Whilst the pièce de résistance of group racing for Australian sprinters tonight will undoubtedly be the $250,000 Golden Easter Egg, our top echelon of stayers also have their chance at group glory with the running of the group one Association Cup over the 720 metre distance. Since its inception the $75,000 to the winner event has attracted some of Australia’s best stayers, with the 2013 running no different.
Appearing from box one is new dog on the scene, Fancy Liza, who was very impressive last week on her city distance debut, running one and three quarters of a length behind heat winner Back Page Lead. The daughter of Brett Lee and Sweet Fancy has only had fifteen track appearances but has put together four extremely exciting wins including a track record of 30.14 seconds at Richmond over 535 metres, giving the indication that she is a star in the making. Whilst it is a massive ask to step up to Group level so suddenly, she appears up to the challenge, with box one definitely an advantage.
Victorian super stayer Destini Fireball looks to have the race at his mercy as he lines up from box two. The white and black son of Where’s Pedro is arguably Australia’s best stayer, aside from the all-conquering Miata and has a fantastic chance of scoring his nineteenth race success tonight night in the final. The chaser is certainly on ‘fire’ at the moment as a winner of his past seven starts whilst it is also important to note that Destini Fireball is unbeaten since his step up to the 700 metre trip and undefeated from box two. Despite being ‘underdone’ for his first NSW start, the powerful dog dominated his heat winning emphatically in a quick 42.45 seconds, with plenty of improvement sure to come after his run last week. With an obvious passion for the inside, he should be going close to winning the final.
Exiting from the white is Bit Chilli three year old Miss Nicole for Merrylands mentor Charles Galea. The white and black bitch has won ten races from 43 starts including three impressive wins over the track and distance with a personal best of 42.30 seconds. The handy chaser is your typical stayer who gets back and runs home like a rocket; however she will not be able to afford that tonight against the top dogs, who certainly won’t be giving away any second chances. Whilst she has the ability to run the times she will need to be at her absolute best on the night!
Regally bred Tasmanian Bell Haven will be hoping to bounce back to the winners list for trainer Ted Medhurst when she jumps from box four. The daughter of Head Bound loves racing at Wentworth Park where she has recorded five fantastic wins with a scintillating best of 41.88 seconds, however her form has dipped over her past few runs which along with the awkward alley, does pose a concern. Nonetheless, the top quality bitch is more than capable of reversing her luck, with her last victory being over fellow competitor Back Page Lead in January.
Nowra conditioner Steven White has qualified two runners into the final- which is an amazing training feat in itself. His best chance at taking out the Group One feature appears to be the rising stayer Back Page Lead who has developed an affiliation with the Ultimo Circuit, stringing together four wins over the distance with two minors from only six starts. A daughter of the champion Brett Lee, she does look to have a promising future as a stayer despite turning four later this year, and looks to be one of the main threats to Destini Fireball after clocking last week’s fastest heat win in a speedy 42.17 seconds
Spring Hill trainer Jacob Burke would be elated with the run of his 23 kilogram lightweight Gully Miss who qualified for this week’s Group One when running two and three quarter lengths third behind Back Page Lead in their heat last week. The daughter of former track specialist All Caution who will exit box six has only won four races from forty track appearances but has certainly chosen the right time to showcase her best, and is now in the running to take out the $75,000 winners cheque. Despite her progress of late, she might find the star stayers in the race a bit too much too compete with, however just making the final is quite an achievement.
Beginning from box seven is the second runner from the in-form Steven White kennel, Robert Andrew. The grand old campaigner is four and a half years old and is doing remarkably well to still be racing over the 700 metre distance at his age. A winner of seventeen races from ninety five starts, White has certainly done an amazing job to keep him going. The black dog is certainly bred to stay, being a son of Hallucinate and Deloris making him a full brother to Miagi who was a group winner over the 720 metre distance. It would be a fairytale ending to see him emulate his brother’s success tonight however he does strike a particularly hard field, and with his off the pace racing style, he might be giving them too much of a start.
Graeme Barnett rounds up the group one field with his roughie Hotwire stepping out from box eight. The Big Daddy Cool x Ima Stunner dog has been a fantastic campaigner for his Reedy Creek mentor, winning an impressive seven races over the Wentworth Park staying trip with a best time of 42.38 seconds. Although he has been a model of consistency throughout his career, Hotwire has not managed a victory since last October, and whilst there is no doubt he will chase his heart out, he does look a bit outclassed in the final.
All up, the Association Cup final is a cracking field that will mix both the new and exciting generation of Australian Stayers, with the consistent old stayers that could race around the circuit with their eyes shut. This combination will make it a very exciting race; however Destini Fireball does have everything working in his favour. His biggest threats do look to be Back Page Lead and Fancy Liza- who should improve after her first go at the track and distance last week and can run a cheeky little race from the cherry.