry Keeping (3) heads to Healesville for the first time but looks most suited to the trip. The young dog has never finished worst than second in his 12 career starts and has impeccable box manners. He could well lead all the way.
Darcy’s Entity (4) is another promising youngster with six wins to his credit from eight starts. He comes into this after finishing third behind All Strung Out in the Group Two Great Chase final at The Meadows on Wednesday and should also be close to the speed.
Beckenbauer (2) looks well drawn for trainer Darren Pattinson. He begins well and should be able to cross to the rails and possibly put himself right in the race from that point.
Race 5 – Healesville Cup – Heat 2 – 1:45pm
El Grand Seal (4) is a very consistent sprinter who is in the capable hands of Anakie mentor Jeff Britton. A winner of 10 from 20, she should be able to find the front early and give this field plenty to catch.
The Peter Akathiotis trained Nockabout Aussie (7) is a powerful type who can be devastating when he leaves the traps well. He is a little hit and miss at box-rise but will be finishing the race right off and has to be considered.
Texan (1) is a greyhound with a penchant for the straight track and has plenty of experience at the venue compared with his rivals. He has won seven of his 15 Healesville appearances for trainer Karen Leek and if he can run around his best time of 19.11, he will be in this up to his ears. He is in fantastic form, with a runner-up result in the Waterloo Cup last weekend rounding out his preparation.
Race 6 – Healesville Cup – Heat 3 – 2:06pm
Transcend Time (6) is an interesting runner in the third heat. He has had just three runs back from a break after running in the Healesville Cup in February. All three runs have been at this track and have yielded two wins and a third to Walk Hard here a fortnight ago. He has won three from five at the track and boasts a best of 19.18. He should be thereabouts in this heat.
Dark Warrior (1) has an imposing record from the inside draw with five victories from eight starts. He has never finished worse than second in five starts here and ran second behind Transcend Time here a month ago. If he produces anywhere near his personal best of 19.10 then he will be close to winning.
The Kelly Bravo trained Top Secret (3) is a speedy beginner who led for a long way before being run down by All Strung Out in the Group Two Great Chase final last Wednesday at The Meadows. He could land on the bunny and give plenty of cheek here.
Size Does Matter (8) has recently made his way into the kennel of Brooke and Jamie Ennis and debuted for them with an impressive best of the night 25.16 win at Ballarat. He is no stranger to straight racing having competed at Capalaba in Queensland and could be value in this field.
Early Return (2) is a genuine track specialist with 15 wins from 31 starts at Healesville. He had been a little below his best before a good 300 metre win last time out. He knows this place backwards.
Race 7 – Healesville Cup – Heat 4 – 2:29pm
The fourth heat looks to be a genuine match race and features Walk Hard (1), who was a finalist in this race earlier in the year and has an imposing record from box one. The Nicole McRae trained dog has won a a remarkable seven from eight when exiting the cherry and has a Healesville record to match, with eight wins from 11 attempts up the straight. He is not a speedy beginner but will be motoring home late nailed to the fence.
Luca Neveelk (3) has the near-flawless record of 17 wins from 20 outings which includes four from four at Healesville. While the race appears a match race between him and Walk Hard, he should have the advantage of doing it from in front with impeccable box manners being a feature of his racing style.
Hallelujah Henry (7) has not raced since July but has clocked a fast 18.93 here in the past. He faces a tough test first-up but can gallop and is definitely one for exotics.
Hekate Belle (8) has won three of her last four and was a finalist in Wednesday’s Group Two Great Chase. She has her share of early speed and looks to be an each way proposition.
Race 8 – Healesville Cup – Heat 5 – 2:45pm
The Rob Britton trained Farmor Las Vegas (4) returned to form by taking out the heat and final of the Group Three Townsville Cup recently. He has won three from five at this track with a personal best of 19.16. If he can find a bit of room early on he will take some beating.
Azza Azza Azza (2) has a superb strike rate with 15 wins from 20 starts. he has won his last four starts and also has a best here of 19.16. He could lob on the bunny and lead from go to whoa in this one.
Waymore’s Blues (7) is a regular in quality company with 11 wins from 32 starts. He has his first crack up the straight in this heat and could be some sort of hope if he begins well.
Shameless Bandit (8) is just 20 months old but has won two from two at Healesville including a swift 19.05 which he registered last week. He faces a steep class rise here but has some ability.
Race 9 – Healesville Cup – Heat 6 – 3:08pm
Matt’s Entity (1) is a quality chaser with 40 wins to his name. He has won eight from 11 out of the inside box and has never finished worse than second at his five Healesville appearances. He looks the one to beat in this heat.
Senor Socks (4) is a consistent chaser who has won one from two here with a best of 19.20. He finished second to Zambora Storm here recently and is one of the main threats to the favourite.
Mepunga Armagh (5) could be the sort of dog who will challenge for the lead early if he gets a little bit of space at box-rise. He is a winner of 16 from 38 and should be good enough to be right in the mix here.
Lonesome Jett (8) won her first four career races and has since found it a little harder in tougher city class. She can obviously run and could be one for the exotics from the wide draw.
Race 10 – Healesville Cup – Heat 7 – 3:33pm
The penultimate heat is headlined by the exciting There’s A Earn (2) for Darren McDonald. The black dog celebrated his first race run since April by setting a new track record here last week of 18.80. Anything near a repeat of that will see him winning this heat with consummate ease.
The Brooke Ennis trained Universal Size (7) made an impact at his first outing at Healesvlle last weekend when he won in a zippy 18.92. An encore performance would see him right in this race.
Recent Darwin Cup winner Clash Of Kings (8) has won his last four in a row and seven of his 11 career starts. The main concern may be his slightly tardy box manners but, if he stays straight from the wide draw, he may nullify that.
Race 11 – Healesville Cup – Heat 8 – 3:54pm
The final heat looks to have a number of winning chances. Unleash De Fear (5) has recently found his way south into the care of Kel Greenough. He is a son of Disintergrate, who was a straight-track flyer in New South Wales. He has won nine from 18 and shown plenty of ability in the process. He should be close to the speed early and right in the mix at the business end of proceedings.
Tiggerlong Amigo (4) is undefeated in two starts at Healesville for trainer Darren McDonald and has a personal best of 19.26. He will need to be on his best behaviour at box-rise to avoid trouble early with his usual moderate get-away.
Jaraco (1) has registered two best on day runs in his last three outings at Warrnambool and Ballarat. He can begin well and has a good record from the inside draw, only missing a place once in five starts. He is a definite chance here.
Zambora Storm (3) returned to the winners circle last week for the first time since March with a handy 19.29 win here. He can ill afford to make any errors against this opposition if he is to figure.
Soldier Spy (6) has recorded a quick 19.16 and with early luck could be the knockout dog for trainer Michael Fox.