Group Two Warragul Cup winner Walk Hard stamped his authority on the 2014 Sportingbet Bulli Gold Cup series, setting the time standard in the four heats conducted on Wednesday night.
The Nicole McRae trained son of Bit Chili and Miss Bling (Spiral Nikita – Skullring) set the spacious Slacky Flat circuit ablaze at his first start there, stopping the clock at 26.01, just two lengths outside the track record.
Beginning well from box one, Walk Hard had to contend with some early pace from Bearded Midget (2), but soon after he put the paw to the floor, railing like the lure to drive under the early leader and quickly transform the race into a one act affair.
The 34kg black dog scored by 7 1/2 lengths in an imperious display. The Mark Wilcox trained Highly Respected (3) ran a solid race to finish second and qualify for next week’s final, while Soaring Eagle (7) wound up in third place.
Walk Hard has a history of drawing poorly in big finals and that luck has continued here with the Victorian handed box five for the $25,000 to-the-winner event.
The second heat saw a much closer finish with just one length separating the top three dogs. In the end, it was a flashing finish from the Anthony Azzopardi trained My Boy Snoop (7) that would land him the chocolates.
Favourite Unleash De Fear (5) came out of the boxes as if shot from a cannon to open up a handy early lead. Reserve runner Ferly Reign (9) settled in second while My Boy Snoop was tardily away in second last place of the six dog field.
By the home turn, Ferly Reign and Unleash De Fear look destined to battle it out down the long Bulli straight. Just when it appeared as though it would be a terrific finish between that pair, My Boy Snoop sprouted wings and cut a swathe between the two leaders like a hot knife through butter to score by three-quarters of a length.
The striking 35kg white and black son of Where’s Pedro and Daydream (Bit Chili – Stresa) registered the time of 26.34 in his first start at the track. Unleash De Fear held on well for second, with Ferly Reign in third.
Heat three yielded the biggest upset of the night when the Marie Burton trained My Awesome Opal finished strongly to take the event at cricket-score odds.
After beginning well from box three and finding himself parked behind the early leader Princess Syrene (6), the son of Fear Zafonic and Awesome Knocka (Knocka Norris – Awesome Opal) worked his way to the front as the field entered the long, sweeping turn for home.
While most punters were looking back in the field for the more fancied chances to run on, My Awesome Opal put on a beautiful, long-striding display of galloping down the centre of the straight to hold on and score by three-quarters of a length in the time of 26.41.
Knocka’s Return (1) screamed home for second place in an eye-catching run while veteran Ritza Ryder finished third.
The fourth and final heat lived up to expectation when boom pup Silent Effective (8) showed great intestinal fortitude to land the event in 26.22 for Darren Sultana.
When Stilton Blue (4), a young dog known for his strength, went straight to the lead, it appeared as though the race was his to lose. Silent Effective left the traps in fifth place with more than his fair share of work to do.
Leaving the back straight, Stilton Blue was high-balling in front with Velvet Flame (1) in second, Silent Effective had worked to third out wide, but was still the better part of four lengths off the leader.
That was the order as they reached the top of the long Bulli straight with anticipation high as Silent Effective hooked out wide and balanced up for one last crack.
With a hundred metres to go, the 31kg son of Cosmic Rumble and Best Percentage began to unwind his trademark withering burst and claimed Stilton Blue in the twinkling of an eye to score by 1 1/4 lengths in a soul-stirring finish.
The win was Silent Effective’s eighth from just 11 career outings and the dog, who is just 21 months old, is certainly shaping up as a very exciting prospect.
The draw for next Wednesday’s Group Three Sportingbet Bulli Gold Cup is as follows;
1- My Boy Snoop – Anthony Azzopardi
2- Silent Effective – Darren Sultana
3- Highly Respected – Mark Wilcox
4- Stilton Blue – Philip Goodsell
5- Walk Hard – Nicole McRae
6- My Awesome Opal – Marie Burton
7- Unleash De Fear – Charlie Gatt
8- Knocka’s Return – Mark Wilcox
9- Gradence – Mark Gatt
10- Ferly Reign – Anthony Azzopardi