Anyone who considers themselves a greyhound enthusiast would be aware that Group 1 MTD Australian Cup and Macro Meats Superstayers heats were staged last Saturday at The Meadows. With eleven star-studded heats taking place, the cream of Australian racing was on show.
The finals of both series will be run next Saturday night and is sure to be an early highlight of the 2011 calendar. However, with future stars clashing with the big names we already know – in both sprinting and staying – it's a great chance to see just who deserves their place in the top grade and which dogs didn't take the opportunity and need a little reprimand.
Using Saturday night as a checkpoint, let's see who are the current contenders for Greyhound racing's version of the good, the bad and the ugly.
- White Knuckles – Showed one of the most electrifying home straight bursts in recent times. Put writing on the wall the week before and looks to be crying out for 600m. So strong was his finish on Saturday that the great Ron Hawkswell made it sound like it displaced him from the chair.
- St Pierre – Excellent to see Tasmanian form stack up again on the mainland. Christopher Nutt seems to find winners across the country and St Pierre has made it three Group finals in a row. Damek may struggle on the big stage but the Apple Isle are now showing their depth.
- Beware – The Superstayers final will be his 134th start. Graeme Bate has stated that as a pup he predicted Beware would win $30,000 or so for his connections. The tally is now up to $135,000 and may take another jump with a bit of luck next weekend.
- Perfect Fancy – Never a missed a place in its life and looks more at home in Group company than any other. Can do it from horrible draws, in any state and on one or two bends. An owner's dream dog.
- High Earner – Looks a better dog now than before he retired. Ran fourth in a moderately graded race at Albion Park a few months back and then went crazy winning two Group 1's consecutively. Deserves to be the highest ever stakes earner – remember when he won the W.A and Queensland derbies? It seems like years ago – oh wait – it was years ago…
- Kalden Athena – So much ability but hasn't fired a shot since almost winning the Laurels. She hasn't been drawing well but there were harder heats on Saturday and she never looked a chance.
- Malta – People must really be getting sick of this dog's hit-and-miss box manners. He's as strong and talented as all the top line chasers but just can't seem to win something of note.
- Lady Arko – She makes the ‘bad' list on the presumption that she wasn't injured Saturday night. If she pulled up ok though, that run was awful considering how she scorched home in the Zoom Top. It seems pretty obvious that a few people lost big when she settled twenty lengths off the pace and ran on only to tack onto the field. She's much better than that.
- Dark Duo – Is this the same dog that almost won the Adelaide Cup? He is simply not competitive in Melbourne based on his last two efforts. It seems a strange thing to say seeing as he won multiple races in Victoria before thrashing dogs at Angle Park through the summer.
- Octane Show – Multiple group winner that has lost the form which saw him win the Hobart Thousand and almost win the Brisbane Cup merely a few months ago. Keeps finding trouble from inside draws since he and Kilty Lad decided to take each other out two runs in a row. Drew the red on Saturday and would be hard pressed to find an excuse for running third. Will no doubt bounce back but continues to be costly of late.
- Radley Bale – Been in crazy good form in the last month winning FFA's and breaking track records. Pity he waited until the Australian Cup to begin fairly, get shuffled and run fifth.
- Symmetry – If this fellow could ping the lids he be unbeatable. He was a certainty beaten in the Perth Cup heat and then easily won the consolation before taking out the Rookie Rebel. Clearly one of the most talented in the country but he loses too many races by being back in the field.
- Sand Burner – Possibly a staying star of the future, if he'd learn not to miss the start by seven lengths. Every time he looks like a good thing beaten but he truly makes Nellie Noodles look like a shortcourser.
- Stack ‘Em Flat – South Australians have waited weeks to see this fellow race over 700m, and it all looked to be going according to plan until he became clearly injured at the end of Saturday's Superstayers heat. Let's hope he can bounce back and return to be thrilling dog we know and love.
- El Grand Senor – What a tragic omission from the series. Having High Earner and El Grand Senor in the Australian Cup final matching strides on the first turn would've been worth the price of admission. It remains a dream for now.