The Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun has always been a race embroiled in controversy and conjecture.
The Topgun is the richest, invitation only, greyhound race in the world worth $150,000 to the winner and is widely regarded as the 4th most prestigious race on the Australian greyhound racing calendar behind the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Cup and the Golden Easter Egg.
The very first edition of the race in 1993 was run in atrocious weather and saw Golden Currency and Worth Backing dead-heat for first; in 2003 Bombastic Shiraz became the only greyhound in history to win the unofficial ‘Triple Crown’ which consists of the Shootout, the Melbourne Cup and the Topgun; El Galo was disqualified as the winner in 2008 after returning a positive swab; while champions such as Rapid Journey (1998), Cindeen Shelby (2009) and El Grand Senor (2010) have claimed the race during its 21 year history.
But the real reason that controversy and conjecture abound at Top Gun time is due to the fact that the field is hand-picked by a panel of ‘experts’ - invariably there are cries of disbelief that a certain greyhound has been left out of the field but in most cases, the ‘experts’ have got it right, and delivered a field brimful of class and quality.
The 2014 edition of the Topgun has brought together a field of chasers which between them have won prizemoney in excess of $1,790,000 and includes the winners of the G1 National Sprint Championship (Chica Destacada); the G1 Perth Cup (Keybow); the G1 Sapphire Crown (Oakvale Destiny); the G1 Australian Cup (Buckle Up Wes); the G1 Adelaide Cup (Allen Deed); the G1 Maturity Classic (Mepunga Hayley); the G2 Harrison-Dawson (Awesome Project) and the G3 Ladies Bracelet (Zipping Willow).
The Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun is set to jump at 9:57pm (AEDT). Join me LIVE from The Meadows on Sky Racing 1 from 6.30pm for comprehensive coverage!
Queensland star, Flash Reality, who had drawn Box 4, was scratched on Wednesday morning after succumbing to an on-going hock injury with his place being taken by 1st reserve Mepunga Hayley – but if there was a sticking point in the selection of the field which raised eyebrows this year, it was the omission of the highly talented My Bro Fabio (who is 2nd reserve) following a spate of brilliant wins including the G3 Canberra Cup final after he smashed the track record at that venue one week earlier.
As you would expect, finding the winner of a race that is stacked full of talent is no easy task and the box draw once again has played a major role in the way the betting market has been shaped.
Allen Deed ($2.60 favourite with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds), a desperate for the outside, has drawn perfectly in Box 7 but his sometimes tardy manners at box rise could bring about his downfall; the inside box is perfect for Chica Destacada ($8) who should lead at the first turn but is yet to race at The Meadows.
Question marks surround Keybow (Box 2) and Buckle Up Wes (Box 5) as they are both returning to the track following injury enforced lay-offs and haven’t raced since August; Jeff Britton is having a year to remember in 2014 although this is the greatest test for his charges Oakvale Destiny (Box 3) and Mepunga Hayley (Box 4).
Check the full TAB.com.au market for the Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun here.
Awesome Project ($10) failed at his last start in the G2 Geelong Cup final but his form prior was ultra-consistent and he has won 26 of 52 starts; and Zipping Willow ($8), who will wear the pink rug, has the impeccable record from Box 8 of 9 starts for 6 wins.
I think the two greyhounds that are drawn to get the best runs in transit are Keybow in Box 2 and Zipping Willow in Box 8.
My speed map has Chica Destacada leading at the first turn with pace also expected from Buckle Up Wes, Awesome Project and Zipping Willow. With an even beginning, Keybow should be on the fence sitting behind Chica Destacada and if that’s the case as they make their way to the home straight, I think Keybow will be too strong in the run home.
The winner of the 2014 G1 Perth Cup, this son of Take The Kitty has always impressed trainer Darren McDonald and has posted some breath-taking times at a number of different venues around Australia including a P.B. at The Meadows of 29:58, only 2 lengths outside the track record, when winning a heat of the Australian Cup in February this year. Add to that he has also clocked 29:45 at Wentworth Park and 29:67 at Albion Park with the cherry on top being that he has won 7 times from 10 starts when exiting from Box 2.
My tips in the 2014 Sky Racing Topgun are Keybow, from Zipping Willow, Chica Destacada and Awesome Project.
Accompanying the Top Gun are 7 terrific heats of the G1 Hume Cup over 600m which will see chasers of the calibre of Xylia Allen, My Bro Fabio and Bookkeeper do battle. See you all on Saturday night for an awesome night of greyhound racing!
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase