It is an exciting time of the year in greyhound racing Australia wide, as each state holds their heats and finals of the National Sprint and Distance events.
What better way to initiate proceedings than with three heats of the Group Two Victorian distance series? With Victorian dogs dominating the staying scene in recent years it promises to be a quality event.
Two of the draw-cards of the series will be Australia's most exciting staying bitch Xylia Allen and Dyna Willow, who returns to racing for the first time since mid April.
Runners vie for the opportunity to compete in next weeks final and not only earn the tag of Victorian National Distance champion, but also for the opportunity to represent their state at the national finals.
The heats and final of the Victorian series will be held over the 725 metre trip at The Meadows with the national finals to be held at Cannington in Western Australia on August 23rd.
Here is a look at the three heats;
Race 3 – Distance Championship Heat One – 7:57pm
1 – Oscar De Largo (Ray Henness) – A consistent stayer who is yet to really prove himself against the top line dogs. Has only won one of his nine attempts at this trip which was in 43.01. He is a slow beginner who will need luck to feature.
2 – Arejay Smokey (Bob Iredale) – Has shown plenty of ability over middle distances and up to 699 metres at Cranbourne but is yet to win beyond 700 metres. Made the trip to South Australia last time out where he finished third over the 731 metre trip at Angle Park after leading early. Has his first look at The Meadows here and will need to be at his best. He looks more of a place hope.
3 – Liara Allen (Andrea Dailly) – a consistent bitch who has raced almost exclusively over the sprint trip and rises sharply in distance here. Has made the finals of the Group Two Laurels and WA Oaks over the shorter trips so she has her share of ability. She has won over 600 metres in the past but is untested at this journey. Could find herself handy early with all the question marks set to be over her strength.
4 – Know Class (James Shaw) – A former New Zealander who has excelled since traversing the Tasman. The son of Willy What and Blue Fern (Shining Kev – Casual Wave) has made two Group One finals and is the dour type who grinds his opponents in to the ground. Ran second to Xylia Allen in the final of the Albion Park Gold Cup recently and looks one of the class runners in the first heat.
5 – VACANT BOX
6 – Zipping Maggie (Peter Daprain) – A promising young bitch who steps up for just her second 700 metre race in this heat. She has been impressive over the 660 metre journey at Bendigo but finished eighth at her first “half-mile” race last week at Sandown. She can begin well on her day and could be the smokey here.
7 – Loud One (Michael Wallworth) – A bold front runner having her first crack over the 700 metre trip. Has been racing well over middle distances and defeated Zipping Maggie two starts back. Could give some cheek at odds.
8 – Mepunga Tiara (Jeff Britton) – Another dual Group One finalist who finished third in the Sandown Cup. Races her best when she is on the pace and has lost a little of her early toe in recent outings. Her record from box eight is a concern with no wins to date from five attempts. She has the class but will start short and may need luck.
Race 4 – Distance Championship Heat Two – 8:20pm
1 – Sir Gazza (Robert Britton) – A consistent middle distance chaser who has been thereabouts in his limited 700 metre races. Has not won since May and can get back in his races. He is likely to need things to go his way to be any hope.
2 – Hession Boots (Rodney Clarke) – Another who had raced well over middle distances before a fading fourth in his 700 metre debut last time out. He will need to be better than that to be competitive here.
3 – Luna Jinx (Len Ketelaar) – A handy staying type who has been consistent since making the move from South Australia. She has a win and a second from two attempts over this track and trip and the experience should serve her well. She meets some quality opposition here and this will be a big test of how good she is.
4 – Zipping Joe (Darren McDonald) – A very promising staying type who has won four of his last five. The son of Bombastic Shiraz and Or Catra (Brett Lee – Gold Serenade) has his share of early speed and could even lead a race like this. He is one of the major players in this race.
5 – VACANT BOX
6 – Beks (Patrick Bouchier) – A youngster who has been thrown in at the deep end here. He only has three career wins to his name from 16 starts but has won here in 43.23 and also defeated smart stayer Infinite Wish last time out at Ballarat. He has a powerful finish but will find this race tough.
7 – Dyna Willow (Steve Collins) – A very classy staying bitch who resumes here after a three month layoff. She is a former Wentworth Park track record holder and a multiple Group winning bitch. She has won two from four out of box seven and two from seven over this trip with a flying best of 42.16. If she is anywhere near her best she should be winning this one.
8 – Galloping Rocky (Robert Conway) – had been mixing her form before an upset win at Sandown last week in 42.54. That was only her second win since March and she looks well tested in this high quality affair.
Race 9 – Distance Championship Heat Three – 10:02pm
1 – Tyra Giselle (Todd Chatwin) – Has been racing ultra consistently on the provincial circuit but faces one of the best in the business here. She has only missed a place once in her past eight outings but is yet to salute beyond 700 metres. She likes to lead and may not find that easy in this heat. A rough hope at best.
2 – Xylia Allen (Jenny Hunt) – One of the best sprinter/stayers the sport has seen in recent times. She recently won the Group Two McKenna Memorial at Sandown and is creeping towards the top of the all-time prize-money earners list. She is yet to win in two attempts at this trip but should be good enough to turn that around here. She looks the winner.
3- Unix Bale (Steve Collins) – Has not won since late May and has been a little one-paced in her races. She is yet to win from box three nor at this journey. She looks outclassed.
4 – Lethal Three (Kelly Bravo) – A Group One finalist who can give a lot of cheek when she manages to find the front. She steps back up from middle distance racing here and will be up vying for the front early on. She is sure to run out the trip and is an each-way proposition at juicy odds.
5 – VACANT BOX
6 – Looby Lu (Joe Borg) – Youngster who graduated to staying from middle distances last time out. She led on that occasion before fading to finish fifth. She should vie for the lead but will need to find a bit more in the run home. She looks to be outclassed.
7 – Zipping Rory (Peter Daprain) – A precocious 28-month-old who has been racing in terrific heart of late. He stopped the clock at a swift 42.17 here two weeks ago which augurs well for a race like this. He could be the knockout chance or at the very least, one for the exotics.
8 – Hala Belle (Peter Akathiotis) – A three-time Group One finalist who handles the outside draws. She likes to race on the speed but may have trouble crossing a couple of the others here. Her fate will be decided on what sort of position she manages to land in early. She will keep coming and is as consistent as they come.