The National Championships made its way to Victoria over the weekend, with six heats of the Victorian sprint and three heats of the Victorian distance providing spectators with arguably the strongest fields of the entire series.
Graeme Bate’s powerful Lara kennel was out in force for the night, taking out three of the sprint heats and one of the distance.
Bate’s first winner saluted in heat one of the Vic Distance Championship as Irma Bale proved too strong in 42.87 seconds. The daughter of Batrim Bale and Amelia Bale flew straight to the front of the field at box rise and from that point never looked in danger as she stretched out to score by four and three quarter lengths on the line. It was an amazing feat for Irma Bale who will turn four years of age in October but is still racing in superb style. The National’s series is set to be the swansong for the multiple group winning bitch, who has remarkably put together 37 wins on the track from 89 starts with a further 31 placings.
The rank outsider of the field, Mimicking ($19.30), showed plenty of gusto when qualifying in second position for the state decider with the Brooke Ennis prepared Major League rounding up the placings.
The second heat of the distance went to another all the way winner, Gold Affair Two, from box eight. Trained by Martin Hanke, the black bitch by Texas Gold was able to clinch a narrow victory over the fast finishing Dashing Red in 42.88 seconds. Paying a generous $8.10, Gold Affair Two had won 14 of her 70 starts prior to last night and had solid form going into the event, claiming her last start over the 715 metres at Sandown where she defeated Major League in 42.20 seconds.
The third and final distance heat went to the consistent Maddison Dee, who used box one to perfection, powering to the line to score by just under two and one quarter lengths in 42.82 seconds over Set Sail South, who ran an honest race for Angela Langton.
The first of Bate’s trio to score in the sprint heats was Dyna Oats in heat three from box three. After a poor beginning the red fawn flash showed tremendous field sense to weave his way amongst his competitors before diving through along the rails to notch up his ninth career win by one quarter of a length in a handy 30.14 seconds. The son of Ashom Bale defeated race favourite and kennelmate, Schroder Bale, who had a tough run from box six.
Xylia Allen bounced back to her brilliant best in heat four, mustering plenty of pace from an ideal rails draw to race past another Bate runner, Tick Bale, in a slick 29.91 seconds. The dual group one winner had no luck at her last start when finishing sixth behind Hoover Jack in a semi-final of the group one Hudson Pacific Maturity Classic but was well supported by punters who sent her out at $2.40. In claiming the race, Xylia Allen notched up her 16th career win and she now looms as one of the biggest threats heading into this week’s qualifier.
Irmy Bale ($4.70) caused a bit of an upset in the fifth heat defeating odds on competitor Paw Licking ($1.90) but in turn gave Bate his third sprint heat victor of the night. The son of Go Wild Teddy boasted the ultra-impressive record of 23 wins and 25 minors from 67 starts going into the event but was resuming after an unsuccessful racing campaign at Tweed Heads in June. The field was led by the raging favourite, Paw Licking, however Irmy Bale fought back after an average beginning to steal the honours in a fast 29.83 seconds.
Whilst Bate took out three of the six sprint heats with Wheeler owned greyhounds, the industry’s leading breeder also managed to qualify the fastest heat winner, Tomac Bale, trained by Mark Delbridge. Bouncing straight to the front from box two in the first heat Tomac Bale was never threatened by another runner, and affirmed himself as one of Victoria’s most promising youngsters, when scoring emphatically by just over eight lengths in a scintillating 29.67 seconds. The group two Launching Pad winner has now won 10 races from just 16 starts and will give his opposition a run for their money in next week’s final.
The other two sprint heats went to Robert Britton’s Clone Your Own and Emilio Rinaldi’s General Destini, who scored classy wins in 30.07 seconds and 30.02 seconds respectively.
The finals of the Victorian AGRA Sprint and Distance Championships will be held next Saturday night before the Group One, $75,000 to the winner National finals on Saturday 24th August.
The box draws for next week’s qualifiers are as follows:
Victorian AGRA National Sprint Championship
Box 1 – Xylia Allen
Box 2 – Imry Bale
Box 3 – Clone Your Own
Box 4 – Tick Bale
Box 5 – Tomac Bale
Box 6 – Dyna Oats
Box 7 – General Destini
Box 8 – Paw Licking
1st Reserve – Kevin Bale
2nd Reserve – Schroder Bale
Victorian AGRA National Distance Championship:
Box 1 – Mimicking
Box 2 – Irma Bale
Box 3 – Leprechaun Macey
Box 4 – Set Sail South
Box 5 – Gold Affair Two
Box 6 – Dashing Red
Box 7 – Destini Fireball
Box 8 – Maddison Dee
1st Reserve – Major League
2nd Reserve – New Tibur