An elite field of 31 greyhounds will contest the heats of Australia’s most prestigious staying race, the $86,000 Group 1 Radio Sport 927 Sandown Cup, at Sandown Park this Thursday night.
Despite last start Group 3 Lizrene Classic winner Just Friends being the only Group 1 winner in the heats (having won the Gleeson and Tonta at The Meadows in March), the 31 runners have combined to win 343 races and over $1.4 million in prizemoney, and have contested 79 Group finals.
But the Kel Greenough trained star has his work cut out for him after drawing the awkward box four in his heat against 12-time Group finalist Sky Hazzard, dual Group race winner Merciless Lu, and the talented Tasmanian Fallen Zorro.
A win for Sky Hazzard would go someway towards redemption for his trainer Don Hazzard*, who was at the centre of the controversy surrounding the 2007 Sandown Cup. Don accidently activated the manual release on the starting boxes, releasing the field before the lure was set in motion.
Surf Rescue is the only other runner from the 2007 ‘no race’ contesting the Cup in 2008, and has drawn box 8 against Group 2 winner Kulu Magic, Proven Alias, and Darren McDonald’s rising star Bye Bye Bones. The latter is to complete a rare double should he qualify for the final, having contested the Group 1 Melbourne Cup over the sprint distance in November last year.
The first race will be run at 7.09pm and the winner and runner up from each heat will progress to the final on Thursday 15 May. Admission to the final is free.
*The 2007 Sandown Cup was declared a ‘no race’ after Don Hazzard, trainer of Sky Hazzard, accidently activated the manual start. In an unusual twist, Don has agreed to star in Sandown’s national TV and radio campaign. Watch the ad below.