There were two heats of the Group 2 NSW GBOTA Wentworth Park Gold Cup Heats over the 720 at Wentworth Park on Saturday February 7 and short priced favourite Lilley Criminal was an ealry casualty of the series.
Unfortunately for connections Lilley Criminal could not overcome a check at the start and the widest box, finishing fifth in the second heat and second reserve for the final.
Lilley Criminal was vetted after the race. Trainer Anthony Azzopardi reported that his talented performer had taken no serious harm from the race, commenting that this is just a part of racing, which we all need to accept and move on.
The first heat saw only 6 contest with a vacant box and Just Friends scratched.
Octane Al (15/4 second elect) put a smile on the face of trainer Carolyn Reinke when it came from box 7 and the rear to defeat the leader Other Quoted (box 2) which started 11/8 favourite for trainer John Mooney fresh from contesting recent features at Angle Park and Sandown.
35/1 chance Rulla Ant box 4 (tr John Dart) ran third with Ashes Platinum box 1 fourth for trainer Paul Galea. Rob Giltinan sent the in-form Queenslander Smart Choice down to Bev and Dennis Mahoney for the heats with the visitor ending up fifth at 12/1 and first reserve for the final.
They all finished in a bunch with margins of a neck, ½ length, head, half head and a neck. The time was 42.96. Carolyn said she looked forward to further improvement in her dog for the final as the run was it first over the 720 since January 10.
The second heat was quicker in 42.60. Tifi made it three on end over the 720 for trainer and part owner Chris O’Brien leading shortly after the jump from box 5 – the good odds of 12/1 were there due to the presence of Lilley Criminal at 2/5 in the betting.
Gold Slammer (19/1), now trained by James McFarlane after John Fleming sadly was forced to hang up his leads due to illness, ran a bold second from box 1. It would a great tribute and thrill for John and his family if Gold Slammer, which they reared, developed and took to where it is today before handing over the training to McFarlane, could win the final which carries a $25,000 first prize.
30/1 outsider Genista Reign pleased Northern Rivers trainer Neil Falls no end with his third at its first run at the distance. “We threw him in at the deep end and we are really happy with his performance” Falls commented.
Margins were a neck by 2 ¼ with Calhoun Park five lengths further back for trainer Warren Harper who will be looking to improve on the dog’s seconds to Lilley Criminal in the heats and final of the Group 1 Association Cup in January.