Feature racing returns to Sandown Park this week with three Heats of the Group 2 McKenna Memorial set to go over the ‘595’.
After back-to-back victories with the mighty Christo Bale, the Delbridge family are looking to make it three-in-a-row with middle-distance powerhouse Jarick Bale.
Jarick Bale – lining up in Box 8 of Heat 2 – is a younger half-brother to Christo Bale and finished third in last year’s final.
A year on and Jarick has flourished into one of the sport’s most versatile performers, becoming a dual Group 1 champion and setting a scorching 33.77s PB over the ‘595’ at Sandown.
Jarick Bale heads into Thursday as the series’ favourite – but it won’t be a walk in the park by any means. He must overcome strong opposition across three red-hot heats.
The top two from each Heat along with the two fastest thirds will advance to next Thursday’s Final.
Heat 1 – Race 5
You could be forgiven for thinking this Heat was a Group race – an all-star field gets the series started.
After leading and running out of legs in the Group 3 Dashing Corsair Final in Brisbane, Rohan Bale returns home and drops back in distance. Jumping from Box 3, he is currently the $3.90 favourite on TAB and should run out the trip in powerful fashion after a short freshen-up.
He can’t afford to put a paw wrong with two Group winners on his inside – the ultra-consistent Knicks Bale and Stout Monelli who has made the trip over from South Australia for his first look at the track.
Riccarton Rick is an 11-time Sandown winner but is likely to get crowded with a tough Box 4 draw.
Newest Sandown phenom Quick Smart (Box 5) steps up to the middle-distance for the first time and a run-home time of 10.43 over the ‘515’ suggests the trip won’t be an issue. The up-and-coming star has never faced a field of this quality before and the pressure from behind will be enormous should he lead. Big test.
Aston Ulysses has come out with an unfavourable draw once again in Box 6 but does own the fastest first split of this group. If he finds the front early, it could be goodnight.
Group 1 winner Do It will jump from the wide draw after getting his first 595m win last week. Will have to be slick early if he wants a say in this race.
Amazingly, Graclyn Bale in Box 7 is the only runner of the field who is in double-digits with TAB ($26.00).
- Knicks Bale ($4.80)
- Stout Monelli ($7.00)
- Rohan Bale ($3.90)
- Riccarton Rick ($6.00)
- Quick Smart ($7.50)
- Aston Ulysses ($4.60)
- Graclyn Bale ($26.00)
- Do It ($8.00)
Heat 2 – Race 6
Jarick Bale finds himself with a favourable Heat and he is a prolific winner from Box 8 – recording six wins and five placing from 14 starts.
The champ will have room to move early with slower beginners on his inside. He should clear Spanish Miss in Box 7 early on, and despite Plan Ahead (6) and Lektra Rhino (5) behind in top form, they are going to have plenty of trouble holding out the series favourite who will be storming from out wide. $3.00 on TAB presents major value.
Star South Australian chaser Victa Grosso is flying at the moment with five straight wins including a comfortable victory at his first go at Sandown on Sunday. He boasts a record of three wins and two placings from five runs over 595m and could be a danger to Jarick Bale if he finds the front early from Box 2.
The powerful Propelled rises to the middle-distance for the first time but there will be some question-marks surrounding the trip.
- Xinmin Bale ($7.00)
- Victa Grosso ($4.00)
- Propelled ($13.00)
- Rufus Scrimgeour ($19.00)
- Lektra Rhino ($5.50)
- Plan Ahead ($4.80)
- Spanish Miss ($16.00)
- Jarick Bale ($3.00)
Heat 3 – Race 7
Mepunga Warrior will head into this Heat as the $3.10 favourite. He rarely misses a placing over this trip and with an 80 per cent strike-rate from Box 2, he looks likely to progress into next week’s Final with a top-two finish.
Similarly, Hill Top Jack has been immense for David Geall in the past two months – finishing outside the top-two just once in his past eight starts. He jumps from Box 4 just as he did last week when running home from sixth place to finish second. Another one that looks safe to advance to the Final.
Whatever I Say is another who has been in top form, finishing runner-up in both Great Eight special events over the last two weeks. Much like Mepunga Warrior and Hill Top Jack, it has been seven races since Whatever I Say last finished outside the Top 3 – most in strong company, too. She’s been jumping well recently and will not be phased by the Box 6 draw.
If Hill Top Jack and Mepunga Warrior fail to get around the first bend cleanly, this race is Whatever I Say’s to lose.
Zambora Richie has also been brilliant over the middle-distance lately but will struggle with the wide draw.
- Ariarne Bale ($6.00)
- Mepunga Warrior ($3.10)
- Jye’s Jet ($21.00)
- Hill Top Jack ($3.70)
- Hummock ($11.00)
- Whatever I Say ($7.00)
- Mallee Magic ($4.40)
- Zambora Richie ($26.00)
All TAB prices correct as of 12:00pm Wednesday.
The McKenna Memorial was first run in 1971 and acknowledges the contribution to the Sandown Club by legendary administrator Jack McKenna. McKenna came to Sandown and took the job of Club secretary in the 1940’s from Tatura in central Victoria. He had held the position of secretary of the Tatura Plumpton Coursing Club and he made a major impact after arriving in the city. He was instrumental in the club’s advancement in many ways but importantly its move across the railway line and the purchase of the land of the current site.
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