Starting as the $2.30 favourite off box two, Astrozone was outpaced in the early stages by Demon Bale (Bella Infrared x Fyna Bale Feb ’14) but found clear room and was too strong in the home straight, storming home to win by one and a half lengths in a blistering 27.10 over 490m.
Demon Bale held on to finish second, with Astrozone’s kennel mate and half-brother Gold Reserve (Brett Lee x Starlight Delly Mar ’14) filling the trifecta from box five after a phenomenal heat win the week prior.
Stuart, who owns and bred the fawn dog, said he couldn’t be happier with both of his greyhounds.
“He went super – I was very happy with how both of them went,” Stuart told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“Astrozone is probably the better dog, although with [Gold Reserve] going as well as he did in the heats it made it hard to ignore him, but I think the box draw made the difference on the night.
“Gold Reserve didn’t come out that well and found trouble whereas Astrozone held his line, moved up on the rails and from there he was always going to be hard to beat.”
Astrozone took his record to 20 wins and eight placings from 37 starts and has now banked $145,000 in prize money for Stuart.
Friday’s win was his first success at group level, although he has raced competitively in some feature races previously including a second in the Group 3 Ambrosoli and a fifth in the Group 1 Perth Cup.
He has been in great form in recent weeks, having won the $30,000 WA Bred Championship at Cannington in the week leading up to the Mandurah Cup heats.
Stuart says whilst he has always shown ability, he is only just learning how to be a proper race dog at the top level.
“He is probably his own worst enemy – in the early days he had the habit of not wanting to go around another dog. He just wanted to push up on the fence or wait for the leaders to roll off the fence.
“He lost a few races by doing that, but in the last few months he has had a few wide box draws which have taught him to go around them.
“That probably won him the race on Friday. If he had of tried to go to the inside it may not have worked out for him, but he went around the leader so it was great to see him put it together like that in a big race.”
Stuart, who trained former group 1 winners Miata and Dyna Nalin, explained it takes a special dog to travel across the country and win against the best, but said the current batch of WA greyhounds are nothing short of outstanding.
“I’ve travelled with a few dogs in the past and it is always hard to go over east and mix it with the best of them, but at the moment over here the WA dogs are top class and they are showing that outside of the state.
“Our sprint racing dogs are as good as anywhere over east at the moment – that showed last night when Astrozone was only 0.02 off the record which has stood for a long time and he only won by a length and half.”