It's been nearly four weeks since the $1.65 million Phoenix slot holders were announced and the dominoes are now just starting to fall into place.
Unsurprisingly, defending champion Wow She’s Fast and Sportsbet have renewed their partnership and bookie rival Neds today announced Plaintiff as its runner. With Racing Queensland using their slot as a local qualifying series, five slots remain and slot holders will be closely monitoring performances over the coming weeks to give themselves the best opportunity to land the $1m prize on offer. While fitness and form can be fickle in greyhound racing, and a greyhound in peak condition in October may not be the same greyhound in December, there is benefit in certainty as we saw all too well in the inaugural running of the series in 2021. Plus, many slot holders are involved for marketing purposes and there’s sense in maximising the promotional return by securing a greyhound early.
As the game of cat and mouse between slot holders and connections continues – mostly behind closed doors but occasionally in public – here’s five greyhounds whose connections should be expecting a call to take part in the race.
Trainer: Brendan Pursell
Why he deserves a slot: Proven big race performer
It’s somewhat surprising that the Million Dollar Chase winner hasn’t already booked his slot. He boasts arguably the best form of any greyhound in the country having been placed in each of his last 12 starts, the last 10 of which have been in top grade and in three different states. His Meadows 525m record is modest (14:4-1-2) but most of those starts came early in his career. He will need to improve on his 29.81 best at the track (set at his last start at the venue in July) but his last start 29.81 win at Sandown Park last start says he’s capable of much faster.
Trainer: Peter Lagogiane
Why she deserves a slot: Pure ability
Two group race wins, three more group race finals, a Million Dollar final and a track record makes for an impressive racing career and French Martini has done all of that in just 19 starts. She had her first look at the Meadows in a recent exhibition trial running a slick 29.72 (almost three lengths faster than the fastest winning time of the night) despite stepping modestly and recording 5.15 early. Connections have said she improves with a look at a track and if she can take a length of that first split will be a contender in any race she lines up in.
Trainer: Bob Douglas
Why she deserves a slot: Early speed
Despite being three months shy of her second birthday and with just 13 starts to her name, Baby Jaycee has already shown to be one of the most consistent fast breakers in the country. She’s won both of her starts at The Meadows, and while her winning times (29.96 and 30.11) are modest, her early splits (5.05, 5.09) are brilliant. Experience matters in a heat and final series but less so in a one off event, and her early speed will give her every chance to lead.
Trainer: Anthony Azzopardi
Why he deserves a slot: Upside
He burst onto the scene with a brilliant 29.88 maiden win at The Meadows in a heat of the group 3 Vic Breeders in February before finishing fifth in the final to Plaintiff. He’s racing sparingly since but did make the group 3 Warragul St Leger final in August and won the recent South Australian Derby in September.
He franked that form with a brilliant 29.16 win at Sandown at his next start (and won in 29.29 at the same venue prior to his South Australian campaign). He took a tumble at Geelong last Friday though reports are he’s come through it OK. A little inconsistent at box rise, but if he gets it right can match it with the best in the land.
Trainer: Christine Robartson
Why he deserves a slot: X-Factor
The WA star set tongues wagging when winning at Cannington in 29.39 in July – just two lengths outside Campini’s track record. He ran fourth in the National Sprint final in August, returning to the track eight days ago and winning a heat of the group 2 All Stars at Cannington in BON 29.85 before running third in the final.
His lack of early speed is a concern particularly against the country’s top sprinters, but if connections are prepared to bypass series such as the Melbourne Cup and focus his campaign at the Meadows, he may be the greyhound with the ability – and the preparation – to claim the world’s richest greyhound race.
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ARTICLE BY MICK FLOYD, THE GREYHOUND RECORDER