THREE of Australia’s best stayers will do battle in the Group 1 Association Cup final next Saturday night after three heats of the $75,000-to-the-winner race were run and won at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
The first heat was an open affair with Ted Medhurst’s Lillycette starting the punter’s elect from box four. The Tasmanian bitch began brilliantly from the middle alley, but was headed early by Unix Bale (box two) which punched up along the rail to take the lead. Past the post on the first occasion and Unix Bale was well out in front, with Zipping Felix (box seven) making good ground into second spot. Marty Hallinan’s greyhound started taking ground off the leader down the back before railing through and assuming the lead on the home turn, kicking clear to score by four-and-three-quarter lengths in 41.99 ahead of Lillycette and a tiring Unix Bale back in third.
The second heat was set to be a clash between terrific staying bitches Lady Toy (box five) and Sweet It Is (box two), the latter resuming from more than three months on the sidelines, but it turned out to be a one act affair. Sweet It Is, a multiple Group 1 winner, began uncharacteristically well but was severely checked in the early stages, being relegated back to fourth behind lamplighter Nicki Fields (box four). Lady Toy on the other hand was able to zip around the outside of the leader in the home straight on the first occasion and from there she put on a terrific front-running display, with the super-strong Sweet It Is unable to get within seven-and-a-half lengths of the winner on the line which clocked a sensational 41.90. Both bitches will line up in the decider next week, with Sweet It Is sure to strip fitter for her run in the heat.
Space Star (box six) was a dominant favourite in the third and final qualifier, where he was first up after finishing third in the Group 1 Superstayers at The Meadows earlier this month. Stepping well, the black chaser showed why he is currently rated the best stayer in the country, scoring a terrific 41.71 victory after leading throughout ahead of Zipping Maggie and Opec Bale.
Trained by Rob Britton, Space Star has now won 21 of his 33 career starts with nine minor placings.
Group 1 Association Cup box draw
Box One – Lady Toy – Brooke Ennis
Box Two – Space Star – Rob Britton
Box Three – Lillycette – Ted Medhurst
Box Four – Sweet It Is – Braden Finn
Box Five – Zipping Felix – Marty Hallinan
Box Six – Zipping Maggie – Marty Hallinan
Box Seven – Unix Bale – Steve Collins
Box Eight – Opec Bale – Mark Delbridge
1st Reserve – Nicki Fields – Gerard O’Keefe
2nd Reserve – Blinker’s On – Brooke Ennis