The fastest qualifier for the $250,000 to the winner event was consistent bitch Up Hill Jill for Lara trainer David Geall. Stepping from box five, the daughter of Premier Fantasy and Where’s Demonica exploded from the traps, recording a scintillating 5.36 to the winning post on the first occasion.
Working into second spot throughout the run was Slamming Thunder (box three) which started closing rapidly and loomed as a threat on the home turn, but Up Hill Jill had too much of a break, scoring by three quarters of a length in a blistering 29.63.
Slamming Thunder will also progress through to the final, with Nangar Bear first reserve after finishing two and a half lengths behind the winner.
Semi two went to another Victorian, with Striker Light proving too classy for her opponents. The Brett Bravo-trained bitch was matched in the early stages by Lagoon Jazzy (box one), but Striker Light quickly slipped into top gear from box three, racing to the front and giving nothing else a look in.
Once on the bunny it was a case of times and margins, with Striker Light drawing clear to defeat Lagoon Jazzy by six lengths in 29.64. Melbourne Cup winner Ando’s Mac finished third but was no match for the winner.
The third semi-final was a roughly run affair, with Clock’s Ticking the first to jump, taking the lead from box six. Unfortunately, entering the back straight Clock’s Ticking went amiss, with Mack Tux (box four) racing to the front of the pack.
Despite his rivals racing right on his heels, Mack Tux was able to dig deep on the line, holding off a late challenge from Big Flood (box five) in 30.22. There was only a head back to third – Black Hole Sun (box two) – with Shima Song (box one) finishing a neck further back in fourth position.
The fourth semi-final was another race dominated by Victorians which finished one, two across the line.
Lucky Chap (box three) started as the race favourite and looked the winner down the back straight when assuming the lead, however Adelaide Cup winner Aqua Cheetah was able to stalk the front runner, unleashing a powerful run in the home straight to win by a neck in 29.86.
Trained by Seona Thompson, Aqua Cheetah has now won 18 of his 48 starts – with a win in next week’s final set to take his career earnings above the $439,000 mark.