It is not too often that a greyhound is scratched from a feature event, so the fact that three runners have been withdrawn from this Saturday's Group 1 Paws Of Thunder at Wentworth Park is almost unbelievable.
National Time, Allen Malik and early favourite Double Twist have all been taken out of the feature Group 1 race after suffering from injury or illness following dominant victories in their respective heats last weekend.
The scratchings have left the Robert Britton-trained Iona Seven and track record holder Punch One Out as the greyhounds to beat according to the Tab.com.au fixed odds markets.
Both chasers now head the betting at $3.50 despite the fact that it is still unknown what box Punch One Out will exit after she gained a start as the first reserve. The daughter of Knocka Norris and Little Egyptian will have her box determined by ballot on Saturday morning, as will Peter Rocket, the second reserve, which has also gained a berth in the final.
Punch One Out loves the track and is the current track record holder with an unfathomable 29.27 on her resume.
She was extremely unlucky behind Iona Seven in her heat last week, after being checked at the first turn in what was her first appearance on a racetrack, since finishing fourth in the Sandown Shootout behind Xylia Allen in November last year.
Naturally, she should be fitter for the run and punters can expect to see a stronger performance from the Hunter Valley flyer in the $100,000 to the winner final. One would think that her price would shorten significantly if she was allocated the black rug out of the available boxes (three, five and seven) as she does like room to move in the early stages of a race.
Despite the fact that Iona Seven has only won three of her past eleven starts, she is a classy customer that has been very unlucky not to claim a feature race throughout her career. The Swift Fancy bitch has been engaged in no less than five group finals including the G1 Adelaide Cup, the G1 Peter Mosman Classic and the G1 Melbourne Cup.
The less than ideal draw in box six shouldn't cause much concern as Iona Seven has performed well when wearing the green rug in the past, with seven starts resulting in two wins and three minor placings. A repeat of her flying 5.38 first section run should see her up near the front in the early stages, and if she lands on the bunny, she will definitely take some running down.
Britton, who trained One Tree Hill to Paws Of Thunder victory in 2008, is all set for a big night with three runners also engaged in the G2 Summer Distance Plate where he will line-up the favourite, Lucy Wires, (currently $3.00 with TAB.com.au) as well as Mimicking and Born Ali.
Buckle Up Wes ($4.20 with TAB.com.au) is the sole Tasmanian representative and will be hoping to land the cash from box four. The Collision youngster is in flying form and loves the Glebe circuit, having recorded three sub-30 second performances from four starts at the track, including 29.93 in a heat of the G1 Vic Peters last year and a superb 29.65 effort last Saturday. The black speed machine is trained by Ted Medhurst who knows what it takes to prepare fast greyhounds, with his best chaser in recent times being the brilliant staying bitch Bell Haven.
Veyron Bale represents terrific value from the inside draw and is currently quoted at the juicy odds of $5 with TAB.com.au.
The Andrea Dailly- trained campaigner is the sole Wheeler owned greyhound in the final after a torn Achilles ruled Allen Malik out of the race. Remarkably, Veyron Bale contested the G1 Paws Of Thunder in 2013 and will be looking to reverse last year's unlucky run where he finished down the track behind Sheikha.
Veyron Bale showed exceptional pace to lead and win his heat from a gallant Peter Rocket in a blistering 29.50. the fastest time of the heats.
Box one should give him every chance to rail through into a prominent position on the first turn and he is more than capable of sneaking away with a win at cheeky odds. Dailly is certainly no stranger to landing feature victories at big prices, having trained the 25/1 shot Grigorieva Bale, to salute in last year's $250,000 G1 Golden Easter Egg.
As mentioned, Peter Rocket, ($6.50), was not disgraced when finishing three and three quarter lengths off the fastest heat winner and will get his chance to reverse that form and go one better after securing a start as second reserve.
The G1 Dapto Megastar winner is a proven big race performer and relishes an inside draw, so he would be perfectly suited in box three (if the box draw ballot falls that way), on the outside of a moderate beginner in Manyana Groper.
Trainer Keith Hellmuth will be hoping the racing gods are looking out for him when he assigned a box on Saturday morning as his chances would rapidly diminish if he was allocated a box towards the outside of the track.
Exciting youngster Boyce Road, currently $11 with TAB.com.au, faces his acid test on Saturday night when he will have to overcome box eight to secure top honours for trainer Mark Gatt.
The brilliant pup is a winner of eight races from ten starts with some nippy performances around the local tracks to his name. While he is yet to turn two years of age, the son of Collision and Mystic Pace oozes class yet may find it tough from the extreme outside box. As a tardy beginner he will need luck to find the front, but if he happens to jump and find himself anywhere near the leaders on the first turn, watch out, because this chaser looks like he may be something special.
Sid Swain puts the polish on the rank outside Manyana Groper, ($21 with TAB.com.au) and will need everything to go his way despite drawing well in box two. The white and blue dog was a surprise winner of his heat at the massive odds of $43.50 and would create an even bigger shock if he was to salute in the main event. He does have three wins at the track and distance including a personal best 29.91 in his heat, but he looks outclassed in this affair.
The Group 1 Paws of Thunder is race eight on the card and is set to jump at 9:50pm AEDT on Saturday night. The supporting race, the Group 2 Summer Distance Plate is race six on the night with race time scheduled at 9:10 pm and
TAB.com.au Fixed odds will be available up until the jump on all events at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
For all the latest news and information, viewers can tune in to Sky Racing1 (Channel 519) where Dave Carlson will present all the action trackside.
G3 - Flore
G1 - Royal-oak
G1 - Kikuka Sho (japanese St.leger)
G3 - Killavullan Stakes Group 3
G2 - The Betfred Monet's Garden Old Roan Steeple Chase