The final field for the Group One Melbourne Cup has been determined after eight hotly contested heats of the event were conducted at Sandown Park on Thursday night.
Time honours went to the Jenny Hunt trained Dyna Villa (29.21) just ahead of Chica Destacada (29.22), trained by Doreen Drynan.
Darren McDonald and Jeff Britton both have a strong hand in the final, qualifying two runners each.
McDonald has a great record in the Melbourne Cup. He has already won three of them with Hallucinate (2004), Surgeon (2007) and Shanlyn Prince (2008). Awesome Project or Keybow could make him the only trainer to ever win four.
Here’s a look at how each of the heats were run and won;
The Melbourne Cup heats opened with a win for New Zealand as the Alison Lee owned Above All (5) qualified first for the rich final. Above All is trained by Rob Britton and he had great success with another of Lee’s New Zealand chasers, Clone Your Own.
The Magic Sprite and Kara Janx (Fashion Thief – more Than This) dog had only raced nine times for five wins prior to his heat run. For this event he had drawn the squeeze box and was racing plenty of Group winners.
Lucy Lobster (8) grabbed the early lead while Humphrey Bale (1) was also hunting up on the inside. Above All was positioned nicely in third, advantaged by having the tardy beginner Oakvale Destiny (5) on his inside. Rounding the first turn, Above All squeezed through Humphrey Bale and Lucy Lobster to take the lead and secure a 6 1/2 length win in 29.37. Weston East (10), the second reserve, ran home well for second and Oakvale Destiny (4) was third.
A New Zealand bred chaser last won the Melbourne Cup in 1974, courtesy of Kwik Metal. She was a bitch by Gabriel Mist and Metal Joey (Keen Metal – Russkar).
Class prevailed in the second heat as Awesome Project (3) atoned for his unlucky Shoot Out run to begin well and score by 4 1/2 lengths in 29.38 at the juicy odds of $6. Once the Darren McDonald chaser hit the lead, no other greyhound in the field was going to get him. The Collision and Honour Phase (Big Daddy Cool – Hunter Tylo) dog notched up his eighth win at Sandown while Hostile (1) and Ritza Hattie (5) filled the minors.
McDonald continued with his winning touch in the third heat, handling the Doreen Drynan trained Chica Destacada (6) for a smart 29.22 win. Banjo Boy (1) looked to be beautifully boxed but he dwelt at the start and cost himself valuable ground. Chica Destacada, a diminutive black bitch by Cosmic Rumble and Eluthra (Most Awesome – Buena Sarah), crossed beautifully from box six and was able to stave off Cawbourne Whip (2) by a length on the line. Mepunga Hayley (8) rounded out the placings.
Things could not get any better for McDonald after Keybow (8) came out in the fourth heat to win and qualify for next week’s final, giving McDonald two cracks at winning his fourth Melbourne Cup. The box draw was perfect for Keybow as he stuck outside the pace and worked his way around the tight pack of leaders. Crackerjak Dak (3) just couldn’t get to the lead clearly, hampered by Take Charge (1). While Keybow was making his run down the back Iva Vision (6) was also running strongly into the picture. However, Keybow is a known strong chaser and once he was in front he was not going to go down easily. He stopped the clock at 29.35. The Take The Kitty and Key Exit (Over Flo – Atlanta Belle) dog scored by five lengths over Iva Vision and Oakvale Flyer (4).
WA chaser Star Recall (2) turned a last at Sandown the previous week into a first this week. The High Earner and No Recall (Big Daddy Cool – Bradshaw Girl) bitch is now based in Jeff Britton’s kennels and had failed to impress the previous week at the track. In taking out heat five, she recorded 29.34 to record a comfortable 4 1/2 length win. She was able to lead from go to whoa to make her third Group One final. Tiggerlong Amigo (4) tried his hardest to catch the leader but had to settle for second while Hekate Belle (5) wound up in third.
Unbeaten records at the track are hard to ignore and Dyna Villa (6) proved that by taking out the sixth heat and lowering the colours of the much fancied My Bro Fabio (7) in the process. My Bro Fabio was gallant in his 1 1/4 length defeat but he just had too much ground to make up after a slow getaway. Dyna Villa, a dog by Collision and Roxio Bale (Droopy’s Vieri – Francesca Bale), has now won seven from seven at the track and is a real smokey for next week’s final if he can repeat the early sectionals he clocked in this victory. The Jenny Hunt trained dog recorded a personal best of 29.21 and gives the Wheeler family a runner for the big one.
As expected, the speedy blue dog Luca Neveelk (2) was quick away, recording early sectionals of 5.00 and 18.60 down the back. He had just enough in the tank to hold off the fast finishing Dream It (4) by just a head in 29.42. It was the first start at Sandown for the Talk’s Cheap and It’s A Neveelk (Nitro Neveelk – Bigbad Leesa) dog, trained by Gerald Kleeven. He is now in with a chance to add a Group One title to his recent Group Two Geelong Cup win.
In the final heat of the Melbourne Cup, Buckle Up Wes (7) was unable to break his Sandown hoodoo, suffering interference in the early stages and finishing down the track in seventh. Cosmic Wise (1) was able to use the advantage of the rails alley to qualify for her second Group One final in the space of a month, after recently making the final of the Group One Adelaide Cup. The Cosmic Chief and Wise Penny (Bombastic Shiraz – Awesome Berger) bitch keenly contested the lead early with One Dee (2) and eventually won that battle on the approach into the first turn.the Jeff Britton trained chaser was not worried from that point, crossing the line 1 3/4 lengths in front of Joey Valdez (3) and One Dee (2). In the process, she clocked her personal best at Sandown of 29.39.
The box draw for the Melbourne Cup will take place at midday on Friday, 14 November.
The finalists are (in heat order):
Above All – Robert Britton (29.37)
Awesome Project – Darren McDonald (29.38)
Chica Destacada – Doreen Drynan (29.22)
Keybow – Darren McDonald (29.35)
Star Recall – Jeff Britton (29.34)
Dyna Villa – Jenny Hunt (29.21)
Luca Neveelk – Gerald Kleeven (29.42)
Cosmic Wise – Jeff Britton (29.39)