The night that enthusiasts nationwide have been waiting for is finally here, with 16 of Australia’s best sprinters and stayers converging at The Meadows tonight for a crack at the group one AGRA National Sprint and Distance Championships. The $75,000 to the winner races have attracted some serious contenders and are shaping up to be exhilarating affairs.
AGRA NATIONAL DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIP
Box One: Smart Valentino (NSW)
The NSW raider will be aiming to make it the first triumph for his state since the mighty Blue Lorian saluted at Angle Park in 2010 and looks a live chance after being allocated the prized rails alley. Beginning moderately in his qualifier two weeks ago, the son of Where’s Pedro and Smart Betsy raced prominently and finished off far too strong for his opposition in a slick 41.96 seconds at Wentworth Park. He should be able to find a nice position from box one and sneak his way into the race however, it must be considered that he is travelling from NSW and the last time he made the long trip to Melbourne, he raced well below his best.
Box Two: Destini Fireball (VIC)
The five time group winner is definitely the class runner of the series but he has not been racing like the champ we know, weakening to finish a distant seventh in last week’s qualifier. Regardless, if he is anywhere near his best form, he should be able to jump on the bunny from the favourable draw and make it win number 24 at start number 47. The white and black dog loves The Meadows as a winner of seven from ten over the track and distance with a personal best of 42.40 seconds.
Box Three: Wag Tail (QLD)
Wag Tail was a great winner of the Queensland state final, qualifying for the group one feature at just her second start over the ‘700’. The daughter of Velocette has won seven races from 23 starts and has built up a nice record over the middle distance in her home state. If she can race up near the front of the field, she may have enough strength to hold out the fast finishing backmarkers from the home state.
Box Four: Lashing Jill (TAS)
Lashing Jill is an exciting Tasmanian who defeated Bell Haven in her state final by one and three quarter lengths in 43.01 seconds. Box four is not ideal but with a clean start she may be able to follow the front runners into the race. With just six staying starts to her name, her ability is not yet known and this will certainly be her biggest test to date. In a race that is not overly strong if she does everything right she can run a cheeky race and could land the cash at big odds.
Box Five: Kalden Mayhem (SA)
The grand old campaigner, Kalden Mayhem, will be lining up for start number 118 tonight in a career that has spanned over three years. The son of Big Daddy Cool is as honest as they come, notching up 57 wins throughout his time on the track, with one of those wins being in the SA State Distance final on the 8th of this month. During his career he has scored multiple wins from every box on the track and although it is not ideal, he is capable of handling himself from box five. Trained by Troy Murray, Kalden Mayhem is a greyhound who usually likes to sit just off the speed and can deliver a huge finishing burst when required. With some speedy stayers on his inside, he will need to do everything right when the lids fly open to be placed prominently enough to be able to unleash his power on his opposition.
Box Six: Mimicking (VIC)
The black dog was a shock winner of the Victorian State final and is capable of a repeat result this week however, he will have to contend with a horrible box six draw. Trained by Robert Britton, expect to see the son of Flying Penske at the rear of the field in the early stages. He will need a clear run from the draw but if he gets one he will be storming home and aiming to engulf his competitors in the latter stages.
Box Seven: Set Sail South (VIC)
Ultra consistent stayer who ran a terrific race and was only narrowly beaten by Mimicking in last week’s state final. The son of Westmead Hawk has won eight races throughout his 25 start career and will be looking to sit midfield during the running. With most of the runners in the event sharing a similar running style he may have enough pace to lead and, from the front, he will take some catching. No matter where he is placed during the event, he will be running home strong and looks one of the likely runners to be figuring in the finish.
Box Eight: Magpie Bob (WA)
The most likely leader in the event is Magpie Bob even though he is boxed out wide in the pink. He has been racing very well in his home state albeit against slightly weaker company and has been bouncing straight to the front and leading all way. The son of Cosmic Rumble is a winner of 19 races and has enough class to be competitive.
First Reserve: Gold Affair Two (VIC)
Put in a solid performance when running third in the Victorian final last week behind Mimicking. Can run a cheeky race up near the lead if she is lucky enough to gain a start.
Second Reserve: Irma Bale (VIC)
Four time group winning bitch who couldn’t keep up with the youngsters last week, finishing fourth after leading. Super smart when she is at her best and commands attention should she gain a start.
TIPS: Set Sail South, Smart Valentino, Destini Fireball, Lashing Jill
AGRA NATIONAL SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP
Box One: Xylia Allen (VIC)
Dual group one winner, Xylia Allen, snuck into the group one final courtesy of the wild card spot and has scored another blessing being drawn in the rails alley. After taking out her heat two weeks ago, Xylia Allen returned to The Meadows last week but was outpaced in the final finishing fourth behind Tomac Bale. The 16 race winner is not an overly quick beginner and runs the risk of being cut out of the race in the run to the first turn but, if she can hold her spot in the vital stages, she will be a genuine chance of running them down and recording her third group triumph.
Box Two: Zulu Zeus (NSW)
NSW is well represented with Frank Hurst’s sensational greyhound Zulu Zeus who is drawn well in box two. The son of Where’s Pedro was an emphatic winner of his state final, blitzing his rivals in a near record 29.32 seconds at Wentworth Park. The striking black dog trialled exceptionally last Saturday at his first look at the track recording a scintillating 29.79 seconds however, his first section was only pedestrian and with a fast beginner on his outside, he will have to improve so that he can hold his spot in the race and maintain a chance in the event.
Box Three: Rumbling Rick (WA)
Rumbling Rick was a surprise winner of his state final but will serve as an excellent representative of Western Australia. Clocking a fast 30.39 seconds around Cannington, the red fawn son of Cosmic Rumble then made the trip to Victoria and trialled in a fast 30.13 seconds last week. His first section of 5.05 seconds will see him as one of the leaders in this event if he can repeat that time again tonight and from there he will just need a bit of luck to sneak away with the event. After the long trip over to Victoria, it would be expected that he would improve after being in the state for over a week now and with a look at the track. If he can find the front, he may be hard to catch.
Box Four: Hope’s Up (SA)
Hope’s Up is a talented South Australian who has been afforded no favours from the box draw. The daughter of El Galo trialled last week and only ran 5.21 seconds early and 30.42 seconds overall, so would need to improve from that performance to be considered a huge threat in this talented field. With that being said, she is one of her states best sprinters at present as a winner of 38 from 70 so she must be respected even though she appears to have everything going against her in the final.
Box Five: She’s All Class (TAS)
The Tassie bitch, She’s All Class, is exactly what her name suggests as a winner of her past 11 starts back home on the Apple Isle. Trained by David Crosswell, the red fawn bitch by Dyna Lachlan out of It’s A She has a stunning overall record of 19 wins and 2 minors from 25 starts but, she did struggle on the clock in her trial last week where she only managed a moderate 30.53 seconds over the track and distance. Her first section of 5.17 seconds was competitive with some of her opposition however, she is drawn in box five and on the inside of Paw Licking who is an electrifying beginner. Paw Licking is likely to cut her out of the event unless she begins before him which is unlikely.
Box Six: Paw Licking (VIC)
Kel Greenough’s Paw Licking is likely to be challenging for the lead, as he does in the vast majority of his races. The son of Elite State did so last week but once again struggled to run out the distance, tiring to finish one and one quarter lengths behind Tomac Bale in the state final. Despite being drawn in box six, he has enough speed to cross the rest of the runners, with his main rival in the early stages looking to be Rumbling Rick. As a winner of 20 races he is a genuine dog but struggles when they reach the home run.
Box Seven: Tomac Bale (VIC)
Tomac Bale can never draw a box but, he does have Paw Licking on his inside which will improve his chances as he is likely to get a nice clear run across the field with the early pacesetter. From there, it may be a repeat of the state final as the son of Dyna Lachlan and Princess Bale attempts to run down his fellow Victorian to steal the cash. Trained by Mark Delbridge, the 34 kilogram chaser is capable of scorching times as he showed two runs back posting a blistering 29.67 seconds at The Meadows. A repeat performance of that run will see him going close.
Box Eight: Innisplain Jet (QLD)
Innisplain Jet caused an upset when defeating Glen Gallon in the Queensland qualifier in 30.15 seconds. The son of Where’s Pedro is a smart greyhound but will have to do everything to perfection to figure in the race from an outside draw. Darren Russell is sure to have him fit and ready to run a good race and as a winner of 12 from 36 he should still be considered despite facing a tough test tonight.
First Reserve: Imry Bale (VIC)
Winner of 24 races who ran down kennelmate Xylia Allen to sneak into the placings last week. If he gains a start, particularly from an inside draw, he is a live chance for Graeme Bate.
Second Reserve: Dyna Oats (VIC)
Took out a heat for the state decider in 30.14 seconds but that just about wraps him up. He has very little pace and would probably struggle against a few of these if he gained a start.
TIPS: Tomac Bale, Zulu Zeus, Rumbling Rick, Xylia Allen.