As speculated here on Australian Racing Greyhound, 2011 Topgun winner Allen Harper, and 2011 Golden Easter Egg winner and 2011 Topgun runner up Radley Bale were morals to be included in the elite four to contest the $40,000 to the winner Sandown Shootout; and the selection panel have confirmed that position by naming them in the Shootout field tonight.
Allen Harper comes into the Group 3 feature on the back of his last start win in the Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun, and has already won more than $200,000 in just 20 career starts. The two time Group 1 winner has yet to race at Sandown Park but does boast a 29.58 seconds best time at Wentworth Park, 29.82 at the Meadows, and 29.47 at Angle Park. Trained by master mentor Graeme Bate, Allen Harper will join kennel mate Radley Bale as Bate attempts to win a second Macro Meats Shootout, following his success with Velocette in 2009.
Radley Bale has been one of the best chasers of 2011, having won the Golden Easter Egg in April, and running second in the Group 1 Adelaide Cup and Group 1 Top Gun in his last two starts. Radley Bale has won 32 races in his 83 start career – 17 of which in the best time of the night – and has 11 wins from 25 starts at Sandown Park. Radley Bale boasts an impressive best time of 29.29 at Sandown Park.
But the real dilemma for selectors was how much weight to give to the trio of Sandown track record breakers who numbered three of the last five greyhounds vying for the final two spots in the field.
Speculation abounded over the credibility of the avalanche of track records that saw the Sandown mark, previously held by Iso Octane, lowered three times in just a ten day period.
Furthermore with 2011 Topgun starters and highly credentialed greyhounds Prince Diablo and He Knows Uno, up against the the track record triumvirate, it was always going to be a test of credibility of the Sandown track to see if the Sandown Shootout selection panel would validate their own track record breakers by elevating them above those two runners.
Tonight, the Sandown Greyhound Racing Club have avoided any continued innuendo over their track record breakers by standing true to their roots and placing current record holder Bekim Bale and immediate predecessor Cape Hawke in to the final two spots in the Sandown Shootout field.
Track record holder Bekim Bale will contest his first Group final at just his eighth career start. The only greyhound to break 29 seconds at Sandown Park – lowering the mark to 28.96 – Bekim Bale has won four of his five starts at the Lightwood Road circuit and comes into the final following a blistering 29.69 second win at The Meadows last Saturday night.
Cape Hawke rounds out the field, with the Jamie Ennis trained former track record holder looking to claim his first Group race title. The son of Where’s Pedro showed his exceptional speed with a slick 29.33 win in a heat of the Adelaide Cup before finishing an unlucky third in the final. Six of Cape Hawke’s 10 career wins have been in best of night, including his 29.13 second track record run at Sandown Park.
The two credentialed greyhounds who were omitted in final calculations are New South Wales pair He Knows Uno and Prince Diablo who make up the reserves. The pair have shown exceptional pace throughout their careers, and will be more than competitive should either get a start despite not having previously raced at Sandown Park.
Initial track record breaker, Heston Bale becomes the greyhound that misses completely, but was always a longshot for inclusion being only a 5th grade greyhound at the track and with the other Andrea Dailly greyhound Bekim Bale as current record holder an automatic inclusion ahead of him.
The boxdraw for the Macro Meats Shootout will be conducted on course during the race meeting on Thursday 27 October, with the $40,000 winner-take-all final to be run on Thursday 3 November.
Shootout night is family night at Sandown Park, with a host of kids activities including ‘owner of the day’ – a first in greyhound racing – an animal farm, face painters, a stack of giveaways and Richmond big man Tyrone Vickery on course.
Entry to all meetings at Sandown Park is free. Gates open at 6pm and the first race is run at 7pm.