The Group Two Ballarat Cup series kicks off tomorrow night with eight fantastic heats ensuring a terrific night of racing at the Morshead Park facility. First run in 1960, last year’s race saw an epic battle between one turn champs Paw Licking and Ronan Izmir down the straight with the latter ultimately victorious.
Ahead of tomorrow night’s action, lets have a quick look at the key players in each qualifier. To have a bet on any of the runners in the heats, open an account with Sportingbet for up to $700 in bonus bets.
Heat One – 8:17pm (VIC time)
King Surfa (2) is a litter brother to boom youngster Over Limit and this fellow seems to have plenty of ability himself. Trained by Darren McDonald, he has recorded victories in nine of his 17 career starts including a last start 30.10 triumph at The Meadows. He generally has great early zip and from box two he should be up there early.
Magic Diva (1) is drawn to perfection and will aiming to prevent King Surfa from finding the rails in the early stages. Magic Diva was the winner of this year’s Warrnambool Classic, she relishes box one with five wins and three minors from nine starts and she has enough pace to hold the lead.
Ultima Bale (6) is unbeaten from two starts over the track and distance but can’t afford to do anything wrong from the draw, while Punk Panther (7) boasts a quick 25.12 personal best.
Heat Two – 8:41pm (VIC time)
What a race this will be! Melbourne Cup hero Dyna Villa (3) will jump from box three off the back of his sensational success last Friday at Sandown. He has been stepping much better in his last few starts and appears to be maturing into a serious race dog. The regally bred youngster has had one start here for a third but expect to see a big improvement.
The obvious danger is drawn directly on his outside and that is Luca Neveelk (4). The blue speedster shows blistering early dash and is suited perfectly by the drop in distance on his last start appearance in The Melbourne Cup. He has never seen the track, but that shouldn’t worry him; he went into the heats of both the Melbourne and Geelong Cups without a trial and made both finals, taking out the latter.
Maximum Lil (1) is a last start 30.03 winner at The Meadows from the same draw so she can’t be ruled out, while Shameless Bandit (2) shows tremendous early dash but this is a definite rise in both class and distance.
Heat Three – 8:58pm (VIC time)
Some highly promising youngsters will take part in the third heat with Secret Spell (1) likely to start as favourite. A winner of seven from nine, the daughter of Batrim Bale and Wicked Witch clocked a flying 29.26 at Sandown two starts ago before finishing at the tail of the field in a heat of the Melbourne Cup.She has good early speed and looks the real deal.
Tiggerlong Await (7) faces a big step up in class but has won six from nine around the Victorian provincial circuits and has won one from one over the track and distance.
Ollie Bale (6) mixes his form but could easily feature if he brings his best on the night. The middle alley won’t help, but he is a Group One winner and should never be discounted.
Darcy’s Entity (3) has only missed a place in one of his 12 career starts thus far and he also shows pace once he hits the ground.
Sisco Rage (4) is a classy chaser but this is a big drop in distance from his recent starts.
Heat Four – 9:18pm (VIC time)
The fourth heat will see the return of Walk Hard (4) which has not been seen since September. He possesses freakish ability, having broken the track record at Warragul in January in a heat of the Cup which he won a week later. Box four won’t be much help as he takes a few strides to find top gear but being fresh might help him begin a little bit better. He doesn’t have much speed drawn around him, so that should help too.
Take Charge (1) should be able to go close to leading from the ideal draw while Allen Deed (5) is one of the fastest dogs in the country but will need everything to go his way from box five.
Heat Five – 9:41pm (VIC time)
Hekate Belle (2) is hit and miss at the beginning but if she gets the start right she should blow them away. The inside draw should help, despite the fact that her record from the two is only ordinary. She seems to do her best racing from odd numbers, whether this is a coincidence or the fact that she may need the extra time in the boxes to settle, I’m not sure, but she is definitely the one to beat. Two starts ago she scored a fast 29.29 win at Sandown over Chica Destacada before finishing third behind Star Recall in a Melbourne Cup heat. That is terrific form coming into this race and makes her hard to go past.
Mepunga Armagh (5) has done plenty of travelling lately and has performed solidly at the elite level. His form doesn’t look fantastic but when you consider the calibre of dogs he has been racing he comes right into calculations for this race.
Caustic Bale (4) has only had nine starts but has two BOD performances to his name at Geelong. He isn’t quick early, but with a clear passage he will make his presence felt.
Agent Jack (8) has a 29.27 win at Sandown to his name but he is another that doesn’t always begin well, while Hawk Alone (1) hasn’t won since June but is always thereabouts.
Heat Six – 9:58pm (VIC time)
The speed should come from the inside pair Dyna Nico (1) and Bills Back (2) which are both blessed with blistering early toe.
Bills Back has won his last three starts, all in best of day times, at Horsham, Warrnambool and Geelong and he has won 12 from 19 overall. He has run 25.64 in the past at the track and I think he can improve on that with a favourable draw.
Dyna Nico led but was run down at her last start at Sandown by Awesome Project. The step down to 450 metres should suit and if she can find the front she will go close to winning.
Marcus Joe (7) and Crackerjak Dak (8) have the class edge but neither can afford to give the inside pair too much of a start. Deadly Boy (4) and Quarrel Bale (3) both have claims and have recorded slick times throughout their careers but both are tardy early.
Heat Seven – 10:20pm (VIC time)
National Time (6) is a litter brother to Magic Diva which lines up in heat one and, like her, he is capable of some sizzling early sectionals. He has had a horror run with boxes throughout his 57 start career but has still managed 18 wins and 16 minor placings including six victories and one second wearing green. If he can reproduce his 25.16 performance here from three runs back he is clearly the one to beat.
Musquin Bale (1) mixes his distances but he can still sprint well, winning in 29.29 at Sandown last month. The inside draw should help.
Fleetwood Storm (7) is facing his biggest test to date but he looks to have a fair bit of ability. He can show pace and he should get a nice run into the race on the outside of National Time.
Nockabout Aussie (4) bounced back to his best with a 29.40 win at Sandown last Friday but he still didn’t step well on that occasion and, in a shorter race like this with plenty of early speed, I am prepared to risk him.
Heat Eight – 10:37pm (VIC time)
Blurred Lines (2) has been mixing it well against the top class and is better than his recent starts suggest. His last two runs have resulted in a seventh and eighth at Sandown but those performances were in a Prelude and heat of the Melbourne Cup respectively. In October he went straight to the front in a heat of the Adelaide Cup and returned the following week to run a terrific second behind Allen Deed in the final. He mixes his box manners but should get a good run from the two.
Innocent Til (6) is a superb greyhound and he will give this field a shake if he is at his best, but he hasn’t been seen since August which raises some concerns. Nonetheless, he is in astute hands with Jason Thompson who wouldn’t have him in unless he thought he was capable of winning. The son of Premier Fantasy and Proven Polly has won three from five over the trip and has a fast 25.11 to his name. Despite the awkward draw he must be respected.
El Grand Seal (1) is drawn to lead and should do so for most of the trip. She could pinch the race if she gets close to her 25.24 personal best.
Dyna Yemin (8) is unproven from out wide but he has been racing against some of the state’s best dogs in recent starts and can’t be left out.
The winner of each heat will progress through to next Wednesday’s $60,000 to the winner final.