EXCITING newcomer Marbo's Magic (pictured) will go into next week's Group 2 Maitland Cup final as the fastest qualifier following on from his sensational 24.80 exhibition on Thursday evening.
Despite only beginning fairly from box five, the Paul Braddon-trained chaser quickly slipped into another gear, barging his way through the pack to find the front in the run around the turn.
Following him across from the outside were smart chasers Sleek Master (box seven) and George Sannette (box eight), but the leader was off and gone swinging for home, clearing out to score by one and three quarter lengths in a hot 24.80.
The victory gave Marbo's Magic 10 wins from 11 starts, with the son of El Grand Señor and Willow Blaze set to start from an identical draw in next Friday's $36,000 to the winner showpiece.
Sleek Master managed to sneak into the field as the fastest second and will get every chance to go one better in the final.
It wouldn't be a group race without a touch of Victorian flare, with the Garden State providing two winners – Big Ticket and Aston Bolero.
Trained by Steve Clarke, Big Ticket came into the series as a winner of 22 of his 41 starts, with the son of Fabregas and Bella Portrait also a place getter of finalist in a number of feature finals including the 2014 Group 1 Hobart Thousand, the 2015 Group 2 Horsham Cup, the 2016 Group 2 Warragul Cup and the 2016 Group 2 Shepparton Cup.
Stepping well from box four, the 38.2kg powerhouse burned straight to the early lead and was never headed when scoring by five and one quarter lengths in a scintillating 24.82.
One Hill ran on strongly to finish second from box eight, with the talented Spiders Brother filling the trifecta back in third.
The other Mexican to salute was Aston Bolero, from the powerful Jason Thompson kennel. The black and white speedster was sent to the boxes as the $2.60 top elect from the stripes and didn't disappoint his supporters, exploding from the traps to go straight to the front of the pack.
He's Some Love put in a tenacious performance, sticking with the flying Victorian to finish two lengths off the winner which clocked a terrific 24.84. Now a winner of 20 races, the 32.0kg speedster brings sensational form into the race having gone up against top class performers Dyna Double One, Unlawful Entry and Dawkins Bale in his most recent starts.
Smart youngster Ritza Lenny will move into the decider as one of the leading contenders following on from a smart 24.90 performance off box one. The blue dog was only fairly into stride but was able to use the inside draw well, slipping into second spot behind the leader Create Havoc around the bend.
Straightening for home, the leader dropped back through the field, inconveniencing Ritza Lenny with Black Frenzy assuming the lead, however the son of Barcia Bale and Lagoon Lowanna recovered well, hitting top gear once more to clinch the lead and score by half a length on the line.
The narrowest of margins came up in the second heat, with Black Driftwood overcoming trouble to score by a neck. After an ordinary beginning, the Mark Azzopardi-prepared greyhound was held up around the bend but got clear room heading into the home straight and unleashed a powerful finishing burst to go home the better in 25.05.
Jason Magri has had a super week, winning the Group 3 Magic Maiden over the weekend, and now he has a Maitland Cup finalist after Rosco The Weapon won the second last heat on Thursday night.
The black son of Swift Fancy and Princess Mea came into the series with just three wins from seven starts, but used box one to perfection, beginning swiftly to take up to early lead.
The remaining qualifier was taken out by crowd favourite Bob's Uncle for veteran trainer Jimmy Mcglinn. As per usual, the pup was poorly away, but he got plenty of clear galloping room in the run to the first turn to race past the leader and assume the lead.
In the home straight nothing was going to catch Bob's Uncle, with the excitement machine drawing clear to score by three and a half lengths in 25.03.
The final will be held next Friday night, with the connections of the winner set to pocket a hefty $36,000 winner's cheque.
Group 2 Maitland Cup – box draw
1 – Bob's Uncle – Jimmy Mcglinn
2 – Ritza Lenny – Mark Gatt
3 – Big Ticket – Steve Clarke
4 – Black Driftwood – Mark Azzopardi
5 – Marbo's Magic – Paul Braddon
6 – Aston Bolero – Jason Thompson
7 – Sleek Master – David Murray
8 – Rosco The Weapon – Jason Magri
1st Reserve – Tilly's Boy – Dean Swain
2nd Reserve – He's Some Love – Harry Markou