Last Friday saw eight heats of the $37,000 Mandurah Mail Birthday Cup being run around the 405m scamper. The night started off with a mixed 4th/5th grade before the first heat kicked off on the massive 13-race programme.
With favourite, Au Revoir, missing a place from box three, punters took a bit of a hit early as Marco Said So dominated the first heat from box four. Beginning well and giving nothing else a chance at odds of $13.90, it careered away for an easy six length win and gives Joe Dailly a chance at Group glory next week.
The winner didn't prove any easier to find in the second heat, when Rudge from the Ben Maclean camp stole the prize in a keenly contested affair. The winner wearing the blue rug had a grand tussle with Give and Take drawn next door in five for the majority of the event. Give and Take running wide on the home corner gave Rudge the chance to obtain the upper hand, of which he never let go, stopping the clock in 22.66. Moss Vale ran on well for third ahead of Gold Mandagery who was never far off the lead.
On to heat three, where former Victorian Easy Peasy absolutely hooned out of the boxes and made it a one act affair.
Already a Group winner, the dog has won over several distances and proved again that it can perform over the 405m in open grade. Linda Britton should have the dog in great condition for the final and will be hard to toss with a similar run. Kennelmate, Gable Drum, was second in the event but was always a long way off the pace.
Andrew Mclaren found himself with a finalist after Top Draw diva continued the leader's trend with a go-to-whoa display from box three. The black and white bitch burnt off all contenders early in the event, including race favourite Clay Pan, and never looked in danger. The daughter of Solve The Puzzle now takes her career record to nine wins from 17 starts, and also makes it win number seven over the track and distance.
Again the best box dog was successful in heat five, where Special Annie for Bill Skipper led them a merry dance. Flying out from box three, she was far too speedy for her rivals, winning by four lengths. Autoamerican for John Carmody overcame a poor start and put in a strong performance to grab second, and looks likely to win again sooner rather than later.
Linda Britton had a second finalist a short time later, with ex-Tasmanian Strapper's Angel proving too good in 22.55. Unlike the previous heats, there was no clear leader early, with four dogs vying for the lead heading towards the first turn. Box two proved to be the difference for Strapper's Angel as it used the rail to hold off Squashed Banana, Fossick and race favourite, Buddy Be Cool, who can count itself hard done by after it never got on the track for a luckless second.
On a rough night, eventually favourite punters had another winner when One Banana carried its NSW form into the Birthday Cup heats with a truly tough win. In what was probably the most even race for the night, One Banana used box two to its full advantage and held out a mad charge to the first turn with five dogs spread across the track. With no let up, One Banana then had to keep fighting to survive the challenge of Our Topper, who pushed John Iwanyk's runner for the entire trip. It brings up One Banana 17th career win and sixth since coming over to W.A.
Rounding out the heats was another double-figure odds winner in Tat Zephyr. Another box three victor as well, it gave Andrew Mclaren a two-pronged attack on the final's riches. The race changed complexion around the bend, and Tat Zephyr managed to keep an unblocked passage to set up the winning break. Notable runs came from the placegetters in Dodge Challenger and Zavance Man who both did great jobs weaving through the pack, and both look likely to win over a longer trip soon enough.
With all the heats completed, the box draw has been conducted. Easy Peasy looks hard to beat from box two, but would need to begin in a similar fashion. The rest of the field look very evenly matched and if the heats are anything to go by, the dog that can begin best and survive some pressure will get the trophy.
The final will be run this Friday night, the 11th of January, and is bound to be a highlight of the Mandurah racing calender.
2013 Mandurah Mail Birthday Cup Box Draw
Box 1 SPECIAL ANNIE Bill Skipper
Box 2 EASY PEASY Linda Britton
Box 3 STRAPPER'S ANGEL Linda Britton
Box 4 TOP DRAW DIVA Andrew McLaren
Box 5 MARKO SAID SO Joe Dailly
Box 6 ONE BANANA John Iwanyk
Box 7 TAT ZEPHYR Andrew McLaren
Box 8 RUDGE Ben Maclean
1st Res GIVE AND TAKE Linda Britton
2nd Res BUDDY BE COOL Terry Erenshaw