Jumping fairly from box four, the brindle dog was outpaced in the run to the line on the first occasion by Queensland visitor Miss Jackpot (box eight), settling in second spot around the first turn.
Off the back and Arnhen Villian was right on the leader’s heels, which raced wide entering the home straight, allowing the son of Flying Penske and Aprilla to shoot through along the fence, sprinting clear to score by five lengths in 31.31 – a new personal best over the track and trip.
Trained at Karama by Jamie Hosking, Arnhen Villain has now won 20 of his 78 starts with a further 29 minor placings. A track specialist, 17 of his victories have been at Winnellie Park, with the former Tasmanian boasting $35,040 in prize money.
The remaining three heats of the $25,000 to the winner feature were taken out by WA greyhounds, the first of which was Lorus Time for Tim Mullany.
Stepping from box one, the black dog had enough speed to roll straight to the early lead, clearing out down the back ahead of Crystal’s Way (box five).
Swinging for home the classy sprinter had enough in the tank to hold off a late challenge from Crystal’s Way to register his 18th career victory in 32.01.
The son of Magic Sprite and Wongawillilesley is sure to improve on his heat effort heading into the final, with the front runner first up from a seven week break in his qualifier.
Miracle, which won a heat of the Group 1 Perth Cup earlier this year, produced a tidy performance to win the second heat on Sunday evening.
Spearing the lids from box seven, Miracle carved across from the outside alley, leading all the way in 31.66, giving the 32 kilogram chaser his first win since April.
Running on strongly to grab second and also book a spot in the final was Clash Of Kings for trainer Stephen Whyte, with the regally bred son of Fear Zafonic and Queen Lauryn, the winner of the 2009 Darwin Cup, now having qualified for three consecutive editions of the race.
A winner of 18 of his 56 starts, Clash Of Kings won the event in 2014 before returning last year to finish fourth behind his litter brother Superfonic.
The remaining heat saw Youi (box two) and Eisenhower (box five) battle for favouritism, with the former getting the nod from punters. When the lids flew open, Youi was slow into stride, with Eisenhower racing up on the outside of early leader Mandy Charm (box one) in the run around the first turn.
Down the back and Eisenhower hit the accelerator, dashing to the lead ahead of Youi which managed to work his way into second spot, with It’s Your Money (box seven) making ground in third spot.
Into the home straight and the frontrunner was showing no signs of slowing down, taking out the qualifier by two and a half lengths over It’s Your Money in a respectable 31.70.
The final of the Group 3 Darwin Cup is set to be run this Sunday night.
Group 3 Darwin Cup – box draw
Box 1 – Arnhen Villain
Box 2 – It’s Your Money
Box 3 – Lorus Time
Box 4 – Miss Jackpot
Box 5 – Clash Of Kings
Box 6 – Eisenhower
Box 7 – Crystal Way
Box 8 – Miracle