It was a case of deja vu last week during the running of the Group Three Laurie Healion Memorial Maiden semi-finals as Ritza Hattie produced a carbon copy of her stunning performance one week prior when she clocked a sizzling 29.41, blowing away her rivals in semi-final three recording an impressive 29.61 and cemented her place as the pre-race favourite going into this Friday afternoons $25,000 to the winner final at Unibet Gardens.
As explained by her astute trainer Mark Gatt one week prior after her semi-final win, the box draw will play its role in this week’s final with the daughter of Bombastic Shiraz and Midnight Flare coming up with the awkward six alley which could prove testing. Her trademark early speed will be the deciding factor, as all eight finalists will be vying for the lead at the crucial first turn.
Laurie Healion Memorial Maiden Final 5.29pm (EST)
Box One – Cawbourne Bugsy (J.Lord)
This greyhound came from nowhere last week to gobble up her rivals in a flying 29.73. After a slow start and being positioned mid-field during the race, she will need to improve on her box manners to use the coveted red rug to its full advantage.
Box Two – Mineral Hill (C.Lamb)
Has been runner-up on both occasions during his heat and semi-final, however was solid last week from box one, just being edged out by Big Hoff in 30.12. Box two will be an enormous advantage after clocking a fast 4.99 early section last week.
Box Three – Premier Mozz (K.Sultana)
Another bridesmaid runner who is yet to crack her maiden victory, being nudged out at both attempts in solid times. Leading throughout her heat and semi-final, her consistent early speed will be handy, with her stamina posing the question over whether she can last the 515m distance.
Box Four – Paper Bark (W.Bright)
Everyone loves an underdog and this greyhound was the rank outsider of his semi-final last week, leading from start to finish and returning a cool $34.60 for ambitious punters. Clocking a flying 29.72, this will give his trainer plenty of confidence that another fairy-tale win could be in store this Friday.
Box Five – Cawbourne Lexus (J.Lord)
The second runner from the astute Lord kennel performed solidly last week, finishing second behind Ritza Hattie and clocked a smart 29.73 from box five. A strong finish behind the fastest qualifier should see him powering to the line once again.
Box Six – Ritza Hattie (M.Gatt)
The superstar of the series. This pocket rocket blew us all away during week one, recording a near-record 29.41. From a difficult box five last week she never put a foot run running an equally-impressive 29.61. Despite another bad box draw, her perfect box manners should see team Gatt collect another trophy for the mantel piece.
Box Seven – Avondale Tara (B.Hedley)
Was solid all the way in running second behind Paper Bark last week, clocking 29.79 from box seven. Won her heat in an impressive 29.88 and will certainly be in the finish if she can repeat her prior two performances.
Box Eight – Big Hoff (L.Azzopardi)
The only starter with a perfect race record having made his track debut in this series, clocking 30.07 in week one and 30.12 in his semi-final win last week. Will need to significantly lower his time standard to be competitive, but in the hands of a master trainer who has another smart chaser in his kennels.
In what has been a terrific series of racing that has introduced the next generation of superstars to the race track, this week’s final will prove a tantalising affair for all greyhound enthusiasts. The richest maiden series in the Hunter Valley will certainly attract a healthy crowd to Unibet Gardens as this may not be the last time we see any one of these greyhounds with a Group race win next to their name.