Fanta Bale and Dundee Osprey announced themselves as serious RSN927 Sandown Cup contenders after both recorded emphatic victories in their staying debuts at Sandown Park last night.
The pair have forged formidable careers over the sprint and middle distances, each recording three group 1 victories and combining to win almost $1million in prize money. However neither had started over 715m before taking their place in the heats of the grade 5 series.
Sent to the boxes the $1.50 favourite, Fanta Bale pinged straight to the lead and was never challenged, carving out stunning early splits to score by eight lengths in 41.70. Peter Riley (pictured above), deputising for trainer Robert Britton, was delighted with Fanta Bale’s performance.
“You can’t ask any more, to jump on the lure and run those splits early it’s going to take a very good dog to run her down,” he said.
The seven time group finalist has long been touted as a potential stayer, but her form had been so good over the sprints that she’d been kept to the shorter trip. Despite a number of feature sprints coming up over the Sandown May carnival, including the $145,000 group 1 Sapphire Crown, connections have decided the time is right to step her up in distance.
“Robert has had it in the back of his mind for a long time that he wanted to try her over the distance, and with the greatest staying race in the country coming up why not have a go?
“He was thinking about it before the Australian Cup so I’d say now that he’s stepped her up I doubt he’ll drop her back. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a very good staying career.”
Dundee Osprey was made to work hard in his heat but was no less impressive, registering a six length win while stopping the clock in 41.91. The $1.60 favourite was expected to lead from box 1 but was headed by Destini Wildfire early and took more than a lap of the circuit to reel him in. The reigning Sandown Greyhound of the Year finally drew level coming off the back straight before accelerating away to claim a comfortable victory.
“I thought he would have got a bit further in front, but the 5 put him to the sword early,” said trainer Geoff Scott-Smith, who completed a winning double and will have three starters in next Thursday’s $17,250 final.
“I wasn’t sure how he was going when he passed us (at the starting boxes after the first lap) but he seemed to run it out pretty good for his first run over the distance.”
As happy as he was with Dundee Osprey’s first try over the 715m, he hasn’t ruled out a tilt at the Speed Star – an event he won last September – ahead of the Sandown Cup.
“I’ve got the Sandown Cup in mind, but the Speed Star – we’ll see what happens. He’s lost a length or two early but he’s still running over-all good times.”
With their wins tonight, Fanta Bale and Dundee Osprey became the 69th and 70th greyhounds to win over all three distances at Sandown Park
Fanta Bale blitzes her rivals in her staying debut
The Bill Collins Speed Star is a match racing event bringing together the fastest greyhounds in the country to compete for $61,000 in prize money and will be run on Thursday 11 May. The RSN927 Sandown Cup is the world’s richest race for stayers and will be run on Thursday 25 May. It is the headline event of a group 1 triple header, also featuring the finals of the $145,000 Sapphire Crown and $145,000 Harrison-Dawson.