It certainly feels like a long time since a one-turn provincial cup has been run in Victoria, but after the six heats of the Shepparton Cup were held last Monday night, it highlights how entertaining these types of races can be.
While the topic of ‘seeding’ heats for Group events is something that can be discussed on another occasion, the Shepparton Cup looms as a final stacked with quality as all five heats were won by dogs on the first or second line of betting.
Kicking off proceedings was a small field of five, in which Spud Regis was making his highly-anticipated return. Wearing the black and white stripes, Spud Regis began well enough and led the field for the majority of the 450 metres, but Dark Warrior for Darren McDonald would eventually run over the top and spoil the party in 25.25.
Owned by the Fast-track Racing Syndicate, Dark Warrior began his career in the quainter surroundings of Tasmania and started with a bang winning his first seven outings. Having since developed his craft in becoming a genuine metropolitan-class sprinter, he will be hard to beat if he can replicate the form that saw him place fourth behind Blackalls Boss in the Group 1 Hobart Thousand in December last year.
Dark Warrior will appreciate the rails draw he has been granted, while Spud Regis will be listed as first reserve for the final, clocking 25.27 in his narrow defeat.
Onto heat two, and again it was the second-favorite who took the prize when Allen Dion for Andrea Dailly won in a time of 25.30. Despite leading all of the way, Allen Dion would eventuate as the slowest of the six heat winners, but the race was one of the more competitive affairs, with the Anthony Azzopardi trained Ferly Reign making things interesting in the home straight.
Allen Dion has drawn box three for Friday night’s main event, with Ferly Reign hoping for some scratchings to get a gig as second reserve.
Recent maturity winner Marcus Joe was to start $2.30 favourite from box seven in that race, but after copping three checks before the first turn, he would be last of the seven runners across the line.
From here on the results were pretty one-sided, and punters were on the mark more often than not.
Former New Zealand sprinter Clone Your Own turned in the most eye-catching run of the night, with a 25.18 win from box five. Stepping away from the boxes slowly, the Alison Lee-owned son of Droopy’s Marco came from mid-pack to find the lead along the home straight. Once on the bunny he stretched out very nicely, and put five lengths on his rivals soon after, beating Blaster, State Sensation and Sapporo convincingly.
He will start from box two on Friday night, and while he won’t be afforded the same luxuries at the beginning of the race, there will probably not be a stronger dog at the business end of proceedings.
Heat four was a one act affair from a betting perspective, but certainly not in reality as Ronan Izmir was pushed to an inch of his life by Farmor Las Vegas. Starting unbackable as a $1.20 favourite, Ronan Izmir was gunning for six straight wins, but almost blew the streak when the Robert Britton runner got within a neck on the line.
As it turned out, defeat would have still been enough to get a berth in the final with both chasers progressing. With the box draw released, it can be reported that Ronan Izmir will be looking to carve across from box eight while Farmor Las Vegas has drawn poorly in six.
Meanwhile, it wouldn’t be a Group race in Victoria without a Bate runner, and Desalle Bale honoured that code by flogging her competitors that were engaged in heat five. Showing no hesitations from box five, the old girl showed she still has what it takes, running 25.14 in her six-length win.
Desalle Bale has been one of the more prolific money-spinners for the Wheeler/Bate combination, having amassed over a quarter-million dollars in her 67 starts to date, with another chance to add to that on Friday, when she will wear the black rug and must always be considered a danger from there.
While Slater Hill was game in defeat as runner up, his series ended there, while Walk Hard and Crackerjack Lil were the high-profile pair amongst the beaten brigade.
Leaving the best until last is the dog that will enter the final as fastest qualifier. Paw Licking for Kel Greenough was expected to be too classy from box eight, and she proved punters right by flying around in 24.92. Such was the pace being created up front, Watta Good Size for Jason Thompson still qualified for the final, despite being beaten over five lengths by the black and white speedster up ahead.
Paw Licking has always been a top class one-turner for owner Allen Lang, and only recently converted to Metropolitan layouts after an emphatic Traralgon Cup victory earlier in the year.
So for the final we have a big-name trainer showdown, with McDonald, Britton, Greenough, Thompson, Dailly, and Bate all competing for the $43,750 heading to the victor.
Group 2 Shepparton Cup Final – Friday 13th September
1) Dark Warrior – Darren McDonald
2) Clone Your Own – Robert Britton
3) Allen Dion – Andrea Dailly
4) Paw Licking – Kel Greenough
5) Watta Good Size – Jason Thompson
6) Farmor Las Vegas – Robert Britton
7) Desalle Bale – Graeme Bate
8) Ronan Izmir – Jason Thompson
9) Spud Regis – Andrea Dailly
10) Ferly Reign – Anthony Azzopardi