This year’s Launceston Cup is a bit different to other years. Not because it has been conducted over three weeks, but because the 2014 version will see eight locals vying for the title.
To some this might mean the race doesn’t hold the ‘profile’ of other years, with no ‘big’ names to steal the limelight. The trainers’ column contains no Bate’s, Dailly’s, Britton’s or Thompson’s. You won’t see dogs with Group One formlines, track record runs or six-figure bank accounts.
But for some, this will be the best race of the year. Despite the lack of the obvious, what you will see is eight dogs giving their all, trying to change the lives of their connections. A $40,000 reward for those that work hard week in and week out, usually hoping to snag a $1,400 race on a Monday night.
This will be Tasmania’s race. It will be a local chaser winning the spoils on the local track. The question remains though; which one?
Most pundits will instantly lean towards Hellyeah Bolt. The Anthony Bullock runner has given the Hellyeah Syndicate a terrific ride in the past 12 months. His top speed and chasing ability are unparalleled and given an ounce of luck he’ll take some toppling.
But this race doesn’t look ideal on paper for the son of Dyna Lachlan and Flash Diamond. The semis were dominated by early speed, and from box seven, Hellyeah Bolt might find himself in the last few in the first 50 metres of the race.
It creates an interesting conundrum; perhaps the lead will be the best place to be, with few dogs likely to storm home.
If that’s the case then there are none faster out of the boxes than Nooee’s Lad. Butch Deverell’s chaser is without a doubt the fastest box dog in the state, and the middle draw won’t trouble him if he spears out like normal.
The issue for the Craig French owned chaser is whether he can run an overall time fast enough to hold out a Group Two field, with his best around the 515-metres being 29.87 over a year ago.
In a similar boat to Nooee’s Lad is Shane Whitney’s recent acquisition Black Rip. He has really hit his straps since coming across from NSW, and is unbeaten in five starts at the Mowbray circuit.
His early speed has helped the dog win race after race in the past three months, but as mentioned, his best time of 29.96 might need improving. Having box two will help his cause no end at a track where positioning on the first turn is so crucial.
The fortunes of the two runners will no doubt shape the race.
With that in mind, the chances of Mighty Lomar have been hurt by drawing the widest box. The former Victorian has been impressive since arriving with Mick Stringer, and is another that relies on her blistering early speed. Her semi-final time of 29.76 was a vast improvement from her previous efforts, and would suggest that she is ready to fire at this level of racing.
Mighty Lomar’s owner, Nathan McMenamin, has provided many runners to the Tasmanian greyhound scene over the years, and few people would begrudge him a landmark victory come Monday night.
Are Ate has come up with the prized cherry exit for the main event, and will be looking to make it two Group race wins in as many months. Like his Devonport Cup win that came as a surprise to many, Are Ate will be in double-figure territory from a betting perspective.
The second of the Anthony Bullock runners qualified for the final with an unlucky third in the heat, followed by a second behind Black Rip a week later. Are Ate adds more intrigue to this race, as the dog is a reliable starter and will be part of a furious charge into the first turn.
So too will be the baby of the field, Varcoe, who has just turned two in January. His run in the semi-final was brilliant, narrowly going down to Hellyeah Bolt in 29.81. That race also contained the likes of Buckle Up Wes, Sing The Song and Whodat Lass showing the class of chaser Varcoe had to overcome.
Owned by Christopher Nutt and trained by Debbie Cannan, Varcoe has been incredibly consistent for his entire career to date, and is certainly capable of causing an upset if the breaks go his way.
Brendan Purcell will be represented by Bain’s Lane who will exit box three. He comes into the final with two seconds by his name; the first was a long way behind Fighting Fang, while the other was a comfortable second behind Mighty Lomar.
While the dog is consistent and ran 29.87 in defeat last week, being drawn between Nooee’s Lad, Varcoe and Black Rip is going to make life very tough. Furthermore, he lost ground to the leader in both the heat and final, and without the likelihood of leading it seems like Bain’s Lane will have his work cut out.
Rounding out the field is the Peter Phillips owned and trained Faolan. A winner of 5 of 21 starts, the son of Surf Lorian and Portent will struggle to overcome box six in a field full of early bullets. Interestingly, Faolan has had a run since the semi-final and was impressive by dispatching a Grade 5 field at Hobart on Thursday.
While that completes the starting lineup, there is another element to the race; Buckle Up Wes starting as first reserve. Probably the name best known amongst the field, the black speedster will be inserted as favourite if he gets a start, especially if given an inside draw. It doesn’t seem the same without a Ted Medhurst runner in the Cup, but if anyone could steal it with a reserve runner, it would be the veteran trainer.
It’s bound to be a fantastic race that should be decided by the time the field enters the back straight. By then, we’ll know if Hellyeah Bolt can muster enough pace early to find the rail and if Nooee’s Lad or Black Rip get a big enough break to hold them off.
Whatever the result, we can’t wait to find out.
2014 Curtains and Blinds Group 2 Launceston Cup
Monday night 10.01pm ADST
1) Are Ate – Anthony Bullock
2) Black Rip – Shane Whitney
3) Varcoe – Debbie Cannan
4) Bain’s Lane – Brendan Purcell
5) Nooee’s Lad – Butch Deverell
6) Faolan – Peter Phillips
7) Hellyeah Bolt – Anthony Bullock
8) Mighty Lomar – Mick Stringer
9) Buckle Up Wes – Ted Medhurst
10) Mental As Ben – Ricky Martin