When trainer Dan Biddle made the long trek from Western Australia to Angle Park for a tilt at the Group Two S.A Oaks, it's fair to assume he didn't expect to have two semi final winners from two starters. But that's exactly how it panned out last Thursday with Pillow Torque and Kalden Athena easily accounting for some of their more highly regarded rivals.
After heats were run the Wednesday prior, with most of the Victorian visitors looking the sharpest, the series took to the night stage. The first four placegetters from the semis would progress to the $25,000-to-the-winner final to be held this coming Thursday night.
The first semi final was expected to be a one act affair, with Jason Thompson's Proven Que Tee ($1.80) expected to be far too speedy, but after Parker Bale ($15.60) began well from box five, Proven Que Tee found all sorts of bother, allowing the sandgroper Pillow Torque ($15.60) to race into contention and take over down the back. By then there was a traffic jam behind the leader, and Pillow Torque had dashed away before going on to score in 29.95.
Thecla Bale ($3.50) did well to run second, with local chaser Yilki ($22.30) filling third place. Proven Que Tee recovered after several bumps to run fourth and scrape into the final.
It was a similar story in the second semi-final, with Puppy Championship winner Wikena starting $2.60 favourite after winning her heat impressively in 29.92. But once again it was the Daniel Biddle trained Kalden Athena who was the one who stole the show, after she speared out from the inside trap. The race was all but over from there on, with the Big Daddy Cool – Abbadale Gold bitch romping away to win by 8 lengths in a slashing 29.58.
Also earning their place in the final was Galaxy High for David Curtain, as well as both Tameika and Valentine Bale for the Graeme Bate camp. Unfortunately, Wikena was never in the hunt and will not be taking out a second feature event just yet.
Another runner out of that Puppy Championship is Victorian Vee Best Vane. After showing some mixed form back in his home state, the big dog from the James Ennis kennel has returned to Angle Park for the S.A Derby series.
In what seemed to be a talented field on paper, Vee Best Vane absolutely slapped his rivals by 9 Lengths in 29.58, and looks likely to start to be a real force come the latter stages of the series.
Tasmanian greyhound Octane Assassin looked good in winning his Derby heat too, after being hindered significantly in the run. While Kilty Lad was happily setting the pace down the back, the Gary Greig trained chaser went for an inside run, before getting the door shut in his face. But to his credit, he was able to regain that momentum to still run over the top in a time of 30.15.
Other notable inclusions in Thursday night's S.A Derby semi finals include boom youngster Penthouse, who lead all the way in 29.88, along with Justus Bale, Brahma Boy, Walter Bale and promising Tasmanian, Showtime.