Former top stayer, Sweet It Is, will have to prove that she is a champion of the highest ilk if she is to overcome the speed and strength of the nation's current long distance chasing hero, Space Star, in this year's renewal of the Group 1 Association Cup at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
At her first run since the G1 Sale Cup final on Boxing Day in 2014, Sweet It Is performed well, although not up to her former brilliant best, when finishing second to fellow Victorian star Lady Toy in the second heat last Saturday night when beaten 7.5 lengths and clocking 42.36, some 12 lengths off her PB at the track
Punters had high expectations of a strong performance from the daughter of Mogambo when she firmed from $4.40 to $3.20 on TAB.com.au Fixed Odds betting just moments before the jump, but after beginning well, she dropped back through the field in the run to the post the first time before finishing strongly to grab second on the line.
Since injury forced Sweet It Is ($5.50 with tab.com.au Fixed Odds) off the scene, coupled with the suspension of her former trainer Darren McDonald, Space Star has literally carried all before him, and assumed the mantle as the best '700' greyhound in Australia.
Following an astonishing performance to claim the G2 Summer Distance Plate at Wentworth Park in mid-January, the son of Bekim Bale and Tonto Tears then went to Cannington where he defeated fellow Association Cup finalist Lady Toy in the G1 Galaxy.
The G1 Association Cup is set to jump at 8:48pm (AEDT). Check the full TAB.com.au market here.
Hot off the back of that win, Space Star ($2.30) then headed to The Meadows where he took out the invitation-only G1 Zoom Top but the best was yet to come.
One week later, in a heat of the G1 SuperStayers, Space Star did what many thought was nigh on impossible, and smashed Nellie Noodles' long standing track record over the 725m, lowering the mark by 1/10th of a second when clocking 41.93.
"It was a record I actually never thought would be broken," said trainer Rob Britton after the event. "Greyhounds haven't even run in the low 42's so to run 41.93 shows how much class this dog has and the confidence he is racing with."
Space Star eventually finished third to Luna Jinx in the SuperStayers final after bungling the start badly but he showed he was back to his brilliant best in his Association Cup heat when leading at the first turn before going on to stop the clock at a new PB of 41.71.
With the advantage of the inside draw, many experts expect Lady Toy ($2.40) to 'make' the race for Space Star by leading in the run to the first turn and with the good beginner but wide runner, Lillycette ($21), drawn in box 3, it's hard not to see the inside two greyhounds fighting out the finish.
"He's just too quick," said Lady Toys’ trainer Jamie Ennis earlier this week. "I've seen Robbie trial him and I know what he can run so we're just hoping that we have luck on our side this time in."
The Group 1 Association Cup is race 6 on the card at Wentworth Park on Saturday night and carries $100,000 in prize-money to the winner.
We may not definitively know the winner but you can be certain of one thing and that is that it promises to be a race for the ages.
My tips are Space Star to beat Lady Toy, Sweet It Is and Zipping Felix.
I’ll be live trackside on Saturday night but you can catch all the action from 6.30pm on Sky Racing 1 (Channel 519)
G3 - The Bet365 Classic Trial (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes (class 1)
G2 - The Bet365 Mile (class 1)
TG1 - Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hdle
Grade A - Punchestown Novice H'cap Chase