Tomorrow nights Group 3 Stayers Challenge at Cannington over the testing 715 metres, will more than decide the pre post favourite for Australia’s richest staying race; it will decide who can rightfully be called Australia’s best stayer currently racing.
With the Group 1 2008 Association Cup winner, Miagi (Hallucinate ~ Deloris) again on the side lines due to injury and unlikely to travel west for the $75,000 to the winner Group 1 Galaxy heats to be run next week; the only other Group 1 winner this year over the staying distance, Just Friends (Token Prince ~ Outrageous Angel) has arrived in Western Australia and will line up in the Group 3 Stayers Challenge.
Just Friends, trained by Kelvyn Greenough and owned by Peter Acers, brilliantly won the Group 1 Gleeson and Tonta Stayers Trophy Final back on March 1st, coming from last and overcoming several checks in running to over-power Gunnadoo Magic (Token Prince ~ Go Shoopa). Just Friends also managed a win over the Miagi in the heats of that same race to further add credence to her claim as Australia’s best stayer.
At her last start, the blue bitch won the City of Casey Victoria Cup at Cranbourne beating several top level stayers including fellow Group winning stayer, Sky Hazzard (Bombastic Shiraz ~ Blue Sky Hazzard). That win took her total prizemoney to $112,360 and her race record now reads 35 starts for 9 wins and 14 placings. Ominously though, since a Cranbourne start in a lowly 5th grade heat back on 18th December 2007, she has started 13 times, won 6 of those, run 2nd on 4 occassions and 3rd twice. Many of those starts have been in Group company and the fact she barely missed a place speaks volumes for her abilitiy.
On the other side of the equation is Elektra (Primo Uno ~ Natural Class). The enigmatic black bitch is WA’s best hope of taking out the Group 1 Galaxy and at 4 years of age, she is showing no signs of her career ending any time soon. At her most recent run in a $7500 to the winner Stayers Prelude at Cannington last week, she was the unluckiest of good things beaten when going down to Oyster Attack (Strike Attack ~ Taylah Ruth) by just 1 3/4 lengths. Prior to that she won a Free For All event at Cannington and ran just 1/10th off her career best time at the track.
Formerly owned by her breeder Phil Lenehan, and now owned and trained by WA’s Keith Harding, the black bitch has now amassed $137,365 in prizemoney and has the good record of 78 starts for 22 wins, 20 2nd’s and 10 3rd’s. Her biggest win to date is the Group 2 2006 Sale Cup, for which she won the 2006 AGRA Run Of The Year award. However, since being transferred to Western Australia, she has relished the weaker opposition and has had 17 starts over the 715m journey at Cannington. Of those starts she has finished either first or second in all but one run and has truly moulded herself in to a Cannington track specialist.
Undoubtedly Elektra (pictured) has the class and the speed to compete with the best stayers in Australia, but her racing style has often let her down at crucial times on Eastern states tracks in elite company. But this year Australia’s richest stayer’s event is being held on home turf and in her own backyard she will be a serious contender to take out the prize.
This weekend in the Group 3 Stayers Challenge we get a little taste of the exceptional staying racing we can expect over the coming weeks, when Just Friends and Elektra clash for the first time. Starting from box 6, Just Friends will get every chance to set a quick tempo up front to give herself the best opportunity to stave off the hard finish of Elektra. On the other hand Elektra is certain to be last as they pass the winning post the first time and will be chasing down much a much speedier dog this week than at her past few starts.
It will certainly be an exciting race to watch and for the two gallant stayers and their connections, the weight of expectation will be heavy. The two dogs will be racing for more than the $22,500 first prizemoney and the right to be the pre-post favourite for the $75,000 to the winner Group 1 Galaxy; they’ll be racing for the right to be called Australia’s best stayer.