$350,000 to the winner of a dog race?
In the words of fictional Aussie character Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle, who also happened to prepare of couple of greyhounds…"tell 'em they're dreaming!"
But let me assure you, this is no dream.
On Thursday week, the worlds' richest greyhound race, the 2013 Tab.com.au Melbourne Cup will be staged at Sandown Park in Victoria, and will offer $350,000 in cash to the winner without the threat of any international raiders plundering our riches as in the thoroughbred version.
If anyone is in any doubt as to the popularity and growth of greyhound racing in Australia (and particularly in Victoria), here's a few other facts to consider.
In the 2013-2014 greyhound racing season, 31 Group 1 events will be held around the nation with first place prize-money alone totalling in excess of $3.1m, and at least six of those events offer more than $140,000 to the winner of the race.
There will also be another 72 Group 2 and Group 3 races held across the length and breadth of Australia; from Darwin in the Top End, to Warrnambool in Victoria; Townsville in Queensland to Devonport in Tasmania, and virtually everywhere in between; with another $2.5m going to the winners of those races.
So much for greyhound racing being the poor relation of the Thoroughbreds!
This Thursday night, 8 heats of the G1 Melbourne Cup will be run with each of the heat winners progressing through to the final one week later – and in what is a mouth-watering offering for fans of the long-tails, there will also be 4 heats of the G1 Bold Trease Carnival Cup (named in honour of one of Australia's greatest distance greyhounds), where the first two across the line in each heat will make their way into the final, also held next Thursday night, with $100,000 going to the winner of that race.
As you would expect, the Melbourne Cup heats has attracted the absolute upper echelon of chasers in search of glory and riches, and in Heat one, Group 1 winner Spud Regis, already the winner of more than $440,000 in prize-money, looks ideally suited from Box 2 after a strong performance at the track last week, when proving too strong for boom youngster Phenomenal in a time of 29:45 for the 515 metre trip.
G1 Dapto Megastar winner Peter Rocket also looks well placed from Box 2 in the second heat while Tomac Bale, still a maiden in Group 1 Company after numerous appearances in big race finals, should be too strong in Heat 3 if he can overcome the squeeze draw of Box 5.
All eyes will then focus on the brilliant flying machine, Black Magic Opal, in Race 5. Purchased earlier this year for a reported $100,000, since joining the kennels of champion trainer Jason Thompson, he has been simply exhilarating.
Since returning from an injury enforced spell in September, BMO has won his last 5 starts in succession, with his last 3 wins resulting in new track record figures at Geelong (twice) and at Warrnambool.
A winner at the track in a smart 29:47, if Black Magic Opal can lead in the all-important dash to the first turn, greyhound fans will see a speed machine in full flight.
Recent G1 Sky Racing Topgun victor, Dyna Nalin, will have to overcome Box 4 in Heat 5 but he is empowered with sufficient class and ability to do so; while in Heat 6, multiple Group 1 winner Xylia Allen, will be looking to replicate her victory in last weeks' Shootout to make it through to another big race final.
The remaining two heats of the Melbourne Cup are packed with previous Group race winners; Crump is perfectly drawn in Box 8 in Heat 7 and Paw Licking, a greyhound with blistering early pace, is also ideally drawn in Box 2 in the last heat, which is Race 12 on the card.
Tab.com.au is betting fixed odds on all heats tomorrow night but if you think you can pick the Cup winner before the heats have even been staged, there's plenty of value in the pre-post Cup winner market.
Black Magic Opal is favourite at the moment at $4.50 in front of Paw Licking ($7), Spud Regis ($8), Tomac Bale ($8.50), Xylia Allen ($9) and Crump at $16.
Remember, only the winners of the Heats progress through to the Final, and if like me you fancy some value, throw a little something on Peter Rocket ($35), Phenomenal ($61) and Cobra Bale ($101) to give you some hope of a healthy collect.
It's often referred to as the 'fastest sport on four legs', and while it may not rival the Thoroughbreds as the richest, I'm sure you'd agree, $350,000 for a greyhound race is some serous coin.
You can catch all the action of the Melbourne Cup heats on Sky Racing1 (channel 519) on Thursday night, with Race 1 scheduled to jump at 7.07pm AEDT.
Good luck and Good Punting.
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