Pre-series favourite Aston Dee Bee scorched around Sandown Park to qualify fastest for the world’s richest greyhound race at Sandown Park last night.
Heavy rain before the first race did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the big crowd trackside for what shaped as one of the most eagerly anticipated TAB Melbourne Cup series in recent years.
Aston Dee Bee (pictured above with trainer Seona Thompson) was the shortest priced favourite in the TAB Melbourne Cup heats and didn’t disappoint those who took the short odds ($1.60), overcoming a modest jump to stop the clock at 29.12. It continued a remarkable run of form for the Seona Thompson trained sprinter that has seen him finish in the money at each of his last 14 starts dating back to July. The TAB Melbourne Cup final will be Aston Dee Bee’s ninth group race final and though he is yet to break through at group level, he has been placed in each of his three group 1 finals.
Kennel mate Bewildering will also take his place in the final after a stunning performance to win his heat in 29.35. Widely regarded as the fastest greyhound in the country, the two-time Speed Star winner showed fantastic determination after a poor getaway to power away from his high class rivals. Owned and bred by cousins Bill and Serge Buccilli and sired by their 2013 TAB Melbourne Cup winner Black Magic Opal, Bewildering is lining up in his fourth group final in his last six starts.
Familiar foes Striker Light (29.37) and Up Hill Jill (29.43) will meet for the ninth time on the track in next Friday night’s final after both recorded impressive wins in their respective heats.
Striker Light bounced back to her brilliant best after two disappointing runs, leading all of the way to give her a chance to land her third group 1 win. Up Hill Jill was made to work had for her victory by 2016 TAB Melbourne Cup champion Ando’s Mac, showing great tenacity to reach her sixth group 1 final.
The ledger between the two great rivals stands at four wins apiece, though Up Hill Jill commands a 3-1 advantage at Sandown Park. The two greyhounds, born just two weeks apart, are separated by just $2,396 in career prize money and a win by either greyhound in next week’s $420,000 to the winner final will catapult them to fifth place on the all-time prize money list.
A year after sharing Melbourne Cup glory with his great mate Jason Mackay in last year’s Cup, Anthony Azzopardi has an opportunity to win the Cup in his own right after Adelaide Cup winner Raw Ability blitzed his rivals in 29.20. He set up his 5½ length victory with a stunning 4.95 first split – less than a length off the great Fernando Bale’s record – turning in what his conditioner described as ‘the best run of his career.’
Anthony Azzopardi tries to contain his excitement following Raw Ability’s career best run
Kouta Mayhem delivered his trainer Jason Sharp his biggest thrill in the sport by winning the night’s opening heat in 29.57. With a large group of family and friends cheering him on, he proved too good in holding out last start group 1 winner Crash Bandicoot by 1½ lengths.
Glenn Rounds’ powerful sprinter Chasin’ Crackers scored in the night’s penultimate TAB Melbourne Cup heat, railing powerfully to win in 29.40. The baby of the field at just 27 months of age, Chasin’ Crackers has already been placed twice at group 1 level.
The final heat of the night was won by Aston Miley in 29.60 to give her trainer Eddie Lieshout, a 75 year old from Drouin, his first TAB Melbourne Cup finalist.
Also on a memorable night of greyhound racing, four heats of the $145,000 Bold Trease were run for the stayers with Fanta Bale again stealing the show, qualifying fastest for next Friday night’s final in 41.78. Aiming for her seventh victory at the highest level, her heat win took her career prize money to $994,170, meaning she only needs to run in the first three next week to become the third greyhound in history to pass the $1m in prize money mark.
While the TAB Melbourne Cup comprises entirely of Victorian trained greyhounds, over half of the Bold Trease final features interstate trained chasers. Heat winners Ebby Ripper (NSW) and Champagne Sally (Qld) will be joined by Zipping Lady (NSW) and Petunia Monelli (WA), as well as former Western Australian Moment To Jive and New South Wales’ Packey Keeping. Victorian Rockoon rounds out the field after an impressive win on his staying debut.
The box draw for both group 1 finals will be conducted at 10.30am on Sunday and will be simulcast on Sky Racing 1 and RSN – Racing and Sport.
The group 1 TAB Melbourne Cup and group 1 Bold Trease finals will be run on Friday 24 November, along with the $36,000 group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial and $36,000 listed Cup Night Sprint. The four feature events form an outstanding quadrella on which tab.com.au has projected a $1m pool.
Entry to TAB Melbourne Cup night is free.
Click on the links below for a replay of each TAB Melbourne Cup heat
Heat 1 – Kouta Mayhem (4) for Jason Sharp, 29.57
Heat 2 – Bewildering (5) for Seona Thompson, 29.35
Heat 3 – Raw Ability (6) for Anthony Azzopardi, 29.20
Heat 4 – Striker Light (2) for Brett Bravo, 29.37
Heat 5 – Aston Dee Bee (3) for Seona Thompson, 29.12
Heat 6 – Up Hill Jill (2) for David Geall, 29.43
Heat 7 – Chasin’ Crackers (3), Glenn Rounds, 29.40
Heat 8 – Aston Miley (5), Eddie Lieshout, 29.60