Honouring our fallen, the Bathurst Greyhound Club stage the Soldiers Saddle series each year. The series is restricted to greyhounds with 1-5 wins, with no city wins allowed (except for maiden wins). The race carries a $10,000 first prize and is always a popular event in regional Bathurst.
Talented greyhounds have raced in the series over the years. A great example is Dana Beatrice, who contested the final of the series in 2008 and went on to win the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg in 2009. Recent past winners include Spring Lee (2008), Leeroy Lad (2009), Love Actually (2010), Spring Blueboy (2011) and Willow Blaze (2012).
On Monday, the semi-finals of the race will take place, with the top two from each advancing through to the rich final.
SEMI FINAL 1 - Race 4 at 5:12pm
There is quite a bit of early speed in this race, making it difficult to pick a leader. Von Ryan (Box 1) has the fastest best time of the dogs in the race (29.97) which he ran when winning here last week. He has also drawn the coveted Box 1. However, in his only start from this box, at Bulli, he failed. He has won four races from 12 starts and those wins have come from boxes four, six and eight, suggesting that the Take the Kitty ex. Awesome Star dog likes to be drawn a little wider. He may strike trouble going into the turn if he doesn't get away cleanly because Cyclone Peck (Box 2) is a lid pinger with a flying first section. Fancy Rhythm (Box 7) is beautifully bred by Brett Lee ex. Fancy Penny and the black dog has his share of talent, winning his sixth race from 18 starts in the heats last week in a fast 30.08 in his first race start at the track. Craig Chappelow's brindle bitch Evade (Box 5) is by Goodesy's litter sister, Twigley. She only managed to run second last week to Within (Box 4) who ran 30.31. She has won two races, both at Dapto and may find this race tricky to negotiate from Box 5. Bella Senora (Box 6) scooted around in 30.18 last week to win and showed enough early speed to suggest she can be in with a chance. She also won her maiden at Wentworth Park in a quick 30.15 and has won four races. El Casey (Box 3) comes to the series after recent racing around Dubbo and Richmond. She placed fourth in her heat last week and will need clear running to improve and factor in the top two.
SEMI FINAL 2 - Race 5 at 5:32pm
If Soviet Missile (Box 1) can repeat his maiden win back in April, when he ran a blistering 29.57, he will go a long way to winning this. It was an especially good run considering it wasn't far off the 29.47 track record. The Where's Pedro ex. Jacinta Bale won his first three races on the trot. He hasn't replicated that form since but has been recently racing and placing at Wentworth Park. He has a good record from the box, starting there three times for a win and a place. Peta Pitstop (Box 3) broke the 4.30 to the first mark last week to wind up running third in her heat which was won by Fancy Ryhthm in 30.08. She was beaten three lengths so is more than capable of giving this race a big shot. Lil Miss Mohawk (Box 7) is the most experienced dog in the field with 36 starts. She has failed to crack a win in five starts at the track, running four places, so will be a good place chance in this race. Devine Awe (Box 5) stepped up to the 520 metre trip for the first time last week and snuck into the semi's by running fourth. The Bathurst 520 is a tough trip so Devine Awe may not be able to keep up at the end with a few of the others in this field. Zipping Pete (Box 8) has a good record from the box, never failing to run a place. He ran third last week and isn't completely out of this. Lastly, Rodney McDonald will be hoping his charge, Dana Sammy (Box 2), can replicate the feats of his great bitch Dana Beatrice in 2008, by making it through to the final next week. Dana Harley has placed twice at the track and has four wins from nineteen starts but isn't always the best away early.
SEMI FINAL 3 - Race 6 at 5:52pm
The standout in this race is Crackin Sort (Box 8). The Collision ex. Skates bitch has only been unplaced once in her eight starts and has four wins to her credit. She won her heat last week in a smart 29.96 from Box 3 and looks the one to beat. Future Winner (Box 2) and Zipping Genie (Box 7) have both had more than 30 starts, winning four each. This suggests their wins are well spaced and will be place chances at best. Tony Cooper will be hoping that Stuart Town (Box 3) will show the same early zip that Stuart Town's mother, Bella Tae Dawn (whom he also trained) used to show. If he does, it may give him a chance to feature amongst the placings from a favourable Box 3 draw. Jeff Crawford is rarely without a good dog and he rugs up Double Six (Box 5) in this semi. The greyhound has won two races at Richmond, breaking 31 seconds on each occasion. The black dog ran fourth last week from this same box, so he will be looking to improve on that effort. Of the others, Zipping Bec (Box 6) won her heat last week in 30.26. She led all the way to win her second race from 17 starts. Prior to her heat run, she had been racing in Victoria, so to win at her first look at Bathurst was a top effort. Got Chills (Box 4) is also in with a chance. The black bitch is a consistent beginner who won her maiden at Wentworth Park in 30.52 and has won three races in total, with her other wins at Richmond.
SEMI FINAL 4 - Race 7 at 6:10pm
Norm Becroft always has dogs that begin and that is no different for his runner in this semi, Princess Alyssa (Box 4). The black bitch by Over Flo ex. Guantanamo Dot has not been unplaced in her short career, with a maiden win at Wentworth Park in 30.25 and wins here at Bathurst in 30.50 and 30.69. The only concern is that she faded a little at her last start here to run third to Within. If she gets away well and there's some trouble behind her, she can win. The main threat is Seven Oscars (Box 1) who has won five from nine and has recorded 30.20 at the track from Box 1. He has had three starts from the box for two wins and a third and with clear running will be too strong for Princess Alyssa. Dana Joy (Box 3) has won in 30.32 at the track but her recent form has been hit and miss. Cheeky Grant (Box 8) is the learner of the field, having only her third race start. She has done all her racing at Bathurst winning over the 450 metre trip and running third last week in the heats. She is a good beginner and the natural improver.
Don't forget to tune into Bathurst on Monday afternoon from 5:12pm to catch some of these talented youngsters in action. You never know, one of the finalists may end up featuring in a Group 1 in the future - it's happened before.