Australia’s finest chasers descend upon Sandown Park this Friday night (Australian time) for the right for a place in the final of the world’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup – writes Mick Floyd.
Eight heats will be run over Sandown’s famous 515m journey with the winners progressing to the A$630,000 group 1 final on Friday 27th of November.
The Melbourne Cup is a race that is not defined by prize money. First run in 1956, the Melbourne Cup has evolved to become the pinnacle event on the Australian greyhound racing calendar, boasting an honour roll that includes 10 Victorian Greyhounds of the Year, six Victorian Hall of Famers, five Australian Greyhounds of the Year and three Australian Hall Of Famers. To win a Melbourne Cup is the pinnacle achievement for owners, trainers and breeders and all but assures the winning greyhound a career at stud after his racing days are over. Greyhounds must earn their place in the heats by winning selected feature races throughout 2020, or by contesting the Melbourne Cup Prelude series.
And it’s not just the sprinters who will be on show on Friday night – the country’s best stayers will also strut their stuff in search of group 1 glory with three heats of the $150,000 group 1 Bold Trease over 715m also to be run.
Highlighting the quality of greyhounds on the card, the runners across the 11 group 1 heats have combined to win over 1000 races and almost A$9.5m in prize money.
That’s some line up!
Such quality racing makes for a challenging – but enjoyable – card for punters. Here’s my run down of the meeting.
Race 1 – Bold Trease heat 1 (715m)
It’s been 957 days and 44 starts since Tornado Tears (1) drew the red box over 700m+ and I expect the six-time group 1 winner to take full advantage. The defending Bold Trease Champion turns five in February 2021 but has never lost his zest for racing. He’s won his last three starts including his the group 1 Topgun Stayers at his most recent outing, a win that made him the seventh greyhound in Australia to pass $1m in earnings. He does his best racing at Sandown Park, a venue at which he boasts 10 wins from 15 starts over the distance including three wins at group 1 level. His biggest dangers are South Australian Sir Truculent (2) and the enigmatic Good Juan (6), while Sweet As Emm (3) represents a blowout chance.
Race 2 – Bold Trease heat 2 (715m)
The best of the three Bold Trease heats will see one of the country’s most popular greyhounds Houdini Boy (5) start as favourite. He returned from a seven week layoff with the sixth fastest time every recorded over 595m on Sunday, and despite his lack of early speed, his blistering mid-race pace and terrific field sense should have favourite punters rejoicing. Cawborne Footrot (6) gives every indication of being star stayer and rounded out preparations with an impressive win over 595m last time out, while track record holder Here’s Tears (7), a younger brother to Tornado Tears, should never be dismissed. He Shall Power (8) is a Sandown Park specialist who showed he’s not far away from his best last time out and looks a good each way chance.
Race 3 – Melbourne Cup heat 1 (515m)
Shima Shine (3) was one of the big winners from the box draw and has not only been well supported to win his heat, he’s been well backed to win the whole series. The second fastest greyhound ever at Sandown Park, Shima Shine was a reserve for the race last year and only a mistake or bad luck looks likely to keep him from the final in 2020. Playlist (8) is a group 1 winner over the sprint distance and his recent racing over 595m will see him finding the line hard.
Race 4 – Melbourne Cup heat 2 (515m)
There’s no such thing as an easy Melbourne Cup heat, but this heat does lack the star power of some of the others. Aston Silk (2) opened a silly price on local markets and has received steady and continuous support since. She qualified for the race with an impressive Prelude win and looks as though she has the early pace to lead this field. Last Hurrah (4) won seven on the spin before tasting defeat last week, and the group 1 winner over 600m will be hitting the line hard, while Jim Zarr Dashian (7) boasts an outstanding PB at the track though does look awkwardly drawn.
Race 5 – Melbourne Cup heat 3 (515m)
The most open and arguably best heat of the night with six of the eight runners capable of carving out slick sectional times. Million Dollar Chase winner Handsome Prince (2) was brilliant in his exhibition trial last Thursday running just 0.01 seconds outside the unofficial middle section record, however Aussie Secret (1) looks well drawn to hold him out at the first turn. He’s not the strongest in the race but can run blistering splits his rivals are unable to run down. Weblec Ace (5), Jax Bale (6), People Get Ready (7) and Mr Fix It (8) all won Preludes last week, but Rolling Stone (3) looks a good value each way chance at big odds.
Race 6 – Melbourne Cup heat 4 (515m)
Tiggerlong Tonk (4) was flawless in his group 3 Shootout victory last time out, a race he won in race record time. However there is some concern about whether he’ll get the same clear run in an eight dog field (the Shootout is a four-dog event), so we’re going with Immunity (7) to win at the better price. With just 11 career starts to her name she’s one of the least experienced greyhounds in the field but showed her quality with a brilliant win in 29.13 the last time she stepped from this box. Bobby The Brute (3) is racing in great confidence and will be finishing hard.
Race 7 – Melbourne Cup heat 5 (515m)
Five group 1 wins, a 29.11 best time, group 1 winner this track and distance, never finished worse than fourth in 11 starts at Sandown, placed in his last three starts all at group level – it’s hard to find a fault in Simon Told Helen’s (4) form. He was favourite for the race when markets opening in January and retained that position for 293 days before a late push for Shima Shine unseated him as the punter’s elect. Armed with an unrivalled turn of foot and willingness to chase through a brick wall, the 36kg powerhouse will create his own luck when jumps from box 4 and with a clear run will be carving out some scary sectional times. If there’s a danger, it’s likely from (5) Special Talent whose form has steadily improved across three consecutive Preludes. Zipping Bram (8) is the X-factor in the race – he’ll be a clear last with a lap to go but with a clear run and a bit of luck, is capable of breaking the track record.
Race 8 – Melbourne Cup heat 6 (515m)
Catch The Thief (6) and Tommy Shelby (3) renew their rivalry in the sixth heat of the Cup. The pair have met twice before on Tommy Shelby’s home track at Cannington with Catch The Thief emerging victorious on both occasions. Both are much better than the form they have shown recently, but be wary about taking a short price about either. With an ounce of room early, watch out for Zipping Zeek (1) powering through on the rail.
Race 9 – Melbourne Cup heat 7 (515m)
Hard Style Rico (8) is a fast dog desperate for a wide draw, however the dog in box 7 (Taken) wants the wider box more! Both could well be out of contention at the first turn which opens up the race for Xerri (6), with the value runner being Stardom (4).
Race 10 – Melbourne Cup heat 8 (515m)
Dr Tucker (8) is a star on the rise and has already been compared to Simon Told Helen. However box 8 is a tough box to win from in a field of this class, especially with a greyhound the quality of Music Event (1) drawn the inside. He opened as much as 100/1 in Cup betting but has been steadily backed to be among the leading contender going into the series, his chances greatly enhanced by drawing ideally in box 1.
Race 11 – Bold Trease heat 3 (715m)
There’s not a whole lot glamorous about Blazing Cartier (3) but she loves the track boasting a 6-4-1 record from 15 attempts at the trip. She’ll stay all day and is drawn to assume a forward position early. Just Terms is a group 1 winner and ran third in this race last year but is winless in six tries here, while Manilla Knight (8) makes his distance debut after breaking the Shepparton 650m track record last start.
The Melbourne Cup and Bold Trease finals will be run on Friday 27th November. They are two of eight feature finals on the night with $1m in prize money up for grabs across the 12 race card.
For free form guides or further details about the Melbourne Cup carnival, visit www.sandowngreyhounds.com.au.