Trainers Christine Robartson and Paul Stuart have a stranglehold on the Mandurah Mail Birthday Cup after they both qualified two runners for next week’s final.
The seven heats were contested on Friday night, and Robartson had heat winners in Last Day and Golden Gossip, while Stuart’s Sialia and Astrophysic also won through.
The first heat was a roughhouse affair with the favourite Gone To Heaven striking the rail soon after the start and the second pick El Grand Seal also finding bother after about 100 metres. With all this going on the speedy Walkaway Ablaze had speared to the early lead and he never looked in danger. The son of Bombastic Shiraz-Walkaway Tiny posted an impressive 6.57 to the first marker and stopped the clock in a handy 22.77. With his box manners he should make an impact in next week’s final.
In heat two, the powerful Last Day got the job done in a brilliant 22.49, the fastest time of the night. He began only fairly but Fun Princess in box three pinged the lids and ran a bit of cover for him early and that allowed him to drive up and push into second spot as they headed for the first time. From there it was only a matter of time until he reeled her in. Fun Princess was gallant in defeat and was beaten just less than two lengths, which was enough for her to qualify for the final.
Heat three produced the best finish of the night, with only a nose separating three runners as they hit the line. Eventual winner Golden Gossip began well but she was burnt off quickly by Take The Dosh and Burundi. As they turned for home it appeared Take The Dosh and Burundi would fight out the finish, but the strong daughter of Turanza Bale-Expect More went into another gear and drove through underneath the two leaders as the winning post loomed. That was her first 400m race for a while but she has the fantastic record of eight wins from 10 tries over this journey.
There was boilover in the next heat with veteran chaser and former star Powerhouse showing a return to form. Normally he is pretty slow to begin, however, he timed the start to perfection and matched motors with the speedy Zipping Jaylo in the early stages. He was burnt off as they went through the bend but once he balanced up in the home straight he started to eat into the lead quickly. He stopped the clock in a steady 22.93 and connections will be thrilled he advanced to the final, but he will need to go to another level to win.
Heat five was one of the most anticipated, with super talent Jabba Da Pup taking on Living Proof and track specialist Sialia. Jabba Da Pup was slow to begin and soon after was crunched into the rail, ending any chance of him winning. Meanwhile, the Stuart-trained Sialia had pinged to the lead and she was off and gone with the prize after about 100m. The royally bred Sialia (Collide-Winsome Bluebird) has now won 11 of 20 here and if she begins well again next week she will give them something to catch.
Astrophysic was easily the best-fancied chaser all night and didn’t disappoint punters. The son of Cosmic Rumble-Right On Ruby was sent out at $1.30 and after stepping well he showed a devastating turn of foot before going on to score by 8 1/2 lengths in a blistering 22.55. He has won 12 of 14 to date and his past seven victories here have all been in sub-22.60. He has drawn poorly in the final but has fair beginners drawn on either side so he should get every chance to show his dazzling early speed.
The final heat brought the second upset of the night when the Gregory Martin-trained Majestic Gem pinged to the lead and turned in her best performance for many months. She had raced well here in the past but in the past couple of months had not been showing her natural zip, but on Friday night once she sighted the bunny she went into overdrive and gave nothing else a chance. The well fancied West On Delly and Rapido Kid were both slow to begin and never a winning factor, while Oxley Legend began well but he appeared to go amiss after about 80 metres.
Next week’s final matches up some of the country’s fastest chasers, with the two likely favourites drawing poorly in boxes four and seven. The winner will take home $25,000 in prizemoney and a Group Three title.
Group Three Mandurah Mail Birthday Cup Box Draw – 405M
1 – Sialia – Paul Stuart
2 – Golden Gossip – Christine Robartson
3 – Powerhouse – Andrew McLaren
4 – Astrophysic – Paul Stuart
5 – Majestic Gem – Gregory Martin
6 – Fun Princess – Lexia Isaac
7 – Last Day – Christine Robartson
8 – Walkaway Ablaze – Emily Frazer
9 – Take The Dosh – Wayne Rose
10 – West On Delly – Linda Britton