When scanning the form guides for an upcoming Thursday night, it is always a nice surprise when good dogs suddenly appear at tracks outside their norm. This week it was Angle Park who grabbed the attention, with four heats of the Group 3 Coffex Coffee S.A Oaks hosting several Victorian greyhounds, with most travelling to Adelaide for the first time.
It is not an unusual occurrence at this time of year, with many of the big name trainers using both the Oaks and Derby series as a warm-up to the Adelaide Cup which kicks off on October 3.
The 2013 version of the Oaks was certainly highlighted by the nomination of the reigning National Sprint Champion Xylia Allen, who would be taking a look at the Cardigan Street layout for the first time.
Lining up in the fourth and final heat, the Graeme Bate trained superstar appeared to be facing a far easier challenge than those she wiped the floor with in her recent outings during the Nationals.
But as a $1.30 favourite from box four, Xylia Allen was slow to begin, finding herself caught wide and at the tail of the field. On the contrary, Kokoda Spirit for Mark Morrissey screamed out of the boxes setting a first split of 4.41 to lead clearly.
By the time the field had reached the back straight, Kokoda Spirit had opened up a seven length break over Dyna Beth and Collin Bale who both looked hard pressed to put any pressure on the tearaway leader. Xylia Allen was working her way between runners, riding the bumps and checks in her typical hard-chasing fashion.
As Kokoda Spirit swung towards the finish, Xylia Allen had got clear into second place, but the margin between the pair was no less than it had been all race, and Kokoda Spirit completed the task and simply ran the others off their legs.
Stopping the clock at 29.68, it would be the fastest of the four heats and easily the most impressive. By Knocka Norris out of Flaming Doll, Mark Morrissey has now prepared Kokoda Spirit to 10 wins from 19 starts, with a chance to take out a Group race next week.
The series opened up with an anticipated three-way battle between local chaser Wiregrass and interstate raiders Iona Seven and Guru Doll. Drawn the inside three boxes, there was very little between the trio from an odds perspective, and all eyes were watching which runner could gain the upper hand in the early stages.
Guru Doll was in fact the first to draw blood, beginning sharply from the one box and setting up a couple of lengths lead over Wiregrass as they made the turn out of the straight. Iona Seven had crossed over to the rails and used the inside run to sneak up behind Guru Doll shortly after.
From there it was an entertaining battle between the three fancied runners, with Iona Seven taking the lead around the top turn and drawing clear. Wiregrass stuck on nicely to pip Guru Doll for second, giving young trainer Ben Rawlings a crack at his first Group race win.
Iona Seven is trained by Robert Britton, from the successful Swift Fancy x Iona Habit litter, whelped in April 2011. Owned by Michelle Sidrak, this smart chaser brings up her ninth win and qualifies for her fourth feature final.
Graeme Bate was back in the spotlight again when Purcell Bale took out the second heat. Backing up from her impressive Geelong Oaks victory last week, the daughter of Dyna Lachlan and Princess Bale was also new to Angle Park until this series, but she appeared to have no trouble with the circuit, or the finish-on lure for the matter, leading for most of the way from box seven.
Starting in the red at $1.80, Purcell Bale was has fast to begin, but not as fast as the Tasmanian-bred Fair Change who pinged out of box eight. Unable to cross, Fair Change was caught outside Purcell Bale on the first turn, and surrendered the lead and effectively the race was over from there.
With Purcell Bale highballing out in front, the rest were left scrapping for qualification, with Lethal Three for Mark Grima doing his best work late to overcome trouble and get into second spot. With Purcell Bale getting a little leg-weary in the concluding stages, Lethal Three was able to cut the margin back to two lengths, with 30.08 being the winning time.
With Victorians dominating in the other heats, it is nice to have a couple more local chasers making it through and defending their home track in next week's final courtesy of Wonder Whirl and Long Gully Court.
Wonder Whirl has been threatening to make a big race final for some time, and after finally coming up with the red box for heat three of the Oaks – the first time since her debut in October 2012 – she begun like a rocket and was able to lead comfortably.
Knowing the strength of the this Vapour Whirl x Groovy Sarah bitch is hard to match, Long Gully Court for Paula Hearnden did a fantastic job of pushing Wonder Whirl for the entire journey and deservedly qualified for the final as well. The race time was 30.10 for Wonder Whirl, who brings up win number 14 for long-time trainer Mick Giniotis.
The Group 2 Coffex Coffee S.A Oaks final will be run next Thursday night, with the box draw conducted on course last night.
2013 SA Oaks Final Boxdraw
1) Lethal Three – Mark Grima
2) Kokoda Spirit – Mark Morrissey
3) Wiregrass – Ben Rawlings
4) Wonder Whirl – Mick Giniotis
5) Xylia Allen – Graeme Bate
6) Iona Seve – Robert Britton
7) Purcell Bale – Graeme Bate
8) Long Gully Court – Paula Hearnden
9) Guru Doll – Mark Morrisey
10) Black Viel – Robert Britton
Three exhibition trials were also conducted between races in preparation for the Derby series, with Allen Makoto the fastest with a time of 29.82, then Tomac Bale going 29.87 and Premier Event for Angela Langton trialling in 30.30. The Group 3 Schweppes Derby heats are down to be run on September 12.