Champions of any sport are few and far between.
Although many pundits, punters and so-called experts are quick off the draw (sometimes, way too quick) to label a potential star as the ‘next big thing’, there is no doubt that Fernando Bale has earnt his place as one of the great champions of Australian greyhound racing.
As he heads into the $420,000 to the winner of the G1 TAB Melbourne Cup final at Sandown Park, Fernando Bale’s race record stands at 40 starts for 33 wins, eight Group 1 victories and $1.168m in prizemoney.
Staggering statistics…absolutely staggering.
But many people also say that the best time to quit is when you are still on top – Fernando doesn’t have the option of making that decision, however, his owner Paul Wheeler certainly does and he has hinted that if the champ was to win the world’s richest greyhound race this Friday night, his immediate future is in the breeding barn with some of the best brood bitches in Australia in waiting.
Fernando Bale has won a Group race from every box and it is his blinding speed from the boxes and mid-race burn that stands him above all others. Despite recording the second fastest time in the heats (29.06), Fernando Bale was immediately installed as a $1.50 favourite with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds as soon as markets opened on Sunday.
So, the burning question is, can Fernando Bale be beaten?
Of course he can – there is no such thing as a racetrack certainty but as I wrote last week, Fernando Bale is one of the closest thing’s you will ever find to it.
He had box 1 in his heat and moves to box 6 in the final but as we have seen so frequently in 2015, his brilliant pace as soon as the lids open quite often negates any ‘bad’ box that he draws and he is able to lead the best greyhounds in Australia by the time they reach the first turn and lead them by a healthy margin.
Lamia Bale drawn outside him in box 7 will run a straight line to the first turn and Secret Spell in box 8 is not a mad ‘crasher’ to the fence – Black Illusion in box 5 and Zipping Meg in box 4 will want to head left out of the boxes so Fernando Bale looks as if he will have an unimpeded run in the crucial first five or six strides.
I think the only danger to Fernando Bale is if his kennelmate, Dyna Double One ($2.60) begins as well as he did last week and gets into a clear second spot down the back straight three or four lengths behind him – if that’s the case, we will have a Melbourne Cup to saviour as I have long held the belief that Dyna Double One is the second best greyhound in Australia and he finally lived up to that last week when he set the time standard of 29.05.
I would love to see that scenario eventuate but I don’t think it will – Double One’s average box manners in feature races is the reason that the head-to-head tally between himself and Fernando Bale stands at 7-0 in favour of the champ.
If he is to retire following the G1 TAB Melbourne Cup final, I sincerely hope that he does so with his name etched into the trophy as the winner of the G1 TAB Melbourne Cup as no other greyhound in recent times deserves it more than Fernando Bale.
I’m tipping Fernando Bale to win the Melbourne Cup from Secret Spell who I think is drawn to get a unimpeded run down the outside – I can’t leave out Dyna Double One out because of his untapped ability and Lamia Bale may be a sneaky chance to fill a spot in the first four.
The Group 1 Bold Trease final offering up $145,000 to the victor is a far more open event and you could make genuine claims for virtually every runner in the field.
Bourbski Fever ($2.50 with TAB.com.au) was a certainty beaten last week when she finished second behind Ryno’s Raider in her heat and to my mind, there is a little bit of an ‘x’ factor about this chaser who is prepared by Team Dailly.
Her most recent form at Sandown Park is very good and I think she is well drawn close to the fence – luck in running in the early stages will play a major role in this race and I think Bourbski Fever is the one to beat.
Watch Mark Duclos and Dave Carlson's in-depth preview of the TAB Melbourne Cup and Bold Trease here.
If you give Bourbski Fever a big chance of winning then you must also include Luna Jinx ($2.90) who ran the fastest time of the four heats last Friday night when clocking 41.94 from box 2.
Luna Jinx, who won the G1 Super Stayers at The Meadows earlier this year, recorded a blistering 41.34 at her previous start at Sandown Park when she beat Bourbski Fever by 6 lengths and if the box draw were reversed, I would have had Luna Jinx as my on-top selection.
I think that Bourbski Fever and Luna Jinx are the two standout chasers in the G1 Bold Trease and I’ll be playing the Exacta hard as well as standing them out in Trifecta’s and First Four’s.
My tips in the G1 Bold Trease are Bourbski Fever from Luna Jinx, with Ryno’s Raider and Come On Fantasy to fill the minor spots.
This Friday night is one of the great nights of Australian greyhound racing and I’ll be trackside at Sandown Park from 6.30pm (AEDT) to bring you all the action of the G1 TAB Melbourne Cup and the G1 Bold Trease on Sky Racing 1 (Ch519) with the Late Mail, interviews with the leading contenders and plenty more.
Good luck and good punting.
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