Having led all the way in a 29.68 the week prior, it was no surprise to see Kokoda Spirit entrenched deeply in the pre-post betting for the nights’ feature race, starting as $2.50 second favourite behind Xylia Allen who ran a strong second in the same heat.
While Xylia Allen would still have to overcome an awkward draw (five), Kokoda Spirit had the luxury of exiting box two, and a replica of the 4.41 first split would her see her being very hard to catch.
As it turned out, Kokoda Spirit would set a slightly slower first split the second time around, going 4.46, and was actually beaten to the first mark by the Mick Giniotis-trained Wonder Whirl who flew out of the four alley.
Those two matched motors for the early part of the race before Iona Seven mustered forward putting in her claim for Robert Britton. From there it was a battle royale, with Iona Seven looking the more menacing prospect the further the race went on. But despite the pressure, Kokoda Spirit refused to wilt and drew upon all the determination implied by her name, holding on to score by a neck in a quick 29.61.
Xylia Allen was slow to begin for the second week in a row, and despite clearly having the superior top speed, left her charge too late storming into third spot, but was never a genuine hope of claiming the top prize.
Kokoda Spirit is raced by Jordan Day and trained by Mark Morrissey, being by Knocka Norris out of Flaming Doll. This landmark win is the 11th of a 19 start career, and with the ability to show such dash from various boxes is expected to make many more headlines as time progresses.
Strangely enough, it was unlikely that the Oaks final was the reason behind all the interest around AnglePark last Thursday, with four heats of Schweppes Derby attracting some real quality from multiple states. With only the first two making it through to next week’s Group 3 final, there was always going to be some hard luck stories.
Hawk Alone was the first competitor to book his place in the final, beating Kiss Me Ketut in 29.82. Encosta Kahn and Easton Bale were the unlucky ones on this occasion, but both were good runs considering the time and opposition. Hawk Alone was always expected to improve from his defeat last week and with the second look at the track he pinged out of box one and stole the race from there.
It was a similar story in heat two, with the winner leading all the way, but this time it was for local connections. Ernie Bung Arrow for Ken Gill was facing his toughest test to date with the likes of Crump, Tonk and Joshua Bale all engaged, but from box seven he proved far too speedy in 29.89. Despite getting a little tired in the concluding stages, Ernie Bung Arrow held on to beat Queenslander Yogi Blue by a neck, with Tonk making ground in third.
Interestingly, the box draw for the Derby was held over until Friday morning, with stewards holding an inquiry into the racing manners of Yogi Blue. In a blow for those involved with the son of Cool Effort, Yogi Blue was made ineligible for the final and Tonk would be given his place instead.
Mark Delbridge soon had his Derby chance locked in when Allen Makoto ran down Kalden Gambino in the shadows of the post in 30.06. Allen Makoto was the fastest of the three exhibition trials that took place last week, and it proved the difference as he took all of the 515 metres to get over the stubborn local chaser.
Tasmanian chaser Hellyeah Bolt did a good job to run third and that was enough to earn a spot on the reserves bench next week.
The final two greyhounds to complete the Derby field were the unlikely pair of Senni Tony and Osbourne Bale. Senni Tony started outrageous odds of $21.00 come post time, but would lead them a merry dance for a brilliant eight length win for trainer Colin Swain. Stopping the clock at 29.95, it compares nicely to the other heat winners and a repeat performance would no doubt give the final a good shake.
Osbourne Bale was the best of the chasing brigade, ahead of red hot favourite Tomac Bale. The Victorian Sprint Champ was smashed as soon as it left box four and could only recover enough to take third place.
The complete box draw for the Group 3 S.A Schweppes Derby is below, and is scheduled to be run next Thursday night:
2013 Group 3 S.A Schweppes Derby
1) Tonk – (Charles Merceica)
2) Ernie Bung Arrow (Ken Gill)
3) Senni Tony (Colin Swain)
4) Kiss Me Ketut (David Burnett)
5) Hawk Alone (Andrea Dailly)
6) Allen Makoto (Mark Delbridge)
7) Kalden Gambino (Troy Murray)
8) Osbourne Bale (Andrea Dailly)
9) Hellyeah Bolt (Paul Hili)
10) Encosta Kahn (Kim Johnstone)