The heats of the Group One Golden Easter Egg kick-off on Saturday night. The three-week series will see 10 heats conducted on Saturday night followed by four semi-finals next week.
Notable absentees from the heats include Black Magic Opal and Paw Licking, who are setting their sights on the Bendigo Cup.
Alongside the Australian Cup, the Golden Easter Egg is the richest race on the Group racing calendar, with a grand sum of $250,000 awarded to the winner.
Last year’s winner was Grigorieva Bale and other previous winners include Mancunian Girl, Tenthill Doll, Rapid Journey, Brett Lee, Bogie Leigh, Paua To Burn and Cosmic Rumble.
Here’s a look the main chances in each of the 10 heats:
Heat One – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 1 at 7:28pm)
Grand chaser Dyna Nalin (1) headlines the first heat. The Paul Stuart trained dog loves box one and trialled 29.65 last week at Wentworth Park. He lacks the early speed of some of the other runners in the race but you can never under-estimate class and if he gets even just a tiny bit of luck, he’s well and truly in this.
Chica Destacada (4) is only young but has shown plenty of ability. She has three wins from four starts at the track and distance with a best of 29.73. She has shown good box manners at the track, which she will need to use to overcome box four.
Victorian chaser Allen Eryk (8) appears to be well drawn out in box eight, as he has had two wins and a placing from three goes wearing the pink rug. The Jarvis Bale-Greta Bale (Where’s Pedro-Gold Rush Bale) dog has won four of his last five around The Meadows and Sandown over the longer trip. This will be his first start at Wentworth Park.
Fast Archer (7) has a load of early pace and won a free-for-all last week at the track from box seven. He recorded 29.75 leading all the way. He’s been hit-and-miss at box rise in recent times and needs to repeat last week’s efforts to take this out.
Rough each-way chances are Pride Of Mykonos (2) and Make A Fifty (3). Both won Preludes (at double figure odds). If there’s any trouble in the race, they may be the ones that benefit.
Heat Two – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 2 at 7:50pm)
Iona Tokyo (3) has drawn well near to the fence. His box manners have been brilliant and he is a last start winner (back on 1 March) in 29.71. He has gone 5.34 to the first mark previously, the best of any dog drawn in this race. Iona Tokyo is trained by Francois Sidrak and is by Swift Fancy-Iona Habit (Fenceline-Dancing Habit). She is a litter sister to Paws Of Thunder winner Iona Seven.
Another chaser that has been showing good box manners since a return from a spell is Kulu Special (2). The Anthony Azzopardi trained bitch is just 24kg and has won two from two at the track. Last week she recorded her best time of 29.72.
Queenslander Yogi Blue (5) has had the advantage of a few looks at Wentworth Park and was a Prelude winner in 30.03. The box draw hasn’t been kind to him as he has only had the one career win from box five.
Where’s The Surf (7) won here last week for Darren McDonald, drawing away to win by over six lengths in 29.71. He had the suitable rails draw on that occasion and now needs to contend with the wider draw.
Varcoe (8) failed in the Maitland Cup heats after beginning terribly. He has trialled here in 29.92 in preparation. If he doesn’t begin he will find it hard to crack a top spot in this heat.
Prue Bale (4) is also worthy of some consideration. She is a last start winner at The Meadows and showed handy box manners to lead. She has had a start at Wentworth Park but failed to run a place.
Heat Three – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 3 at 8:07pm)
National Futurity winner Rue De Kahn (1) will get every chance to lead from the nice draw. She is drawn next to Gradence (2) who is a slow beginner. The Where’s Pedro-Shelbourne Dream (Boherduff Light-Queen Survivor) bitch has three wins at the track and a best of 29.79. She looks to be one of the main chances.
Apollo Reign (4) has not missed a place since returning from a five month spell. His win at Richmond in March was a flying 30.43. He ran third here to Hellyeah Bolt last week and is definitely a place chance.
Edge (7) has not long returned from a two month spell and should be nice and fresh. He won at The Gardens last week in 29.52 and loves Wentworth Park, where he has won seven races. His best is 29.68 and if he shows the early speed we know he has, he should go well.
Crash Model (8) won a Prelude in 29.87 from box one. She has five wins at the track but goes better from the inside.
Heat Four – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 4 at 8:28pm)
Local chaser Mexico City (1) is well drawn and Mark Gatt will be hoping his chaser can get close to his best of 29.58. The Where’s Pedro-Physical (Surf Lorian-By Request) dog has had two runs back since a four month spell. He ran third in a Maitland Cup heat last start.
Crawf’s Bread (6) is a handy Victorian chaser visiting Wentworth Park for the first time in his career. He is a consistently good beginner and will need to begin here at Wentworth Park from the poor draw. He has been racing dogs like Innocent Til and Dark Warrior, so he can handle the class of dogs in this heat.
Warrior King (5) is a talented Victorian youngster who ran second at Wentworth Park in a Prelude. He has been showing some early speed in recent racing and is very strong. He was a placegetter behind Crump in the Horsham Cup and will need luck from the squeeze draw.
Winsome Charlee (8) ran a place in last years Egg final and makes her first race-track appearance since June 2013. She clocked 30.35 here in a trial last week and will need to improve off that to get anywhere near her best of 29.66.
Tricky Jade (4) has not won since December last year but she clearly has a lot of talent. The Martin Hallinan bred and trained bitch has a best of 29.56 at Wentworth Park. Her problem is that she hasn’t been showing any early pace in her three most recent starts.
Heat Five – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 5 at 8:50pm)
Star chaser Keybow (2) is the class act in the fifth heat. The Group One Perth Cup winner and Australian Cup placegetter trialled 29.62 here in preparation and he should prove too good for this field.
Recent Group Three Nowra Summer Puppy Classic winner Stilton Blue (5) has drawn box five and has been flying around Nowra, with a near track record breaking run just over a fortnight ago. He has a best of 30.23 at Wentworth Park, which you think he would need to improve on to be a chance.
Healesville track record holder Frosty Jay Jay (6) is a fast animal but he lacks the early toe. He ran fifth here to Dark Warrior last week, finding trouble. The one thing in his favour is that he appears partial to wearing the green rug, winning two from three out of the box.
Veyron Bale’s (4) recent form has been ordinary but a change in scenery may prove good for him. Last time he came to Wentworth Park (January this year) he scorched around the Glebe circuit in 29.50.
Tomac Bale (8) loves box eight and is coming here with a short spell under his belt. Interestingly, he has recently changed hands and left Wheeler’s ownership and is now trained by Luke Azzopardi. He failed at Wentworth Park in January and will need to improve on his recent form to be any sort of chance.
Heat Six – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 6 at 9:07pm)
Ken Burnett’s Double Trigger (4) will be advantaged by his experience and form at the track. His most recent win was on the 15th of March and it came at the track in 29.68. He has six wins in total at Wentworth Park and has brilliant early speed.
Jason Thompson and Darren McDonald trained chasers can never be overlooked and both have chasers engaged in this heat. Thompson has Boris Fields (5), a dog that has won two races at Wentworth Park with 29.54 his best time. He needs some room to move, which may be tricky from box five. McDonald has the speedy There’s A Earn (6), who ran second last week at Wentworth Park to Yogi Blue and should be improved by the look at the track.
Strong finishers Ritza Hattie (2) and Ollie Bale (3) are also in with a chance but their fortunes will lay with the all important start, as both will need some luck in the early stages. Tee Brady (1) is also worth some consideration from the rails alley.
Heat Seven – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 7 at 9:30pm)
Innocent Til (8) has again drawn a wide box but he has a good record from box eight, with seven wins. He has won four of his last five starts and was recent runner-up in the Horsham Cup. He has had the one start at Wentworth Park and didn’t run a place. However, he cannot be ruled out based on that. He has loads of talent and a win wouldn’t surprise.
Warragul Cup winner Walk Hard (5) makes his first visit to Wentworth Park under race conditions. He trialled last week in a fast 29.68, but he needs some room early in order to muster pace and that might be difficult from the draw.
Evil Punk (4) fell at his last start here at Wentworth Park and it remains to be seen how he will react this week after that. He is a talented local chaser trained by James Coyle with a best of 29.70.
Boyce Road (2) is a very handy youngster with three wins at Wentworth Park to his credit. He is already a Group race finalist and has recorded 29.69 at the track. He’s tardy at box rise and that might cost him at this level.
Fort Allen (6) has been racing consistently in Victoria and makes his first appearance at Wentworth Park. The Andrea Dailly trained chaser is an excellent beginner and that should put him in this race.
Heat Eight – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 8 at 9:50pm)
We have to wait until the eighth heat to see Australian Cup champion Buckle Up Wes (3) go around. He has had a short spell since his big win and had a tune-up at Hobart last week, winning in the fastest time of the night. He has taken to Wentworth Park well in the past, with three wins and a place from five starts. He ran third in the Paws of Thunder final in January and has a best of 29.65. He will be hard to hold out.
Horsham Cup winner Crump (6) has drawn off the fence in box six. He trialled in 29.85 last week and this will be his first start at the track under race conditions. If he can negotiate the turn safely he could turn this into an interesting race, as he is very strong.
The Victorian trained Tonk (1) debuted at Wentworth Park on 15 March in a flying 29.57. This heat is a rise in class from the field he met two weeks ago but if he runs up to that performance he will be up there.
Awesome Project (8) is a former NSW chaser now in the hands of the astute Darren McDonald. He is risky at box rise and will need to do everything right from the wide draw.
Heat Nine – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 9 at 10:12pm)
Richmond Derby winner Red Road (6) gets a chance to strut his stuff in the ninth heat. He has 11 career wins from 15 starts, with three of those wins coming at Wentworth Park. He has a best of 29.54 and displays generally good box manners. He just has to steer clear of any interference from the bad draw to take this out.
Calm Model (5) is returning from a long six month spell so should be fresh for this. She has two wins at Wentworth Park, with a best of 29.70.
Rookie Rebel winner Hawk Alone (1) has drawn his box. He is a strong 500 metre chaser who will be looking to pounce if he has a clear run.
Maitland Cup finalist New Gleam (4) has had the one start at Wentworth Park for a 30.01 win. He recorded a first section of 5.38 and if he can do that again he is a big chance of being near the lead.
Cawbourne Havoc (2) has 10 wins at the track and his experience will put him in good stead. He is a leader and could very well take this out at good odds.
Heat Ten – Group One Golden Easter Egg (Race 10 at 10:35pm)
Hellyeah Bolt (8) has excelled at Wentworth Park and has a best of 29.92 from box eight. He has won four in total from the box and looks hard to beat.
Hellyeah Bolt’s immediate danger is drawn directly inside him. Billy Buzzard (7) has been very consistent of late and has recorded a flying 5.32 to the first mark this year. If anyone can upset the favourite, it is Billy Buzzard.
Bathurst Cup and Prelude winner Zipping Tess (3) has been pinging the lids in her last few starts but failed to do so at Maitland. Her Prelude win came here in 29.79 and she is certainly capable of performing well from the decent draw.
Dark Warrior (4) was impressive winning a Prelude two weeks ago in 30.06. He could only manage fifth from box three here last week and will need to improve to feature.