Stepping fairly from box six in the fifth of seven heats, the star chaser had to work hard to find the front in the early stages but was able to take up the top spot in the run into the home straight on the first occasion before putting the paw to the floor and sprinting clear.
With nearly a month since the son of Fabregas and Chevy Princess last raced, it was unsure as to how well the black dog would run out the testing 715m trip once he found the bunny, but, to his credit, No Donuts kicked on strongly to score by 2.87 lengths at the finish in a fast 41.78.
He will now head into next Thursday’s final as the early favourite, with the three time group winner set to take his career earnings above $455,000 if he is successful in Australia’s richest staying feature.
Also breaking the 42 second barrier in Thursday’s heats was the promising Zipping Kane which saluted in the second heat of the night for trainer Carolyn Jones. Starting from box two, the black dog was only fairly away and slotted into third behind the early leaders Revision (box one) and Ring The Bell (box six) before bursting through the middle entering the straight and charging to the front in the run through the catching pen.
Once Zipping Kane found the bunny it was a case of times and margins, with the Group 3 The Racecallers winner gripping on to score by 3.89 lengths in 41.83.
Wind Whistler, which won the Group 3 Lizrene over the track and trip at Sandown a fortnight ago, started as the punter’s pick in the first heat of the night. The Angela Langton-prepared greyhound was poorly away from box seven and was a clear last when running past the 515m boxes, but soon began weaving his way through the pack to move into a threatening position down the back just a few lengths off the lamplighter, Mepunga Rosie.
Swinging for home and the 33.2kg powerhouse was into second spot and closing fast, engulfing the leader in the run to the line to register a 42.05 win, his 19th career victory at start 97.
NSW star Cardiology and the freakish Burn One Down vied for favouritism in heat three, with both starting at $3.60 from boxes seven and eight respectively. When the lids flew open the two fancied picks were second last and last, with Gunmetal Rebel taking up the early lead off the inside.
Down the back and the winner looked to be Esparza for Jamie Ennis which loomed up and took the front position, however Brazen Bomber started to work home nicely too, hitting the front half way into the straight. However, just when you thought you knew the winner, the enigmatic Luna Jinx chimed in with a well timed run, bursting through along the centre of the track to hit the front and score by 0.36 of a length over Brazen Bomber and Esparza.
Starting at double figure odds, the blue bitch never looked a threat throughout the run, proving you can never discount the winner of the Group 1 Superstayers which clocked 42.26 over the trip. Cardiology and Burn One Down never got into the event, finishing well back in the field.
Not to be outdone by his partner Angela Langton, leading conditioner Jeff Britton qualified a runner into the Cup with Dublin Bull taking out heat four. In an extremely open affair, Dublin Bull was fair to begin off box seven and managed to carve across to find a spot behind the speed in the early stages. Heading into the back and the son of Barcia Bale and Chasin The Dream began to make his move, switching to the outside around the home turn and circling the leader, Paraphernalia, kicking clear to win by just over five lengths in 42.03.
Heat six rolled around in between the Sapphire Crown and Harrison-Dawson finals and it was Group 1 Galaxy winner Seeking Justice which was expected to win his way into the $140,000 to the winner decider. At the jump, the Jim Auld trained dog wasn’t overly fast into stride, with Bells Are Ringin booting up to take the lead. Despite being challenged throughout the run, the daughter of Kinloch Brae and Absolute Stunna, a litter sister to Blazin Bomber, was able to come out on top, registering her 15th career win in 42.31.
The final heat of the night looked to be at the mercy of Lioness Lulu, winner of the 2016 Group 1 Association Cup, however the red fawn bitch failed to fire from the cherry, finishing third. Out in front for the majority of the race was frontrunner Springvale Bryne, however the back markers began descending late in the event, with Jason Thompson’s Who Dey (box three) timing his run to perfection along the fence, shooting through to win in 42.34.
The seven heat winners plus the fastest second (Kilkee Flex) will return to Sandown Park next Thursday night for the Group 1 Sandown Cup final, the box draw for which is set to be conducted on Saturday night.