As you may have realised, it is currently late June. Which in turn, means that in just over four weeks it will be August. Now, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I know that in my little world there is only one thing that occurs during August that is worth getting out of bed for…. The Nationals!
Melbourne takes centre stage this year – more specifically The Meadows on August 24 – for one of the most unique races that our code has to offer. Therefore, I have taken the noble duty of looking hard into the crystal ball to uncover this year’s main contenders:
Prediction: Presuming Xylia Allen gets the luxury of a wildcard entry, then the doors really open up to a flurry of dogs in with a chance of taking two spots on offer. I’m going to look outside the box somewhat and suggest that Peter Rocket can serve up his best with the right draw. Has been racing well without much luck and has shown that class is no concern. He just needs to find those good box manners that served him well as a youngster. El Brooklyn is always a threat, so too is Cintiarna after she bounced back to form last week. Ronan Izmir, Paw Licking and General Destini will always add an early speed factor to a race.
Smokey: There seems no reason why Jason Thompson’s young gun Phenomenal can’t mix it with the big boys. His times are lightning, his box manners are improving and he has several weeks to further develop his craft around the two-bend tracks. Keep an eye on him over the upcoming Maturity series at The Meadows.
Prediction: Four Group 1’s will be enough to see Destini Fireball through as the wildcard, so we must look elsewhere for the Vic representatives. Not sure Irma Bale does her best racing at Northcorp Boulevard circuit, so perhaps Proven Impala is a better option. She makes a lot of finals without causing too much of a stir, but her turn isn’t far away. Mimicking, Czar, Steve Allen and Bagget Bale will also be in contention.
Smokey: I’ve always been a fan of Newfire Riley and he’s put in some decent efforts against the big names of the staying scene. Always puts in a nice mid-race burst and can cause a boilover if the breaks go his way.
NEW SOUTH WALES SPRINT
Prediction: The high profile pair of Black Magic Opal and Punch One Out are obvious ones if they meet eligibility criteria. Transcend Time is another who is racing really well around the Provincial Cups circuit and will give any dog a run for its money. Can’t leave out Princess Black who is capable of anything on her night, as seen during the Golden Easter Egg series.
Smokey: Garry Edwards has a smart pup named Double Twist that may upset a couple of fancied runners. Only 27 months of age, the son of Where’s Pedro is reaching full maturity and already has a 29.65 win over Black Magic Opal at Wentworth Park. A repeat of that would be good enough to earn a trip south.
NEW SOUTH WALES DISTANCE
Prediction: Not sure the strength of NSW staying is what it has been in previous years. Fancy Liza is a Group winner but hasn’t been seen since an unsuccessful Sandown Cup campaign. Set to Shine has done well since stepping up to the ‘half-mile’ and with further improvement might become a quality Group race prospect.
Smokey: Calm model from the Clay Mullens kennel has not started over 700 as yet, but is working up over 600 and going well. She can certainly sprint – won Richmond oaks a few starts back and as has a 29.57 run at Dapto to her name – so if she can step up in time and run the trip she could be a big threat.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA SPRINT
Prediction: Sometimes Speedy. Many of you will be thinking “huh?” as all her best racing has been in NSW, but she is back in town and engaged at Angle Park Thursday night. No doubt the return to S.A is to gain eligibility and with any inkling of her NSW form she’ll prove far too quick. Have to give mention to Koombooyana Girl, Fire Tyson, Significant Bit, Springvale Cool and Hope’s Up who are all capable on their night.
Smokey: Wonder Whirl from the Mick Giniotis kennel is currently the in-form sprinter doing the rounds. She’s only young, and still making her way but is beginning much better, and can lay down quick times when given room. She’s won her last three and just looks to be the real up-and-comer.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA DISTANCE
Prediction: Yawn. The same old names. You know the depth of stayers is a bit light when the best chance in your state is approaching fifty in ‘dog years’ and has had over 110 starts. Yet Kalden Mayhem keeps on winning, and is still the most likely to head to Melbourne if trainer Troy Murray so chooses. Cousin Callum is starting to lose his zest, Miss Woods has always been half a peg below the real topliners and there looks to be very few others coming through the ranks.
Smokey: This is cheating I know, but I’m going to give you two names – Tercel and Sheza Ten. Tercel has been a quality sprinter for some time now and can maintain the strength over 600m from what we’ve seen. It’s a big step up to the half-mile but will go well if running out the trip. Did anyone else notice Sheza Ten’s win over the 731m a few weeks back? Beating Cousin Callum by three lengths is form that will be enough to challenge.
Prediction: I’m sure I heard that Glen Gallon had retired, but appears this week at Albion so if fit, he’s the key to Queensland’s chances. He loves The Meadows too, and will be well in the Grand Final market if he makes it that far. Top Story continues to win in tough fashion week in, week out. Suited to the Albion Park layout, this big striding galloper has been eye-catching in his ability to overcome bad draws and can take a bump or two in the clinches. He also has a Group final under his belt and knows what it takes to get the job done.
Smokey: Frosty Jay Jay is a youngster on the improve, and makes the step up to Group company in the heats of the Winter Carnival Cup this week. A winner of 9 out of 20, the son of Knocka Norris has already broken 30 seconds around Albion, and looms as one that could slip under a lot of people’s radar.
Prediction: Mrs Thursday did nothing but impress during the Gold Cup series, and is showing so much ability for such a young dog with handful of starts. She looks right at home at the top level. Starliner would be the second pick, but he’ll have to go via the NSW heats being based at Woodburn.
Smokey: If there is to be another Tarlie’s Angel-style boilover, it will go the way of Ba Bling. Such an enigmatic greyhound, Ba Bling either jumps out the ground to run a bottler, or never fires a shot and makes you wonder why you wasted your dough. It’s the former of those options that might cause a scare.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA SPRINT
Prediction: Looks to only really be three chances – On Coin, Boss Coin and Dyna Nalin. I’m going with On Coin as his box manners have been faultless of late and will stand up under pressure. The other two traditionally need an element of luck, particularly Dyna Nalin, but they are clearly better than the rest at present. Haven’t seen too much of Hot Irish recently but can’t forget her either. She’s bound to make a return before August.
Smokey: The Hobby kennel has been doing great things of late and a pup by the name of Igor Monelli has a bright future. Only five times it has graced the track, winning four of them, but explosive early pace is what will take him a long way. Has already won around the 530 metres, so there is enough strength there to work with. With plenty of weeks left for him to get those winning times down, he could rise up the ranks in a big hurry.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA DISTANCE
Prediction: I’m thinking of making a call to Paul Stuart to bring Miata out of retirement so I have something to write about here. Freeway Ace is probably still the best of the current crop, but there isn’t much form to go by as Greyhounds W.A are only running 700-metre races spasmodically at the moment. It’s hard to see the West defending the title in 2013.
Smokey: Cheating again – Mr Rooster/Talk and Sit. Darren Rowe is specifically grooming Mr Rooster to be a hardened stayer, and the son of Mogambo is as strong as an ox. Isn’t quite up to the required level just yet, but will improve with time. Talk and Sit is only a baby of 14 starts and is just being introduced to staying, but the signs so far are all positive. She walloped a couple of fields over the middle-trips after copping checks in the run and any dog from the dominant Linda Britton kennel cannot be underestimated.
Prediction: She’s All Class has capped off an amazing month by winning the Tassie Oaks earlier this week. She explodes out the boxes, is wonderfully bred and runs time. The other obvious choice is the old fellow, Rewind. Up to 59 career wins, but my concern is that he has been beaten three times recently when dogs have managed to lead him, which She’s All Class is certainly capable of.
Smokey: Buckle Up Wes is a boom sprinter that has only tasted defeat once in its career so far. Under the care of Ted Medhurst, it took out the Tassie Derby beating a hot field and is quickly proving himself as one of the best the state has to offer.
Prediction: Had to think long and hard about this one. Bell Haven picks herself. Ran two of the best seconds you’ll ever see before smashing the Superstayers field. Enough said.
Smokey: Does anyone remember Jethro? You know, the dog that run a huge race in last years Grand Final before winning a Group 1 over 600m at The Meadows and then vanishing off the face of the earth. Jethro was a better sprinter than Bell Haven, and beat her over the 709 at Hobart in the lead-up events last year. If the dog is still alive, eligible and fit he’s a real show.
That should covers all bases, folks. It will be interesting to re-visit this come August to see how the fates and fortunes went over that time. August 24 is the date, so mark it down, cancel plans and once again enjoy the majesty of our showpiece event.