For the first time in recent history the Ballarat Cup has attracted enough nominations to run the full compliment of eight heats, with each heat winner progressing to the final.
For the past few years the Cup has only attracted enough nominations to run five heats toward the final and this years popularity is no doubt in large part due to the progressive Ballarat Club’s move to ensure all heats are random blind draws, meaning no trainer or greyhound will get a free ride in to the $30,000 to the winner final as occurs with seeded heats in Victorian Greyhound Racing.
The only other heat and final greyhound race series in Victoria to do the same is the very popular Geelong Cup. The Geelong Cup has for the past two years employed a similar format or random blind draws for the heats and it has been received highly favourably amongst owners and trainers as it gives every greyhound and trainer a fair and equal chance to make the final.
In addition to the blind draw format the Ballarat Cup has endeavoured to maintain its place as one of the state’s major provincial feature events by making siginificant stakes increases to the 2008 Ballarat Cup series. The 2008 Group 2 PETStock Ballarat Cup Heats will carry prizemoney of $1800 for 1st, 2nd $520 and 3rd $260; with the Final worth $30,000 for 1st, 2nd $8750 and 3rd $4285.
In the first of tonight’s heats, Jason Thompson will try and put the controversy of the past week behind him and produce Proven Alias to win. With the scratching of Big Nose from box two giving him a vacant draw to his inside, he should be able to overcome his often tardy starts and gain a clear run. Hardest to beat will be the Graeme Bate trained Hastings Bale who has the pace to lead Proven Alias early and has the good form on the track of one win from just one start at Ballarat.
Heat two will see talented SA greyhound White Admiral take on the Vics on their own “turf”, but the race looks set up for the speedy Invisiting Me to win from box two. The Steve Shinners trained runner has drawn the inside of the track which is a big bonus to him and with three wins from three starts at the track and distance, he looks very hard to beat.
The third heat should eventuate to be a real contest and has drawn at least three very good chances. Naomi Cambaz marked herself as a star of the future by running an outstanding 24.92 to win in Ballarat a week ago.The performance was less than two lengths off the 24.81 track record set by her sire Whisky Assassin in a 2004 Ballarat Cup heat and is the equal eighth fastest ever run at Morshead Park with only Magic Trance (24.83), Bounding Billy (24.88 and 24.91), Exceptional (24.89) Mogambo (24.89) and Slater (24.90) having gone quicker. Unfurtunately for Naomi Cambaz, the fourth quickest in history will also line up in her heat from box five. Only a half length separates Mogambo and Naomi Cambaz on personal best times, but Mogambo will need all the breaks from his draw with the speedy Mick’s Intent likely to lead him early from box eight.
The fourth heat looked like a nice race for Taipan Bale from the eight box, but the scratching of Young Ravello from box two has significantly improved the chances of both Sisco Cruise from box one and the Alec Reid trained Super Joe Cool from box three. Sisco Cruise is ideally drawn down in the one and has the ability to win this despite having only won once from nine goes at the track. The enigmatic Super Joe Cool if able to lead could just blow this field away but he will need to lead to show his best. Taipan Bale is easily the best greyhound in the race and his best of night 25.02 run her a month ago proves he is in form, however he would be better drawn toward the inside.
Heat five of the Ballarat Cup is quite an open affair but the locally trained Pure Conquest has struck a purple patch of form lately and has put three wins back to back at Ballarat recently including one of those in the best of the night. The box one draw is a decided advantage for the Darren Murray trained greyhound and he looks the winner if able to lead. Not the strongest or hardest chasing greyhound in the world, heat five of the cup could be a lottery if Pure Conquest doesn’t lead conclusively as not much seperates the other seven greyhounds.
The sixth heat sees one of Australian Racing Greyhound’s favourite greyhounds, Bounding Billy draw the eight box against one of the real rising stars of Victorian Greyhound Racing, Birthday Boy from box seven. Bounding Billy has not drawn well out in the eight box but has the excellent form of five wins and two placings at Ballarat from seven starts, including two of the three quickest times ever run on the circuit. However Birthday Boy is definitely a dog “on the up” and the Steve Elsum trained youngster recently won the Goup 2 Geelong Cup beating Taipan Bale and has the incredible stats of four starts for four wins from the seven box. The boxed quinella looks a moral but we can’t split them to back either dog one out. The race should really be one for the enthusiast’s to sit back and enjoy watching two high class greyhounds going head to head on an ideal track.
Heat seven is another open affair with none of the seven runners really standing out. Kendale Bale is the class greyhound of the field having won a heat of the Melbourne Cup before finishing fifth in the final. The Horsham Cup winner earlier this year looks the winner but is yet to start at the track and doesn’t have the best record from wide draws.
The final heat looks a nice race for the Jamie Ennis trained Vee Man Vane, who has run two best of night wins at his last two starts at Shepparton and Warragul, winning those two races by an impressive combined margin of 14.25 lengths. Better drawn the outside of the field he will need a little luck from box three but a good start should see him take the final heat out if he can run anywhere near his only other start at Ballarat, when he ran a best of night 25.35 from box eight.