JUST one one hundredth of a second separated the top three victors in Saturday night’s Group 1 Golden Easter Egg heats as the best sprinters from around Australia converged on Wentworth Park for a shot at glory.
Holding joint time honours moving into the semi-finals are Victorian raiders Fernando Bale and Hostile which both clocked a scintillating 29.45 over the 520-metre trip.
Fernando Bale jumped from box six in the seventh heat, starting the $2.30 favourite against a quality line-up including the likes of Azza Azza Azza (box one) and Australian Cup runner-up Quartz Bale (box two). Stepping cleanly from the middle draw, Fernando Bale quickly gathered momentum, crossing to the rails around the first turn and kicking clear. The son of Kelsos Fusileer and Chloe Allen was never headed, scoring by two lengths from a gallant Recruitment, which ran a terrific race to finish second from box five. Frost Yourself (box four) filled third at massive odds for Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay.
Fernando Bale has now won 11 of his 16 race starts and remains unbeaten at Wentworth Park where he won this year’s Group 1 National Derby final.
Heat eight was an open affair, with Zipping Willow (box seven) starting a narrow $3.10 favourite ahead of Hostile (box one) at $3.20. The former was having her first race start since finishing down the track in the final of the Group 2 Gosford Gold Cup, while the latter had plenty working in his favour after a hot 29.63 trial at the track the week prior. When the lids flew open, Hostile did everything right from the inside draw, railing underneath Ritza Hattie (box two) to take the early lead. Ritza Hattie held on to second throughout the race but was nine-and-one-quarter lengths off the winner at the finish, while Melinda Finn’s Winsome Prince ran yet another great race to finish third and book a start in the semi-finals.
Hostile has had just three runs back from an illness-enforced spell and has been in terrific form since resuming, claiming a heat of the Group 1 Australian Cup last month before finishing third behind Luca Neveelk in the lucrative final.
Just a fraction behind the top two time-wise was Over Limit, once regarded as one of the hottest pups in the country. Now in the care of Paul Stuart, Over Limit was the punter’s pick from box two in heat six and showed precisely why, stepping beautifully from the inside and taking early control of the race. The son of Cosmic Rumble and Nova Surf sprinted clear of Lamia Bale (box eight), a Group winning middle-distance runner, and was too classy in the run to the line, recording an airborne 29.46 at his first start at the track. Dyna Double One (box five) produced a monster run to finish second after finding early interference with Lamia Bale holding on for third spot.
Over Limit has now won 12 of his 15 career starts, nine of which have been in best of day figures.
Away from those three, there were still some excellent performances throughout the night, kicking off in the first heat with the resurgence of superstar sprinter Dyna Villa. After a string of average performances, the son of Collision and Roxio Bale reminded everyone why he is one of the best, crossing from box eight to score in a fast 29.73. Stepping well from the outside, the dual Group 1 winner sat in second spot behind Are Jai Que (box six) around the first turn before slipping into another gear down the back. The black dog won by five-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of Emrys (box one) and Sisco Fiasco.
Dyna Villa has now won six from six when wearing the pink rug and 21 from 38 overall. He will easily become the sport’s highest stakes earner if he can claim the Easter Egg, having already won $646,180 in prize money.
Heat two saw the in-form Spacecraft (box five) take on recent Richmond Derby winner Quasi Bale (box one), the latter starting the favourite from a seemingly ideal rails draw. It was another one act affair when the boxes opened, with reserve runner Ronray Spirit landing straight on the bunny from box four, with Spacecraft doing all the chasing behind him. Ronray Spirit, the recent Group 2 Warragul Cup winner, held on gamely to claim the top spot by two-and-one-quarter lengths ahead of Spacecraft with Winsome Señor (box eight) running out of his skin to snare third. Zipping Abby (box six) will also progress through to the semi-finals as one of the two fastest fourth placings.
Heat three saw the first major upset, with the first three across the line starting at double figure odds. My Bro Fabio (box three) was touted as the one to beat, starting as the odds on favourite for Brooke and Jamie Ennis. The triple Group 1 winner was well into stride, but found a stack of trouble in the run to the first turn and was relegated into last position through the catching pen. In the meantime, Xtreme Knocka (box five) managed to avoid trouble and find the lead, shooting down the back clear of I’M Pedro for master trainer Jason Thompson. I’M Pedro made one last effort to seize the win, but was three-quarters-of-a-length too short with Xtreme Knocka saluting in 29.82.
It is the second year running Xtreme Knocka has contested a race during the Golden Easter Egg carnival, having run fourth in a heat of the Group 3 Magic Maiden this time last year. My Bro Fabio will have every chance to redeem himself next week, scraping through as the second fastest fourth placing.
The first local hope to score came in heat four, with the powerful My Boy Snoop leading all the way from box two. Trained by Anthony Azzopardi, the talented greyhound has always promised plenty, but always seems to find interference during his races. The son of Where’s Pedro and Group 1 National Futurity winner Daydream, defeated Melbourne Cup finalist Midnight Flynn by three-quarters-of-a-length in a nippy 29.78 with Sisco Rage running third and giving trainer John Galea two through to the semi-finals.
My Boy Snoop has now won 10 of 35 with 12 minor placings.
Australian Cup winner Luca Neveelk (box seven) headed the betting for the fifth heat, but came undone early at his first look at the track, taking a very heavy tumble around the first turn. Group 1 winner Rue De Kahn led the field down the back after a good beginning from box two, but Victorian chaser Dawkins Bale had her in his sights. Swinging for home, the Jenny Hunt-trained greyhound put in a tenacious performance, grabbing the top spot from Rue De Kahn to score in 29.84. Lemon Tree Girl (box eight) ran a massive race at big odds to finish third, with Luca Neveelk trailing the field into the pen after picking himself up after the nasty fall.
Dawkins Bale has now won three on the trot, including an impressive 29.84 victory at The Meadows last week.
Punters had a hard time splitting Winsome Mission (box eight) and Bad Boy Sniper (box six) in heat nine, with both greyhounds in a purple patch of form at present. When betting closed, Winsome Mission got the nod, but it proved to be Bad Boy Sniper which would have the last say in the actual race. The field was led to the back by Wentworth Park specialist Queen Esther, but she compacted with Bad Boy Sniper dashing straight by. His supporters had a few nervous moments in the home straight with Velvet Flame (box five) sticking on well, but ‘The Sniper’ had too much in the tank, winning by three-quarters-of-a-length, with Bessy Boo putting in a strong run to finish third.
Bad Boy Sniper has now won eight races at Wentworth Park and looms as a genuine threat in the series with a personal best of 29.43 at the track.
The final heat was an open affair, with Zipping Midge sent to the boxes as the favourite from box three. The Jason Mackay-trained greyhound began well but wanted to get off the track, giving Zola Icon (box two) a clear run along the inside. Robert Sullivan’s bonny bitch assumed the lead through the first turn and was never behind another runner from that point in time, holding off a late charge from Whodat Knockin’ (box seven) to cling on by a neck in a handy 29.98. Zipping Midge ran a great race for third after losing ground early and will get the chance to redeem herself in the semi-finals next Saturday night.
The semi finals for the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg (in alphabetical order) are as follows:
Bessy Boo – Christine Proctor
Dawkins Bale – Jenny Hunt
Emrys – Mario Briganti
Fernando Bale – Andrea Dailly
Lamia Bale – Steve Collins
My Bro Fabio – Brooke Ennis
Rue De Kahn – Dean Swain
Spacecraft – Lorrain Atchison
1st Res: Chasing The Line – Loren Harborne
2nd Res: Kerrigan Bale – Andrea Dailly
Hostile – Darren Beasley
I’M Pedro – Sydney Wales
Recruitment – Deborah Coleman
Sisco Fiasco – John Galea
Velvet Flame – Andrew Bayliss
Winsome Senor – Melinda Finn
Xtreme Knocka – Jason Thompson
Zipping Abby – Ronald Seymour
1st Res: Aristotle Bale – Jenny Hunt
2nd Res: Awesome Project – Johannes Vanderburg
Bad Boy Sniper – Jason Magri
Dyna Yemen – Andrea Dailly
Lemon Tree Girl – Caroline Hughes
Midnight Flynn – Michael Carter
My Boy Snoop – Anthony Azzopardi
Over Limit – Paul Stuart
Ritza Hattie – Mark Gatt
Zipping Midge – Jason Mackay
1st Res: Dyna Nico – Andrea Dailly
2nd Res: Father Skeeta – Leslie Dennis
Dyna Double One – Andrea Dailly
Dyna Villa – Jenny Hunt
Frost Yourself – Jason Mackay
Ronray Spirit – Terry Reid
Sisco Rage – John Galea
Whodat Knockin’ – Jason Thompson
Winsome Prince – Melinda Finn
Zola Icon – Robert Sullivan
1st Res: Crackerjack Max – Andrea Dailly
2nd Res: Margins – Brooke Ennis