The middle distance stars will shine tonight with the running of the group two McKenna Memorial at Sandown Park. The 595 metre event offers $40,000 to the winning greyhound and it’s connections and is shaping up to be an exhilarating race between some versatile sprinters stepping up in distance and some speedy stayers stepping down in distance.
BOX ONE: NEW TIBUR
Robert Britton’s New Tibur was an upset winner in his heat last week when scoring a narrow victory over Cintiarna in a handy 34.43 seconds. The brindle dog managed to overcome a poor draw in box six to record his sixth career win from 27 starts. The son of Surf Lorian is in great form at present as a winner of his last four starts in succession highlighted by a promising 34.26 seconds over the track and distance two starts ago.
Whilst he does not have outstanding overall form, he must be respected on his recent efforts, with the rails draw a definite advantage.
BOX TWO: MAJOR LEAGUE
Major League will be aiming to secure victory from box two after finishing second behind Boris Fields in last Thursday’s heats. The Brooke Ennis trained stayer began averagely from box one but managed to secure a rails run and stormed home to qualify two lengths behind the winner. The son of Velocette has been racing consistently over the staying trip of late scoring a double at The Meadows before stepping back in distance for the McKenna series.
Major League has been a very good money spinner putting together eight wins and fourteen minors from 25 starts. Box two should see him get every chance in the race but he will have to do everything right at the start because the distance is much shorter than what he is used to.
BOX THREE: SURF MAIL
Surf Mail was a strong winner last start over Western Australian chaser Dyna Nalin in 34.49 seconds. The light fawn dog by Surf Lorian out of Hybrid Theory did an excellent job to catch the flying speedster out in front and in turn keep his unbeaten record over the track and distance intact.
Trained at Devon Meadows by Darren McDonald, Surf Mail has won nineteen races and been placed on twelve occasions from 41 starts including a flawless three from three at Sandown over the 595 metres. He has also run a quick personal best of 34.21 seconds and with a slow beginner on his inside should get a nice run into the event.
BOX FOUR: ZELEMAR FEVER
Zelemar Fever is currently in fantastic form with the McKenna Memorial her second appearance in a group event in just twelve days. At the end of last month, the 27 kilogram bitch was the fastest qualifier going into the group two W.A Oaks at Cannington where she ran a luckless fifth behind Quiz Bale. Returning to her home state, the daughter of Bombastic Shiraz bounced back in fine fashion claiming her heat in 34.44 seconds.
Zelemar Fever is another with strong credentials over the trip with three wins from three starts however she does have to contend with box four, which is never an easy assignment. Nonetheless she began much better last start than what she normally does and if she can repeat that again this week she should find herself in a prominent position early and can run a cheeky race.
BOX FIVE: PROVEN IMPALA
Proven Impala will start the deserved favourite despite the horror draw in box five. The top class bitch went straight to the front in her heat last week, and if she finds the front again tonight she won’t get caught. The black bitch by Velocette recorded the fastest qualifier in a scintillating 34.13 seconds last week from box five and is capable of lowering that personal best tonight if she can land on the bunny.
A winner of twenty six races, Proven Impala is a star over the middle distance claiming the group one Rookie Rebel earlier this year and with a run under her belt after stepping back down from the ‘700’, she should be primed to fire and is certainly the one to catch.
BOX SIX: CINTIARNA
The Sandra Collins trained Cintiarna is much better than her two recent seconds over the track and distance suggest. The group one winning sprinter won at her first attempt over the 595 metre trip in a quick 34.20 seconds, but has been beaten at her two most recent efforts, finishing a close second on both occasions in much slower times.
Beginning well from box four in her heat, she managed to lead before finding New Tibur too strong at the finish. She is capable of running slick times over the distance so must be respected, however the question is whether she will be able to find the front drawn amongst the speed.
BOX SEVEN: BORIS FIELDS
Jason Thompson is well represented in the final with Boris Field’s beginning from box seven. The Knocka Norris dog was the second fastest qualifier for the final running a nippy 34.18 seconds in last Thursday’s heat. The group two W.A Derby winner is a tough greyhound, racing in elite company for much of his career over the sprint trip and he proved to be very versatile last week when making the transition to the middle distance.
The biggest worry for the white and blue dog is the box draw as he has only won two races from wider than box three in his 33 start career. With a mixture of speed on his inside he runs the risk of being caught wide and with a fast beginner on his outside, he looks set to find interference unless he can ping the lids.
BOX EIGHT: IRMA BALE
Irma Bale is one of the most underrated champions of all time. The Graeme Bate prepared greyhound has won two consecutive Sandown Cups but has raced for much of her career in the shadow of the recently retired Miata. The daughter of Batrim Bale is only a few months off turning four years of age but is still racing with plenty of heart as shown when a dominant four length winner in last week’s heats. The black bitch tips the scales at just over 25 kilograms but is as determined as they come as a winner of 36 races with a further 30 placings from 86 starts.
Box eight is not ideal but she is usually a fast beginner and will make Proven Impala work hard in the early stages. It will be an exciting contest if the two powerful staying bitches can fight it out at the finish. Whilst Proven Impala has the fastest heat win, Irma Bale brings with her plenty of group race experience and always brings her A game on group final night.
FIRST RESERVE: CZAR
A good second behind Zelemar Fever after fighting his way through the field but he may be a shade outclassed against the big guns
SECOND RESERVE: HURRICANE ISSAC
Reversed his form at precisely the right time last week behind Irma Bale, but hasn’t done enough to be considered a genuine threat should he get a run.
MCKENNA MEMORIAL TIPS: PROVEN IMPALA, ZELEMAR FEVER, IRMA BALE, SURF MAIL
The group two McKenna Memorial will jump tonight at 9:35pm (Victorian time)