While the series contained some absolute superstars of the sport, there were plenty of upsets, with just two favourites claiming their heats and a spot in next Saturday’s feature.
The first of the eight heats saw Recruitment start as the favourite from box one on the back of a slashing 29.84 run the week prior, but it faced a tough task against the likes of Allen Deed (box four), Cosmic Wise (box five) and interstate raider Winsome Prince (box six).
The Deborah Coleman-trained greyhound began well from the inside and managed to push up on the fence in the run to the first turn, assuming the lead Peloton Bale (box two) and Winsome Prince. The top three stayed in that order for the remainder of that event, with Recruitment drawing clear to win by one-and-a-half lengths in a time of 29.90. Recruitment, a son of Cosmic Rumble and Josette Bale, has now won nine races from 24 starts.
The second heat promised an exciting speed duel between National Derby winner Fernando Bale (box two) and recent Shepparton Cup victor Azza Azza Azza (box three), with the former starting as the punter’s elect. However, it was the versatile Lamia Bale (box four) which bounded to the lead and, despite Fernando Bale’s best efforts, he could not reel her in, finishing just under three lengths behind the winner, which clocked 29.78. Xtreme Knocka (box one) rattled home to grab third with Azza Azza Azza finishing fourth. Lamia Bale, which is trained by Steve Collins, is in top form at present having run a gallant second in last Saturday’s Group 1 Rookie Rebel at The Meadows.
Wheeler-owned greyhounds dominated the result in the third heat, with the leviathan breeder owning the first four runners past the post, including the favourite, boom youngster Dyna Double One, which started odds on from box seven. After missing the kick, Dyna Double One was never really a winning proposition, as WA speedster Quartz Bale (box five) began beautifully and slipped clear to score in a best of night time of 29.60. The Paul Stuart-trained greyhound, which is not known for his early speed, has now won 11 races from 18 starts and looks to be a massive threat in the final if he can repeat his box manners from the weekend.
Punters believed that Paul Wheeler could get his third finalist in the fourth heat, sending Dyna Villa to the boxes as their top pick from the cherry. The two time Group 1 winner which generally explodes from the boxes missed it slightly from the inside, allowing the John Galea- prepared Sisco Rage (box three) to claim the early lead in the run to the first turn. Once in front, Sisco Rage, a Rookie Rebel finalist, looked nearly impossible to run down and proved to be precisely that, extending his margin to over four-and-a-half lengths when crossing the line in a fast 29.87. Dyna Villa battled on well for second with Astronomize (box eight) finishing third for Paul Stuart.
The track had well and truly received a lashing of rain by the time the fifth heat rolled around which the clock started to indicate. The race was a wide open affair on paper with last week’s Temlee placegetter Marcus Joe (box one) the one to beat from an ideal inside draw. Early on in the race, Warragul Cup victor Ronray Spirit (box five) took the lead and shot clear to set up a massive break on Hostile (box seven) and Marcus Joe down the back, however he started to get the wobbles turning for home. This allowed Hostile, a winner over the middle distance, to thunder to the lead and into the Australian Cup final ahead of a brave Marcus Joe, with Ronray Spirit tiring to fill the trifecta.
The series star made his appearance in heat six with My Bro Fabio (box seven) coming into his heat as a winner of two Group 1s at his last two starts. However, the Brooke Ennis- trained powerhouse couldn’t make up enough ground in the boggy conditions after his typical average beginning, failing three-and-one-quarter lengths short of the winner, Samus Allen (box two), on the line. Samus Allen, a daughter of Bekim Bale and Blachura Bale, clocked a sizzling 29.84 to secure her spot in the decider and has now won 15 of her 37 starts.
Heat seven was a one act affair with the favourite Luca Neveelk (box three) leading from go to whoa in a respectable 29.98. The lid pinger started getting tired turning for home as he usually does, but had enough in the tank to hold off Ollie Bale (box four) by one-and-a-half lengths on the line. It was a tremendous effort from Luca Neveelk, who is not known for his strength, to battle through the heavy conditions and score and there is no doubt that he will derive great benefit from that run.
The eighth and final heat saw the biggest upset of the night with short-priced favourite Awesome Project (box eight) only able to manage second behind classy youngster Emrys (box six) for Mario Briganti. The black dog managed to find the front early and fought on gamely to record a 30.06 win on a track that was at least a few tenths slow by the end of the night.
The final of the Group 1 Australian Cup will be run next Saturday night at The Meadows and will offer a $250,000 winner’s cheque.
Group 1 Australian Cup box draw
Box 1 – Sisco Rage – John Galea
Box 2 – Hostile – Darren Beasley
Box 3 – Quartz Bale – Paul Stuart
Box 4 – Luca Neveelk – Gerry Kleeven
Box 5 – Emrys – Mario Briganti
Box 6 – Recruitment – Deborah Coleman
Box 7 – Samus Allen – Jenny Hunt
Box 8 – Lamia Bale – Steve Collins
1st Reserve – Kerrigan Bale – Andrea Dailly
2nd Reserve – Fernando Bale – Andrea Dailly