THE STORY SO FAR: The 709m boxes at the Elwick track were installed for this occasion, and so far have provided some entertaining racing in the limited events staged. It has also proven to be a tough journey for stayers, and the long straight has been the stage of some excellent tussles. This will be the first Group 1 staying event ever held in the city.
Most states would be happy with their entrants as arguably the leading stayers from four regions have got to this stage. Queensland will enter the race as defending champions after Dashing Corsair’s memorable swansong at Albion Park last year.
The last time the race was held it Tasmania, it was Bothing from South Australia who conquered the Launceston layout, however it will be a bitch from Perth who holds all the aces leading into the race this time around.
1) Tarlie’s Angel (QLD) – Bruce Linnan (23strts 7-3-2 $21,046). Was a surprise winner of the Queensland heats and bound to start big odds again. Has the ideal draw, but the 24kg bitch is up against some big names here, and may be pushed around a little too easily. Did trial during the week, but the time wasn’t overly flash.
2) Abdon Bale (SA) – Lisa Rasmussen (26strts 9-8-3 $17,650). Two months ago, most of us had one of the ‘Kalden’ dogs pencilled in for this spot. However, this red Bit Chili dog took its opportunity and was hard to fault during the Angle Park series. Is it likely to possess the class to give some of these others a run for their money? Probably not. Other than the Rasmussen’s, will there be too many people hoping for another Wheeler Group 1 victory? Probably not.
3) Jethro (Tas) – Butch Deverell (41strts 20-7-5 $40,330). Big strong chaser who has only recently turned to staying, with success it must be said. Not the best beginner and can find trouble when back in a pack, however an inside draw is an advantage. Had a classic dual with littermate Bell Haven in the state final and enters this race as a true live chance.
4) Karanji (Vic) – Angela Langton (43strts 11-9-5 $67,335). Not quite sure what to make of Karanji, after his staying form previously revolved around Grade 5 heats and easier races interstate. Came out and beat a good field on merit to qualify at The Meadows and a repeat of that run would see it right in the mix. Looks to be racing in peak form and maybe one to follow at odds.
5) He Knows Uno (NSW) – Michael Patterson (68strts 32-17-9 $436,364). Commonly regarded as half a Queenslander, this mighty black dog deserves his place after a great win at Bulli after meeting interference. Has won more prizemoney than anything else in the field, possesses a huge motor and may be the only dog strong enough to run down the favourite. Would probably have preferred a rails draw with the tricky starting position but is still expected to run a place nonetheless.
6) Miata (WA) – Paul Stuart (32strts 27-1-2 $331,693). Will be overwhelming favourite and deservedly so. Rarely have we seen a dog so readily eclipse track records over every distance, and the Hobart’s 599m record was the most recent to fall when trialling here in preparation. Began well in the state series at Cannington and basically went solo from there on end. If he pings out like that again, the race will be over before they leave the front straight.
7) Bell Haven (Tas) – Ted Medhurst (32strts 17-6-2 $30,955). Tasmania has never won the National Distance and this is probably their best chance since Fallen Zorro in 2008. Has been the states most consistent stayer for a while and can lead clearly on her night, something it needs to do to stand any chance. Does have the 709m track record to her name, but the nation’s big guns are yet to tackle the trip since it was introduced.
8) Irma Bale (Vic) – Graeme Bate (46strts 23-8-4 $239,281). The wildcard entry deserves to be in the race, and is arguably the most reliable front-running stayer going around. Rolled Miata and Won the Sandown Cup in May, but more out of luck than class that night, after being headed by Vintage Blend before it went amiss. Still, she makes her own luck out in front, but one would think she will get gunned down by Miata or He Knows Uno when the post comes into view.
9) Beaudine (Tas) – Butch Deverell (39strts 11-13-5 $25,190). Littermate to both Tassie reps, however seems to be a class below them. Did beat Bell Haven over the trip here some time ago, but has been soundly held since. Not likely to be within cooee of them early if she does start.
10) Baretta Bee (Tas) – Ted Medhurst (39strts 12-7-5 $20,930). Handy dog but never won at the distance, and has been beaten a combined 26 lengths in her last two tries by other runners in this race. Would probably be the roughest dog to ever win, if the miracle happened.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS: Miata, Miata, Miata. Despite her incredible ability and excellent numbers, the pressure is on the fawn flyer to take a Group 1 staying event off home soil. Since not being able to get the job done in both the Sandown Cup and Albion Park Gold Cup, there is suddenly a little bit of heat on the star bitch; just in order for her to become one of the true greats of our sport.
It may not be a foregone conclusion either, as many believe He Knows Uno will be suited by the Hobart layout and it does seem hard to argue with them. Irma Bale is true quality and looks the likely lamplighter. Let’s not write off the locals either as both are in peak form and some home track advantage must be given.
But the race revolves around the best from the West. If she runs up to her best they simply won’t catch her. If not, there is a bunch of them capable enough to steal the title away.
THE PREDICTION: Miata, He Knows Uno, Irma Bale, Bell Haven.