Over 40 years of staying history at Wentworth Park will begin its next chapter on Saturday evening, when two heats of the Group Three Betfair Gold Cup will be held over the lung-busting 720 metres at the Harbour City venue.
First held in 1966 on the grass track at Wenty, the event has had some notable winners in the past, none more so than Zoom Top, who went back-to-back in 1968 & 69.
Other winners include Miss High Lo (1974), Mercia Bale (1980), National Lass (1986), Ringside Fire (1998), Pearl Larricki (2001) and Miagi (2008).
Slick Lee became only the second greyhound to win the event twice when she took out the event in 2011 & 2012. Bell Haven, who has recently had her first litter of pups to Kinloch Brae, won last year’s race.
The top four from each heat will advance to next Saturday’s final worth $25,000 to the winner.
Here’s how the two heats look;
Race 7 – Betfair Cup Heat 1 – 9:27pm
The first heat features a triple-threat of proven Victorian Group performers, who will well and truly test the locals.
Destini Fireball (5) comes off a recent Group One win in the Super Stayers at The Meadows. Trainer Norm Rinaldi had toyed with the idea of retirement to stud duties for his four-year-old chaser but has decided to press on given his recent form. His last trip to this track saw him finish second in the final of the Summer Distance Plate and he has registered a slick 42.28 in the past. The veteran will need to be on his best behaviour from this draw.
Born Ali (4) won the Perth Galaxy in early February before a couple of below par runs at The Meadows. A three week break saw her return in style with a zippy 34.21 win over 595 metres at Sandown Park. She has a best of 42.35 here and will probably benefit from the run.
Precocious bitch Dyna Kayla (8) has finished second in two recent Group One finals in Victoria. It’s a big achievement given the fact that she will only face the starter for the 18th time on Saturday night. She has to deal with the extreme outside draw and her recent box manners have only been fair. If she can begin on terms, she is right in this.
Cawbourne Looney (6) has a great record at Wentworth Park, winning eight from 17 at this track and distance and breaking the magical 42-second mark in the process. Her best runs seem to be when she leaves the boxes in the first half of the field, so her initial position when the lids fly will be all important.
Quell Bale (3) is another Victorian who makes her staying debut in these heats. She has some okay middle distance form but her recent runs give the impression that she is out of her depth here. If anything, the fact that she might find herself closer to the front that she is used to may be a bonus.
Blossom Dior (1) looks the best of the rest. She has won three from 13 at this trip and has a best of 42.24. Her record from the inside is sensational with eight wins from 14 outings. The main concern is that she has only managed one placing since her last win here in early February. This race will test her.
Suits Us (2) is a last start winner at the track in 42.46, but his wins are well spaced. He is also a run-on type dog who will need some luck to feature.
Billy Hooper (7) is yet to win over this trip in eight attempts and it would be a shock if he was to open his account in this race.
Race 8 – Betfair Cup Heat 2 – 9:50pm
More raiders from the south highlight the second heat, with dual Wentworth Park Group winner Dyna Willow engaged along with Sydney Cup winner Lucy Wires.
Dyna Willow (7) has won two group events at this track in just four appearances. She has a real affinity with the venue and has stopped the clock at 41.92 in the past. She is versatile and can lead or come from behind and has class written all over her. She is one of the big-guns in this series.
Lucy Wires (6) won the Sydney Cup at this track and has also flown around here in a near record time of 41.82. She has a tendency to get way back in her races, but if she is parked anywhere in the first half of the field, expect her to be right in the finish.
Set To Shine (3) is an ultra-consistent local chaser who should be in the top few throughout the run. She is as dour as they come and also begins reliably, so expect her to be racing in the first quartet of the field throughout.
Queenslander Wag Tail (4) returns to interstate group racing after an ill-fated trip to Victoria that saw her fall in a heat if the Super Stayers. She then returned to the Sunshine State where she reeled off two impressive victories. She has earned another crack at the big time and it will be interesting to see how she measures up.
Eleazar (1) has landed two nice wins at Wentworth Park since moving from Queensland back in January. She has been a model of consistency in her 28 start career and has registered a personal best of 42.35 at the track. She is another who does her best work when she lands on the speed, so the first hundred metres will be crucial for her.
Shoe Laces Lady (8) is another Queensland visitor who has won here in the past in an average 43.05. She has finished second behind Wag Tail at her last two outings and may be a couple of lengths off the better dogs in this race.
Avondale Maurick (2) is a lightly raced three-year-old with a good strike-rate. The 33kg chaser has only won two races over the longer trips, with a best here of 42.65. He looks to be worth risking in this one.
Little Red (5) appears to be thriving over the staying journeys, but looks tested against the top-liners in this race. Her run two starts back has some merit with a 42.46 win here, but she has won just five of 42 career starts and will need to go a lot quicker to win this.
There is plenty of class spread very evenly over the two heats, which sets the stage for a quality final next week.
Will the Victorians continue their stranglehold over the staying trips? Or will it be a local or Queenslander who rises to the top?