It's that time of year again when the weather isn't the only thing that heats up the Hunter Valleys premier track Betchoice Gardens. The time honoured Group One National Derby for the male greyhounds and the National Futurity for the female greyhounds sees not only New South Wales but Australian starts flocking to the track this Friday afternoon for the three week series which will see the two winners take home the $75,000 first prize.
Early favourite to take out the Futurity final is the Beau Hedley trained Avondale Queen. Despite having only five starts the extremely impressive daughter of Trewly Special and Golorinda, has already notched up four exceptional victories. With ability coursing through her veins, her bloodlines are no strangers to success with the likes of; Domino Vitali (former Bulli track record holder), Shy Flyer (2011 Futurity Finalist) and Micro Benny (Multiple Group One finalist in New Zealand) all successful offspring. After beginning her career early in December at Maitland, she stepped up to the tough 450m and clocked a near record 25.06. Even though she tasted defeat for the first time last week, Beau still maintains her best races and times are still too come.
‘I wasn't surprised at all when she ran that time. We trialled her a week prior to her first start and she nearly broke the record. On her day I think she could'
Despite her dominance of the one turn track, Hedley remains confident her true ability is shown around the two turn circuits.
‘As good as she is around Maitland, two turns is where she belongs. No matter what happens she will be going to Wentworth Park'. Although it's probably too early to tell but if early signs are anything to go by this speedster could become a contender for the Group One Golden Easter Egg series in April.
Hedley doesn't have a major concern other than her inexperience but is happy with the good box three draw in her heat this week; her raw talent should see her book a semi-final berth next week.
In Futurity heat number two, Zipping Catra who needs no introduction from the highly successful Or Catra litter, has a personal best of 29.50 and despite the awkward box six will only need some luck to breeze through to the semi-finals.
Leelicious, An impressive youngster out of successful producer Wheely Wapped makes the trip up from Victoria to be trained my Hunter Valley Master Eric Castle. Gaining an inside box three draw for the first time, a 29.41 victory at Sandown will have punters watching intently.
Midnight Movie was a bitch who had enormous ability as a racer, and now her offspring are making just a big of impact. From the famous ‘Pringle' line, Midnight Dreamer has drawn perfectly in box one and is stepping up to the 515m distance for the first time. Her litter sister, Midnight Capers tackles the fourth and final heat from box four.
With big prize money attracts big talent and the National Derby heats are no exception with the countries best young male dogs to do battle on Friday afternoon.
Laurie Healion Maiden series winner Flavours returns in heat one after recording two consecutive impressive wins at Richmond (30.43) and Bulli (26.21). Starting from the ideal box two any repeat of his 29.48 personal best performances will make him a serious series contender. Arguably the hottest dog racing at present is the Jason Mackay trained and Reg Kay owned McElle. Despite another horror box five draw, he continues to break hearts with sizzling early sections. Clocking up his 12th win from 18 starts at Wentworth Park last week, there is no doubt he is capable of lowering his 29.83 personal best.
Heat two provides an interesting clash between three major contenders all capable of taking out the illustrious final. From box six the incredibly talent Jason Mackay trained Usah Shiraz who set a personal best of 29.72 last month at Wentworth Park only needs some luck early to clock up an impressive time. Sure As is no stranger to success recording a personal best of 29.63 in November over the 515m distance and no stone will be left unturned by master trainer Syd Swain. Local hope Lochinvar Manolo should start favourite after an impressive record from the outside boxes and a personal best of 29.52.
Tiz Now has been extremely impressive as of late and in heat four has drawn perfectly in box eight. With excellent early speed to cross the field he should give punters a great sight out in front and a strong prospect for another Jason Mackay runner to make it through to week two of the series. Despite a tricky box six draw, Free Will has stepped up to another level in recent times with high quality and consistency with a last start win at Gosford in a speedy 29.76. A surprise packet will be Kenny Powers who has come up with the coveted one box for top Victorian trainer Seona Hood has impressive Victorian statistics and would not surprise anyone to steal a win.
The greyhound with the fastest personal best time, Little Ed steps out in Derby heat number four. An excitement machine, who excels at this track, a box five draw shouldn't worry him, with his superior early speed and ability to work his way to the front of the field. Raw Energy has an excellent record at this track and as consistent a greyhound as they come. With a personal best of 29.57 and an ideal box two draw, he can steal this heat and progress to the semi-finals. Jason Mackay returns again with another charge, Ascari from box three. Despite being a risky beginner can find the line very strongly and can add another runner to Jason's prospective semi-finalists.
The final heat and last chance to qualify will provide interesting viewing for punters with Group One distance hero Zipping Malfoy dropping back to the 515m distance. A handy beginner he should get his chance from box three to stamp his authority in the latter stages. Complicit has blossomed in recent times with a successful victory at this track last week in 29.57 in similar company. Although ox six could provide an obstacle, his excellent early speed should see him clear the field at the winning post. Young Snozz has drawn ideally in box eight for Jason Mackay and has been unlucky in recent runs. A largely talented chaser should get his chance from the outside draw despite his poor box manners.
A mouth-watering afternoon of racing kicks off at Betchoice Gardens at 3.48pm, with semi-finals to be conducted next Friday 27th January and the all-important final on 3rd February.