Ella Enchanted will make her long awaited return to the staying journey in a heat of the RSN Sandown Cup on Thursday night.
Ella Enchanted is regarded one of the country’s fastest chasers winning 15 of her 34 starts including several in excellent time. She rounded out her Cup preparations last Saturday night with a brilliant victory over 600m at The Meadows, her final split indicating she’s ready to compete with the country’s top stayers over the 715m journey. And she will need to be at her best having drawn series second favourite Embye, recent Lizrene Speed Star winner Dyna Chancer, and Wentworth Park 720m specialist Poco Dorado in the toughest heat of the night.
“It is certainly the stand out heat of the night,” co-trainer Jamie Ennis told RSN at the outside broadcast at Sandown Park this morning.
“There’s four dogs in the race that in my opinion could not only qualify for the final, but be highly competitive in the final so it’s not going to be easy.”
Ella Enchanted’s only previous start over the ‘half-mile’ came in the group 3 Topcat at the Meadows last September where she led before fading late to finish fourth behind Tornado Tears. That run gave Ennis enough confidence to persist with staying campaign, however after two confidence boosting 500m wins following that Meadows run, she came on season and spent the next five months on the sidelines.
Since resuming in March, Ella Enchanted has given Ennis every indication that she is ready for the rise in distance.
“All through this preparation we’ve been aiming to get her back over the 700m. She’s had five runs back now, four over the 600m and her run home time – especially Saturday night at the Meadows – was outstanding and also before that here in the Speed Star she was pretty good.
“All things being equal she looks like she’s ready for the trip. She’s done the ground work but obviously it’s a tough race with some solid seasoned stayers and I think that’s going to be the only issue leading into it, the last 20 or 30 metres.”
Punters have warmed to her chances tomorrow night with tab.com.au rating her a $3.40 equal second favourite behind Embye to win her heat, and an $8 third favourite to win the final on Friday 24 May. Despite the quality of her rivals, Ennis is confident that Ella Enchanted will acquit herself well.
“I have no doubt she’ll put herself right in the race. Ideally I’d like to think she could possie up second or third early she could bide her time and save a bit of fuel and hit the front up the back straight. But first up over the trip this time in she’s expected to roll forward and if she does find the front she’s going to be running some pretty quick splits out in front and hopefully that’s enough to break up the field and be hard to beat.”
Ennis also has two runners in the heats of the group 1 Harrison-Dawson, with Barooga Brett (race 10, number 5) aiming to add a third group 1 title to his impressive resume.
“There’s a few pluses in his race tomorrow night. There’s a lack of speed drawn directly to his inside so he should be able to cross quite easily. He’s a dual group 1 winner and drawn perfectly in box 5 – it’s exactly where he wants to be on the track. The only issue is Dyna Hunter early, but he’s drawn the right dogs around him and he should be hard to beat.”
His second runner, Southern Ripple (race 12 number 4), is one of just five greyhounds in the series to have broken 29.20 at Sandown Park and also ran 29.36 when third to Flynn in the recent Bill Collins Speed Star. However Ennis is a little more circumspect about his chances at this level.
“The ability is there, the only question mark against him is that he hasn’t stepped up and beaten the better dogs yet. He’s had a couple of goes at FFA company and been a little bit disappointing, he just lacks early speed for the first two or three strides and he wants to step up the track. You’d just like to see him do it (run time) against the better company before you’d really be tipping into him.
“I would expect him to go a little bit better on the clock (than he did in the Speed Star) if he actually come out and showed enough speed to lead. The field doesn’t lack depth but it just lacks that little bit of pace early which might put him in to play, and if he did find the front it will be very interesting to see if he can hold off those dogs.”
The heats of the $250,000 RSN Sandown Cup – the world’s richest race for stayers – as well as the Harrison-Dawson and Sapphire Crown over 515m – will be run on Thursday 16 May with the winner and runner-up from each heat progressing to their respective group 1 finals on Friday 24 May.
Click here for the full interview with Jamie Ennis
Ella Enchanted records a last gasp victory in her Race Callers (595m) match race against She Will Bloom