To say that 2016 has been a challenging year for greyhound racing participants is stating the mere obvious.
For those based in NSW, the apprehension leading up to the release of the McHugh Special Commission of Inquiry Report was palpable and then, Premier Mike Baird announced that the industry would be banned in less than twelve months.
Less than ninety days later, following an intense media storm that rapidly escalated into a ‘bad news’ story for the Coalition Government, the ban was reversed and for many, it was a case of asking whether or not it was simply a bad dream?
But as the pundit’s purport, every cloud has a silver lining although for connections with runners in this week’s G1 TAB Melbourne Cup final, that cloud is lined with gold and a mammoth $420,000 in cash that awaits the eventual winner.
This time last year we were waxing lyrically about the superstar Fernando Bale, who would eventually start a short priced favourite for the Cup. I can still see the emotion that washed over the face of trainer Andrea Dailly as the kennelmate Dyna Double One stormed over the top of Fernando to claim victory in the final few strides – tears of joy were interspersed with tears of sadness as the champion trainer literally didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that she’d prepared the quinella of the race but her favourite chaser had been beaten.
The 2016 is a star-studded affair and the headline act is Australia’s number one rated chaser, the Anthony Azzopardi trained Zambora Brockie.
Check out the TAB fixed odds markets for the 2016 Greys Melbourne Cup here.
I’ve never hidden my admiration for greyhound or trainer having known ‘Ant’ since he was a young man starting off with a collar and lead and having watched ‘Brockie’ since he first put paw on a track.
I can assure you that being a tipster is not an easy vocation and it’s one of those necessary evils that come with the job, however, greyhounds like Zambora Brockie can often make you appear much smarter than what may actually be the case because they rarely let you down.
‘Brockie’ has earnt the tag as the best sprinter in Australia with victories in two Group 1 events (2015 Vic. Peters Classic and 2016 Winter Cup) while also claiming a trifecta of Group 2 wins in races such as the Warrnambool and Horsham Cup’s and just two weeks ago, in the invitation-only Sandown Shootout. Throw into the mix a couple of track records, twenty-eight wins from forty-five starts, and a sizzling 29.06 Best of Night win in his heat last week, and it is little wonder that he has been installed as the $2.10 favourite with TAB.com.au.
“It’s what we train for,” said Azzopardi from his immaculate and state-of-the-art training base at Myrniong in Victoria.
“It is the ultimate pinnacle in greyhound racing in Australia and I think I’ve been dreaming about winning the Melbourne Cup ever since I first started training so to think we have a live chance with our first ever starter in the final is a sensational feeling.
“He’s had the perfect week since last Friday and his last piece of work up the straight at home on Tuesday was as good as ever so all we’re after is a bit of luck in the run to the first turn and hopefully he can do the rest,” said Azzopardi.
And as is the case in virtually every feature race final, what happens in the first 100 metres will determine the eventual outcome of the Melbourne Cup.
“I’m expecting carnage at the first turn,” says multiple Group 1 winning trainer Jamie Ennis (and expert form analyst on Sky Racing’s At The Boxes program) who will line up Matt Machine from box 7.
“Of the greyhounds with noted early pace, Barton Bale from the inside box will want to shift off at the first turn as Brockie will head to the fence and then you have the likes of Tripum and Ando’s Mac carving down from their middle box draws and it could well be a case of shut your eyes and hope for the best,” said Ennis.
“I love Zambora Brockie as a race dog but I think he’ll need to prove that he’s a champion to win with the way the box draw has unfolded and to my mind, Jesaulenko is the best boxed dog in the race from the outside draw.”
Punters would be foolish to discount the chances of South Australian champion Worm Burner, who produced his best run outside of Angle Park when scoring in good style last week.
Most consider the son of Oaks Road to be better suited from an outside draw but if Barton Bale is to push up along the rail and lead before getting off at the first turn, Worm Burner may be the beneficiary of a saloon rails run (similar to what Dyna Double One received last year when scoring from the same box) and the reigning National Sprint Champion could claim his second Group 1 victory.
You can obviously make a valid case for any of the finalists and there’s not a single trainer in the field that I wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled for to see them take out the 2016 Melbourne Cup but as they say in the classic’s, this is the ‘big dance’ and for that reason, I’m tipping who I think is the best greyhound in the race and that is Zambora Brockie who I see bouncing in front at box rise and leading throughout.
I do give the well-drawn Jesaulenko a huge chance of causing an upset if he is able to secure an unimpeded run to the first turn while I think Worm Burner and Outside Pass are the other major players.
The TAB Melbourne Cup is the richest greyhound race in the world and continues to grow in stature each year – it’s no wonder its known as the race where the stars’ race under the stars.
I’ll be trackside at Sandown Park for our live and exclusive broadcast on Sky Racing1 (channel 526) from 6.30pm this Friday night where I’ll be joined by TAB’s Nick Quinn to bring you extensive coverage of one of the great nights of greyhound racing in Australia.
Good luck and good punting.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase