The group race action returns to Wentworth Park this Saturday night with four heats of the group three Ladies Bracelet over 520 metres, whilst the stayers will have their own crack at the big time with the running of the group three Betfair Cup final over the 720 metre distance. The final sees a fantastic blend of sheer speed and tenacious staying power, with the current generation of Australia’s top long distance runners meeting with the new generation of half milers in what is sure to be a tantalizing extravaganza for racegoers and punters.
BOX ONE: Granted the luxury of the red rug is Graeme Bate’s lid pinger Irma Bale, who will be looking to go one better than last week when she was pipped on the line by up and coming sensation Fancy Liza. Beginning brilliantly from box two in her heat, the front running daughter of Batrim Bale and Amelia Bale put on a cheeky demonstration, establishing a gap on her rivals in the first circuit before the legs started wobbling in the home straight the second time around. Whilst the 720 metre distance does seem to test her, she is certainly capable of skipping away from the field especially with the box draw landing in her favour, with the black bitch recording a personal best of 42.16 seconds over the track and distance in the past. Irma Bale also boasts the ultra-impressive record of thirty two wins and twenty seven placings from seventy eight starts whilst she is also a multiple group winner. Based on this Irma Bale should not be excluded, however she will need to jump in front and hope for some congestion behind her as many of these runners have the ability to run her down.
BOX TWO: Exiting box two will be star Tasmanian Bell Haven who ran a handy race last week after being stopped in her tracks on the first turn. The daughter of Head Bound has been an excellent bitch for connections as a winner of twenty two races from fifty one starts including two group three races over the Ultimo 720 metres where in doing so she became the first greyhound from the apple aisle to win one of the four main staying events on the Wentworth Park calendar. The pint sized speed machine also holds a best time of a scintillating 41.88 seconds-just .07 off Miata’s 41.81 second track record. Whist her speed is evident, there is no doubt that her from has tapered off of late, albeit whilst racing against the top echelon of Australian stayers. Regardless of this her credentials speak for themselves, and whilst I am not going to rule her out, she will need to find a few more lengths to be a genuine threat.
BOX THREE: Wearing the white rug will be the very honest three year old Off My Trout who will be having his 54th start on Saturday night. The son of Collision scraped into the field last week when running fourth behind Fancy Liza in his heat beaten just over seven and a half lengths running 42.92 seconds. The consistent stayer has won three in town over the distance with a personal best of 42.23 seconds, however he has not won a race over the trip since December last year. As genuine as he is, he does look out classed in this event based upon his recent form.
BOX FOUR: Jumping from box four is last week’s fastest heat winner Fancy Liza for Christopher Spratt who is definitely one of the main chances in the event. Starting from the same draw in her heat, she found trouble throughout the run however still proved too strong for her opponents, running down race leader Irma Bale to win by a head in a fast 42.39 seconds. Whilst this was nowhere near her best time, it was certainly her most impressive performance to date as she exhibited plenty of determination in order to get the job done. The daughter of Brett Lee has won six races from seventeen starts including a former track record over the 535 metres at Richmond in a scorching 30.14 seconds whilst she also took out the Group One Association Cup on Golden Easter Egg night running an impeccable 41.94 seconds for the distance. Whilst box four looks problematic with more speed in this race in comparison to last week, if she can get a spot behind Irma Bale, who will most likely lead early on, she looks to be the one to beat.
BOX FIVE: Drawing poorly in box five is the Ken Burnett prepared Suits Us who ran a very good race last week when finishing third behind Fancy Liza. The fawn dog by Bombastic Shiraz out of Supreme Dancer is racing in career best form at present despite the fact that he is nearing three and a half years of age which was highlighted less than two weeks ago when he landed his first win over the Wentworth Parks 720 metres running a handy 42.51 seconds. Beginning well from box seven in his heat last week, the 30 kilogram chaser sat behind leader Irma Bale for the majority of the race before they both succumbed to the speed of Fancy Liza who was inevitably too strong for the pair in the end. Despite this, Suits Us is really starting to blossom, however the question still remains of whether he is up to the gruelling challenge of elite group company. From box five he has it stacked against him, but he will be up there early and could fill a placing.
BOX SIX: The second heat winner Smart Valentino has also drawn poorly, with the black speedster exiting wearing the green rug for mentor Mark Swift. Smart Valentino has been flying of late as a winner of his last five race starts including wins over the 618 metres at both Bathurst and Richmond before making his step up the 720 metres in last week’s heats where he made quite an impression scoring by three quarters of a length in 42.63 seconds. The dynamic powerhouse is certainly bred to run fast being a son of Where’s Pedro and Group winning bitch Smart Betsy, which he has proven he can as a victor of seven races from just fifteen starts. This week’s final will be his acid test as to whether he is up to the level of group race action, with many punters tipping that he is.
BOX SEVEN: Nowra Hill trainer Steven White will put the polish on his charge Back Page Lead who will start from box seven in the final. After a below average run at Sandown Park the week prior, the consistent bitch returned to the Ultimo circuit for yet another crack at Group race glory last Saturday and ran second to the fast finishing Smart Valentino. The well performed daughter of champion sire Brett Lee is a winner of twenty one races from sixty six starts including four triumphs over the track and distance where she is yet to be unplaced from eight attempts with a personal best time of a dazzling 42.17 seconds. The peppy little performer is very capable in this field which was proven when she ran third behind Fancy Liza in The Association Cup Final, with many of those runners lining up again for this event. Back Page Lead should not be worried by the wide draw as a winner of four races from boxes seven and eight, and it may actually work in her favour as she can avoid the early speed scrimmage which will be happening towards the rails.
BOX EIGHT: Last but not least is the Jeffrey Chapman trained Zaconie who will jump from the pink alley in Saturdays final. The son of Talks Cheap and Shireen’s Habit stepped back up to the 720 metre trip last week after recently racing over the sprint and middle distances and ran a handy third behind Smart Valentino. The fawn dog has won eight races from forty six starts including a win over the Sydney half mile in a speedy 42.57 seconds and has been a terrific money spinner for connections, however much alike some of the other runners, he faces a tough task against the seasoned group experts
FIRST RESERVE: The first reserve for the final is another Steven White runner in Gully Miss who finished fifth to Smart Valentino last week. Whilst she tries hard, she will be outclassed if she gains a start.
SECOND RESERVE: Ebby Miss is the second reserve for Michael Eberand. The daughter of Head Bound is four years of age and has won four from fifty four including two over the track and distance. Her last win was in November 2011 over the trip when running 42.93 seconds. I can’t see her posing a threat should she gain a start.
All in all, this is one cracking decider, with the box draw making it very tough to tip a winner. Irma Bale looks the leader from the cherry and is capable of taking it out if she pinches a break, however she is not overly strong so it looks like it will be a case of close enough if good enough for whoever can tack on behind her. Whilst she has a poor draw I think that Fancy Liza looks the biggest threat as she is boxed to sit behind the leaders, however Back Page Lead is in good form and Smart Valentino will surely improve off his time from last week so if these two are prominent, watch out because you will be in for one extremely exciting final!
TIPS: 4. Fancy Liza 6. Smart Valentino 1. Irma Bale