It was the night that greyhound racing enthusiasts nationwide had been waiting for and despite dreary weather conditions Sandown shined with some dazzling performances that kept track-goers smiling and ensured that unlike their clothes, their spirits were not dampened.
It all started with the heats of the Sandown Cup which saw the return of Australia’s staying sweetheart Miata.
The red fawn dynamo was returning to the track for the first time since March and bounced back to her best qualifying for the final in 42.39 seconds over the fast finishing Steve Allen. Whilst this was not the fastest heat time, it took a lot of heart and courage for Australia’s highest stakes earner to return to the winners list first up after an extended break and against some of the country’s best stayers. Miata will be better for the run and will start next Thursday in the final which is expected to be her racing swansong.
Prior to Miata strutting her stuff on the track, staying marvel Destini Fireball stamped himself as one of the greats with a strong 42.21 seconds success over outsider Reckless Charm. The white and black son of Where’s Pedro and Grey’s Destiny is a multiple group one winner and is right in contention for yet another trophy to sit upon trainer Emilio Rinaldi’s mantelpiece when he lines up in the feature on Thursday night.
Heat three was won by the ultra-consistent Irma Bale, yet another headliner for Lara’s Graeme Bate. The pint sized performer tips the scales at just over 25 kilograms but has the heart of a lion, leading all the way from box eight in a blistering 41.92 seconds in front of 50-1 chance Maddison Dee.
The fourth and final heat was taken out late in the night by Proven Impala for Joe Borg. The Velocette bitch is a winner of 25 races and over $230,000 in stakes money and certainly showed her class dominating the race to win over Tasmanian star Bell Haven in a sizzling 42.06 seconds.
Moving onto the group finals where Robert Britton took out the group-two Harrison Dawson with former New Zealand chaser Clone Your Own. Beginning only moderately from the cherry, the 33 kilogram dog weaved his way throughout the field to sit third on the first turn before pushing up on the outside of Warrnambool Classic winner Premier Event to take up the lead. The son of Droopy’s Marco was too strong on the line for Graeme Bate’s Irmy Bale who ran a gallant race to claim second with the winner taking out the event in a scintillating 29.48 seconds.
Grand old chaser Glen Gallon did not lose any supporters finishing third after another usual gutsy performance. Last night’s triumph was the first group win for Clone Your Own with his record now standing at 16 starts for nine wins and five placings whilst it appears the sky is now the limit for the two and a half year old sprinter. Another interesting note from this race is that all runners finished in race book order- a very rare feat especially in a group race final!
Bate’s luck was reversed in the second feature event on the night with the phenomenal Xylia Allen flashing home to claim the $100,000 Sapphire Crown. After a poor beginning you would have been forgiven for focusing your attention on race leader El Brooklyn who exploded from the boxes, with NSW speedster Punch One Out quickly finding a spot behind her and looking an ominous threat. In the meantime Xylia Allen was pushed wide on the first turn in a scrimmage which saw kennelmate Desalle Bale take a heavy tumble. In a run similar to her heat win last week the stunning black daughter of Turanza Bale knuckled down to the challenge and just when Mackay’s chaser looked the winner, Xylia Allen loomed up and zoomed past to claim the event by a length on the line in 29.51 seconds. The 30 kilogram pocket rocket is freakish in her ability to take a thrashing and still win and has now done so on twelve occasions whilst she also has nine placings to her name after just 28 starts.
With the sprinting highlights done and dusted the spotlight will shine on Sandown once again next Thursday for the stayers with a highly talented field assembling for The Sandown Cup at what will be a night of greyhound racing history when we say goodbye to the magnificent Miata.