The first heat saw Royal Sprite salute in a brilliant 29.73 seconds. Starting at $2.20, the Jane Carruthers prepared two year old had to step his early section time up a notch to be in with a genuine chance. Although he was not the best away, he did get room to move in the early stages from a favourable box two draw and was assisted when early challenger, Pride of Mykonos, took half the field out on the first turn. Running down the back the son of Magic Sprite had a big gap on his opposition and from there after never looked in danger, turning for home to score by a widening nine lengths on the line.
It was a fantastic run by Watta Lotto to qualify for next week’s final despite sighting the winner a big margin at the finish. After a slow getaway the white and black dog was turned sideways on the first turn and had to navigate his way to the rails to avoid further interference. Once he regained his momentum he started chasing gallantly but was never in contention for the winning prize after Royal Sprite was off and gone.
The second heat went to raging favourite Zulu Zeus who jumped at a skinny $1.70 from box three. The son of Where’s Pedro began well but was crossed and headed early by Majella Ferguson’s Electro Storm who exploded from box seven. Zulu Zeus showed plenty of tenacity to run down the classy chaser, hitting the lead out of the back straight, and kicking clear to claim the event by three and three quarter lengths in a scintillating 29.69 seconds. It was the third win at the Ultimo Circuit for the 34 kilogram dog and a new personal best after clocking 29.73 seconds at his last start back in June. Returning to the track fresh for his stint at group one glory, Zulu Zeus showed plenty of star quality and will loom as one of the hardest to beat in Saturday’s qualifier.
Electro Storm did everything right from box seven, spearing across the field and giving punters a few anxious moments, however he just found the winner too strong on the night.
The third heat went to Steve White’s Amadeus Strikes who once again showed everyone how versatile she is when running a super strong race coming from behind. Drawn terribly in box six, the daughter of Bombastic Shiraz began well but was kept out wide around the first turn and for most of the trip. Down the back Amadeus Strikes kicked it up a gear, sprinting past her opposition and extending her winning break to triumph by six and three quarter lengths over Kobi Jay in 29.79 seconds. It was the 18th victory for Amadeus Strikes who seems to be maturing and improving with every start on the racetrack.
Kobi Jay put in a solid performance after a mediocre start, railing through on the first turn and showing great acceleration to get around several troubled runners on the home turn.
The final heat went to emerging star Zipping Willow for Jason Mackay. The pint sized speedster pinged the lids from the cherry and was never behind another runner as she rocketed around the circuit in a slick 29.81 seconds. The time, although brilliant, was far from her best (29.59 seconds) but after an arduous few months of racing, the youngster is doing extremely well to be consistently posting such blazing times. Zipping Willow has now won 10 races from just 12 race starts and looks to be a bright star for Mackay who is no doubt feeling the absence of Punch One Out who unfortunately could not take her place in the series due to injury.
Sharron Wester would have been pleased with the run of Where’s Wob ($10.20) who almost caused an upset when running the winner down to just half a length on the line. The son of Where’s Pedro is really starting to develop into a serious athlete as shown at his past few starts and with a bit of luck he could add some spice to the final at a big price.
The favourite trend continued in the first heat of the NSW National Distance Championship- but only just. After being relegated back to near last, Smart Valentino ($2.50) put on an exhilarating performance to finish over the top of his rivals in the home straight, stretching out to win by one and one quarter lengths in 42.43 seconds. By Where’s Pedro, the black greyhound was born to be a star, with his dam Smart Betsy a great bitch of her era. Although Smart Valentino possesses potential he is renowned for finding trouble in his runs which often sees him miss the cash. Luckily that was not the case last night.
Set To Shine tried her heart out but was run off her feet in the home straight. She, along with Compass and Hotwire, will accompany Smart Valentino in next week’s showdown.
The last of the feature heats was the only one not to be taken out by the favourite although the winner was still well and truly in the market. Lining up from box four, the consistent Proven Stellar was paying generously at $4.30 and when the boxes flew open, she landed straight on the bunny. Working hard throughout the race, Proven Stellar was able to hold off Midnight News by a neck on the line for Preston Rowles in a fast 42.28 seconds. The daughter of Nitro Burst has now won eight races and is developing into quite a handy stayer with a great chance of taking out the State title next Saturday.
Race favourite Gradence settled into his usual position at the rear of the field early and although finishing well, the line approached too quickly for the Mark Gatt trained dog who along with roughie Brain In Neutral will move onto the decider.
The box draws for the NSW National Championships are as follows:
NSW NATIONAL SPRINT FINAL
1. ROYAL SPRITE JANE CARRUTHERS
2. ELECTRO STORM MAJELLA FERGUSON
3. WATTA LOTTO JOHN CALLAUGHAN
4. WHERE’S WOB SHARRON WEBSTER
5. AMADEUS STRIKES STEVE WHITE
6. ZIPPING WILLOW JASON MACKAY
7. KOBI JAY KOBI JAY
8. ZULU ZEUS FRANK HURST
9. CALM MODEL(1ST RES) CLAY MULLENS
10. TRICKY TERRY(2ND RES) JASON MACKAY
NSW NATIONAL DISTANCE FINAL
1. MIDNIGHT NEWS DAVID PRINGLE
2. GRADENCE MARK GATT
3. COMPASS PERCY GORDON
4. HOTWIRE GRAEME BARNETT
5. SET TO SHINE ROBERT MUMFORD
6. SMART VALENTINO MARK SWIFT
7. BRAIN IN NEUTRAL ANDREW GAVENLOCK
8. PROVEN STELLAR PRESTON ROWLES
9. STARLINER(1ST RES) GARRY PETTERSEN
10. TIFI FOR ME(2ND RES) CHRIS O’BRIEN