It’s a race that demands quality, the world’s richest staying race, The Group One Sandown Cup.
Four heats of the time honoured event are set to be conducted over the gruelling 715 metre journey at Sandown Park this Thursday night, and a whopping $174,000 awaits the winning connections of next week’s final.
The race was first held in 1963 and is probably best remembered for being the race that was won four times by the great Bold Trease (1986-89).
One of the more controversial occurrences in Sandown Cup history happened in 2007 when Don Hazzard, trainer of Sky Hazzard, accidentally released the manual starting mechanism after boxing his dog, forcing stewards to declare the event a “no race”.
This year’s heats have attracted some of the best stayers on the land, as well as a New Zealand invader.
Here is a look at the main chances in each heat;
Race 3 – Sandown Cup Heat One – 7:44pm
The opening heat looks to be a very tough race to find a standout in. If anything, it possibly lacks the genuine star that some of the other heats possess.
Born Ali (8) won the Group 1 Galaxy in Perth earlier this year. The daughter of Vellocette and Born Princess (Whiskey Assassin – Born Lucky) is in the care of astute Lara mentor Rob Britton and while her recent form has been a little below her best, she did win a heat of the Cup at Wentworth Park four starts back, before finishing second to Dyna Willow’s track record run in the final. She has won one of her two starts here at Sandown and has a best of 41.97. If she lands on the speed, she is right in this.
Hala Belle (7) is always thereabouts and has already made three Group One finals in 2014. The Peter Akathiotis trained black bitch has won three of six at Sandown including a 41.82 effort in April.
Zipping Joe (4) graduates from middle distance racing for this heat and is highly likely to be trained up to the minute by Darren McDonald. He has been finishing his 600 metre races off strongly and it would be no surprise to see him a bit closer to the front early in this race.
Allen Deed (3) has been running on well in his middle distance races and takes the step up to the staying trip here. He is another who could find himself handier than recent runs and may get the opportunity to make his own luck.
Race 4 – Sandown Cup Heat Two – 8:08pm
The second heat features dual Group One winner Cheetah Zorro (5), who comes into the race just second up from a lengthy spell. That looks to be the main question mark over this daughter of Bombastic Shiraz and Fallen Zorro (Lilli Pilli Lad – Chinatown Babe) who loves to race on the speed and out-stay her rivals. She has win three from six at Sandown Park with a best of 42.26. If she is anywhere near her best, this heat is hers for the taking.
Know Class (6) heads into this after having three starts in Australia since coming from New Zealand. At his first go over the 715 metre trip at Sandown last week, he won by the barest of margins in a fair time of 42.20. He prefers to race on the speed but has the ability to come from behind as well. It will be interesting to see if he can measure up at this level.
Sisco Rage (4) has gone fast at Sandown in the past with a best of 41.96. He has won two from six here and his best recent run was a second to Hala Belle in late April. He will need to improve on recent runs but is capable.
Hailstorm Billy (7) recently made the final of the Group One Association Cup at Wentworth Park at his first foray into staying events. He was given a freshen up after that run and has had two runs over shorter trips coming into this including a last start placing over 525 metres at The Meadows. He looks to have been set for a genuine tilt at this race.
Race 5 – Sandown Cup Heat Three – 8:28pm
Sweet It Is (8) headlines a super third heat. The daughter of Mogambo and Off Springer (Flying Penske – Skullring) unleashed an amazing run to take out the Group One Association Cup final on Easter Saturday. She is likely to be a long way back but has shown that she has an amazing turn off foot and can not be discounted at any stage of the race.
Rocky Bale (1) is drawn to be right in this and boasts a recent win here over Sweet It Is. The son of Surf Lorian and Amity Bale (Sonic Flight – Evonne Bale) boasts the fastest time at the track in this heat of 41.73. He was also a runner-up in the Group One Association Cup final. He is another run-on style dog who should get a few favours from the inside draw and be ready to challenge as they turn for home.
Infinite Wish (4) is yet another who made the final of the Group One Association Cup over Easter and who has also been placed at Group level over the staying trips. She is likely to need luck to challenge the top two but does have her share of ability.
Maddison Dee (2) has made multiple Group finals for Heathcote mentor Michael Chilcott and comes into the race fresh after only racing once in the last fortnight. She could be handy early.
See Him First (6) makes his Group staying debut for Michelle Mallia-Magri and could be the smokey. He has been a lot closer to the speed since graduating to longer racing and recently won at The Meadows in 42.99.
Race 7 – Sandown Cup Heat Four – 9:22pm
Super star bitch Xylia Allen takes centre stage in the fourth-and-final heat. She breaks track records seemingly for fun, with a list of accomplishments to rival the very best. The daughter of Turanza Bale and Tayah Bale (Droopys Vieri – Francesca Bale) has set four track records in her last six starts. If there is a query, it is the fact that her record at Wentworth Park appeared to leave her a little flat, but she has since bounced back to her flying best. She is a standout in this heat.
Mepunga Tiara (6) led for a long way last Thursday before being collared right on the line by Know Class in 42.20. She is likely to find it a lot harder to lead this but can be thereabouts.
Break O’ Day (1) has an impeccable box one record with six wins from seven starts out of the inside alley. He has won three from eight at this journey and has stopped the clock at 42.05 in the past. He would have to be considered a chance should the favourite fail to fire.