Melinda Finn’s talented chaser Winsome Mission qualified fastest from six heats of the Group 1 National Derby at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
Exiting from box two in the final heat, Winsome Mission stepped well and headed into the back straight in second position, behind early leader Prescribe. The son of El Grand Senor and Ramblin’ Ruby dashed away in the home straight, scoring by four-and-a-quarter lengths in a sizzling time of 29.62. Outside runner Dyna Yemen ran a great race to snatch second, with Prescribe winding up in third position. Jumble finished fourth and also moves through to next week’s semi-finals.
In the first heat of the night Jason Mackay’s Zipping Saxon started a short-priced favourite at $2.70, with solid support also shown for Finn’s Winsome Prince and Bad Boy Sniper, trained by Jason Magri. Outsider Seven Jacks was best away from box two and led around the first turn, with Dyna Tiber and Winsome Prince the chasers.
Despite a brave effort from Dyna Tiber on the line, Seven Jacks held on by a head, recording a solid time of 30.03. Winsome Prince finished a length away in third and Bad Boy Sniper also gets a second chance next week after finishing fourth.
Talented Victorian chaser Fernando Bale was all the rage in heat two, starting at $2.60 from box six for in-form trainer Andrea Dailly. The race was all over in a matter of seconds, after Fernando Bale speared the lids, recording a sizzling first split of 5.30, before saluting by nine lengths in a flying time of 29.65. The son of Kelsos Fusileer and Chloe Allen recorded his fourth career win from start No.8 and is a genuine threat in next week’s semi-finals. Country Fox for Neil Staines battled on gamely to finish second, ahead of second favourite Sokyo. Dailly’s other runner Lektra Concord finished fourth, giving her two qualifiers from this heat.
Anthony Azzopardi’s Topper Road was returning from a three-week spell, after finishing seventh in the Gosford Gold Cup consolation earlier this month. Jason Mackay’s Zipping Eastwood started as the $2.30 favourite off the inside alley and after missing the start, Azzopardi’s speedy chaser crossed his rivals from box six, leading throughout in 30.04. John Callaughan’s hopes looked to have been dashed in the early stages, when his runner Nightwatchman was severely checked at box rise. After being forced to the back of the field, this notable finisher produced a sensational effort to finish second, four-and-a-half lengths behind the winner. Spring Missile for Christine Oldfield finished third and Dailly secured another qualifier with Lektra Outlaw crossing the line in fourth place.
Heat four was a wide-open affair, with several greyhounds well supported. Tasmanian sprinter Dark Vito ($3.90) started favourite from strong finisher Anything Less ($4.70). Dark Vito began cleanly from the inside alley, with Mackay’s Zipping Carter taking advantage of a glorious rails run to position himself behind the early leader. Zipping Carter, a son of Mandagery Man and Pink Bandanna, took the lead halfway around the home turn, streaking away up the straight to score by two-and-a-half lengths, stopping the clock in a flying time of 29.78. Whittaker showed great strength to finish second for trainer Julie Fletcher and early leader Dark Vito finished third. Steve White’s Rare Pearl overcame some early interference to run fourth, booking himself a spot in next week’s semi-finals.
Gosford Gold Cup finalist Are Jip started at skinny odds of $2.10 in heat five, ideally in drawn in box eight for trainer Kristy Sultana. After a poor getaway, Are Jip left the door open for notable beginner Crackerjack Burn, which led around the first turn. Zipping Oscar was hot in pursuit, taking the lead halfway down the back straight, accelerating away by four-and-a-quarter lengths in a fast time of 29.90. The win gave trainer Mackay a running double and another qualifier in next week’s Derby semi-finals. Optus Forte ran a gallant race to finish second, and advances to the semis along with early leader Crackerjack Burn and Maitland 400m track record holder Winsome Jacko.
The box draw for next week’s three semi-finals will be released on Tuesday afternoon. Semi-final winners, second place getters and the two fastest third qualifiers, will move through to the $75,000 Group 1 National Derby final on February 7.