Graeme Bate will launch a two-pronged attack on a fourth Group 1 Schweppes Melbourne Cup after Velocette and Amity Bale each won their respective heats at Sandown Park tonight.
The enigmatic Velocette ($4.90) jumped brilliantly from box three in the night's opening heat, leading all the way to hold out Queen Lauryn ($2F) to win brilliantly in 29.70.
Amity Bale ($24.60), while less brilliant, was no less impressive. Jumping from box 6, Amity Bale was slowly away and was checked by Hybrid Theory ($6.60) crossing from box 7. Shuffled back to second last, Amity Bale swept around the field to settle mid-field down the back before railing strongly on the home turn to defeat Hybrid Theory by 1.25 lengths in 30.03.
The final of Australia's richest ever race became a Bate family affair after daughter-in-law Kylie Hunt trained Kendale Bale to victory in the night's second heat.
Kendale Bale ($7.90) began well from box 4 but was beaten for early pace by recent Group 1 Topgun winner El Galo ($1.60F). Kendale Bale was shuffled back to fourth down the back as Jason Thompson's five-time Group race winner opened a sizeable gap on the field. However Kendale Bale rallied, reeling in the tiring leader to win by two lengths in 30.00.
Thompson's disappointment was short lived after Hanify's Impact won her heat in 29.86.
After winning the Group 2 Shepparton Cup at her last start, Hanify's Impact ($4.50) began brilliantly from box 2 in her Sandown Park debut, leading all the way to defeat the fast finishing Sweet About Me ($3.70F)
Thompson found himself with a second runner soon after when Nitro Burst prevailed in a thrilling dual with Sonador.
A veteran of 110 races, Sonador ($15.20) began well to lead through the first turn. Nitro Burst ($4.60) was only fairly away from box 5 and then found trouble at the first turn and was again checked down the back straight.
However Nitro Burst would not be denied, charging into second place down the back straight before railing under Sonador to take the lead on straightening for home. Sondaor refused to buckle, and in a thrilling run to the line Nitro Burst prevailed by half a length in 29.99.
Queensland trainer Reg Kay has the chance to claim his fifth Group 1 title of the year after Made To Size won his heat in an impressive 29.70.
Made To Size ($3.40F), in just his second run from a three-month injury lay off, showed no ill-effect from hitting his head on the boxes in last week's Shootout, beginning well from box 4 to take up a position behind early leader Proven Polly ($6.20).
Proven Polly held the lead down the back but Made To Size was far too good, powering to the line to win by 3.75 lengths.
Teaman Titch ($32) won his first race for three months in taking out his heat in 29.93. Teaman Titch burst onto the scene when winning the Group 3 DDC Launching Pad at Sandown Park in April, however trainer David Burnett's spring plans were thrown into chaos after his kennel star broke a bone in August.
Darren McDonald made another feature race final when his former West Australian sprinter Surgeon won his heat in 30.09. Surgeon ($2.90F), Parracryl ($9.70), Taipan Bale ($3.90) and Yikes ($11.20) were all involved in a thrilling run to the line, with less than two lengths separating the quartet.
Each of the heat winners progresses to the final of Australia's richest ever greyhound race, the $250,000 Group 1 Schweppes Melbourne Cup to be run on Thursday 27 November 2008.
The boxdraw for the final will be conducted at the Melbourne Cup Ball on Saturday 22 November 2008, and will be available on the Club's website, www.sandowngreyhounds.com.au from 10.30pm.
Full replays of each heat are availableto watch rigth here on Australian Racing Greyhound.com :
2008 Melbourne Cup Heats Replays
- Melbourne Cup Heat 1
- Melbourne Cup Heat 2
- Melbourne Cup Heat 3
- Melbourne Cup Heat 4
- Melbourne Cup Heat 5
- Melbourne Cup Heat 6
- Melbourne Cup Heat 7
- Melbourne Cup Heat 8
Earlier in the night, Fallen Zorro, Risk It and Oodles Rocks won their heats of the $36,000 Group 2 Bold Trease Carnival Cup for the stayers. The final of the Bold Trease Carnival Cup will be run in the lead up to the Melbourne Cup final.
Gates open at 6.00pm with the first race at 7.09pm.