There has been a noticeable absence of debate surrounding this years’ trio of ‘Invitation Only’ events at The Meadows. Usually when races such as the Temlee, Rookie Rebel and Zoom Top are assembled, opinions run wild of who should’ve been included or excluded, who’s been favoured and who has an axe to grind. But strangely this time around, everyone seems to be unusually quiet.
Well, here at Australian Racing Greyhound, we pride ourselves on not backing down to the tough questions. With the box draws now released, what better time to run the comb over the field and deliver our verdict on the ‘expert’ panels selections:
THE TEMLEE – 525 metres – Group 1 $100,000 to the winner
Most of this field picked themselves. Dyna Nalin confirmed he is still in good touch to make it four Group One wins after converting an unlucky Perth Cup campaign into a good win last night. Paw Licking can genuinely be called the fastest breaker in the land, and by time this is published, could have claimed the Healesville Cup to prove it.
Innocent Til has been in great form of late and deserves his spot, as to does Banjo Boy and Tomac Bale who are regularly competitive at the highest level of racing.
If there was a lucky one, it’s Zelemar Fever. Granted that since going to Perth he has grown another leg, but his previous form in Victoria was not enough to warrant a walk-up start against these. His past seven starts at The Meadows have been unplaced, with the only wins on the track coming in Maiden and Grade 5 company.
While Zelemar Fever is a talented dog, his inclusion ahead of the NSW nominations is where most of the debate lies.
Punch One Out is listed as a reserve, which will make a lot of blood boil on the northern side of the Murray, although his performances in Victoria haven’t set the world on fire either. Belfast Johnny would have had a lot of supporters, and can count itself as stiff to miss out, as too can Ritza Hattie.
From a local perspective, Farmor Las Vegas hasn’t done much wrong in recent time and would have given the race a real shake from a rails draw.
There are also cases to argue for Ronan Izmir, Shifty Sticka and Spud Regis, with Marcus Joe being placed ahead of all of them in the pecking order as second reserve.
THE ROOKIE REBEL – 600 Metres – Group 1 $75,000 to the winner
1) Spirited Flame
2) Cakes And Pies
3) Xylia Allen
4) Alpe D’Huez
5) Daintree Emperor
7) General Destini
8) Hawk Alone
9) Lektra Grey
10) Shadow Lane
This is an interesting field. We know that Cakes And Pies is out which brings Lektra Grey into the equation. It’s inclusion in the original ten is arguable, as his recent form is horrendous. He’s been picked as a track specialist, but you’d feel unlucky as an owner to miss out for a dog that has been placed four of its last thirteen starts.
Bookkeeper was an obvious choice, along with Xylia Allen who has been rushed into this field after proving herself once again as a freak over the middle trip. She’s an amazing animal and will start as the obvious favourite.
Unlike Xylia Allen, Hawk Alone has been given a start without proving himself at the trip. He’s had only a handful of starts over the 600 in his life, with his last win over a similar trip coming in August and his only win at The Meadows middle journey coming in a Grade 5 race in May last year. No-one can doubt Hawk Alone’s sprinting ability, but one can certainty ask whether he’s done enough to be selected in this.
The second reserve, Shadow Lane, is clearly the unlucky one, and should have been in the first four selected in this writers’ opinion. Multiple wins at the track/distance, good recent form and a solid overall record wasn’t enough to catch the panel’s eye on this occasion.
From the rest, it is presumed that Phenomenal either declined the invite or is injured as he should have been an instant selection otherwise. Perhaps Dashing Man or Hala Belle have cases to argue, but really the depth in the Rookie Rebel nominations aren’t as good as previous years.
THE ZOOM TOP – 725 metres – $75,000 to the winner
The list of nominations for this race was reduced significantly as time went on. Smart Valentino tragically succumbed to a spider bite, Bell Haven went to the breeding barn and Alpe D’Huez went the way of the Rookie Rebel. As a result, Dyna Kayla and Gold Affair Two were zipped into the list of options and somehow both managed to get into the final ten.
Dyna Kayla has been launched into the deep end, with two emphatic Grade 5 wins enough to convince those in power, while Gold Affair Two’s selection came as a surprise, even as second reserve, considering he hasn’t won a city class race since September
The rest of the starting line-up looks about right, with the exception of Benarkin. It is understandable that the panel wanted to give the race some interstate flavour, but it was a generous selection. Without taking too much away from the dog, he doesn’t exactly dominate the staying scene back home, and actually has more unplaced runs than wins over the 710 metres at Albion Park. He would’ve actually been more at home in the Rookie Rebel.
The glaring omission to cater for Benarkin’s inclusion is Mimicking. Despite his last month being less than spectacular, no-one can argue that he is a genuine stayer and proven at the top level. The veteran stayer should have been a reserve at an absolute minimum.
While the fields are locked in and will be set free come Saturday night, we encourage all readers to have their own say, so feel free to leave feedback and get the debate underway.