Beginning well from box four, Big Ticket barged his way to the front down the back straight, kicking away from his opposition around the turn to cruise to a comfortable five and one quarter length win over One Hill in a sizzling 24.82.
The 38 kilogram monster moves into box three for the $36,000 to the winner decider, with Crownbet subsequently installing him as the $3.50 favourite in an open market.
“I was very happy with his run especially because he had never seen the track before Thursday,” Trainer Steve Clarke told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He travels really well and he seems to go good at different tracks first up so it wasn’t too much of a concern, plus he chases very hard – he is a very professional dog – he doesn’t do much wrong really.”
The son of Fabregas and Bella Portrait is the class runner of the series, having won 23 of his 42 career starts with a further 12 minor placings.
Among those runs have been some exceptional performances in feature finals, having run second in the Group 2 Warragul Cup and third in both the Group 2 Horsham Cup and the Group 2 Shepparton Cup, while he also qualified for the prestigious Group 1 Hobart Thousand in 2014, finishing fourth behind Above All.
Clarke says his prized greyhound has pulled up a treat following the run at Maitland.
“He has pulled up terrific after the run. I got home at about 10:30am on Friday and he got back in his own bed – he was very happy to be home.
“He’ll have a nice easy week now before we make the 11 hour trip back up to Maitland.”
Big Ticket will meet a classy line-up including the likes of local hero Bob’s Uncle ($5.50), fastest qualifier Marbo’s Magic ($3.75) and fellow Victorian Aston Bolero ($4), with Clarke expecting a forward showing from his contender.
“He had eight days off on the lead before the race so he really needed the run and I think he will improve going into the final.
“He only needs to improve a length or two on what he did in his heat to break the track record and I think he is capable of getting into the 24.70s.
“If thats good enough to win the race that’ll be great – if not then it has taken a very good dog to beat him.”
While not overly happy with the box draw, Clarke says his greyhound has the ability to overcome the draw if he can begin on terms.
“I can’t complain because at least he is in the final, but I would have loved to get the red with him.
“With that being said box three is certainly better than box five or six – it’s not the best but it’s definitely not the worst.
“As a pup he used to miss the kick just a little bit, but he seems to be getting better with more age and experience.
“Once he hits the ground he has got brilliant acceleration so if he comes out on terms with them, or even just a little bit behind them, he does have the ability to accelerate through and find the front.
“If he comes out with them in the final he will certainly give them something to chase.”
With such an outstanding record, Clarke said it would be a huge reward to finally snare a feature final with the rising four year old, not only for himself but for the greyhound’s owner, Pat Sofra.
“It is very exciting to have made another group final with him.
“This is his sixth group final and throughout his career he virtually hasn’t run in any other races but group races.
“Of course people would be disappointed if they couldn’t win, but I don’t think anyone would begrudge this dog winning the race.
“He has served his apprenticeship in group finals – hopefully this one is his turn.”
The Group 2 Maitland Cup will be run and won on Friday night in the Hunter Valley.
Group 2 Maitland Gold Cup market
1 – Bob’s Uncle – $5.50
2 – Ritza Lenny – $5
3 – Big Ticket – $3.50 with Crownbet
4 – Black Driftwood – $21
5 – Marbo’s Magic – $3.75
6 – Aston Bolero – $4
7 – Sleek Master – $17
8 – Rosco The Weapon – $21
1st res – Tilly’s Boy – $17
2nd res – He’s Some Love – $21