Prior to the running of his Group 1 Sandown Cup heat last Thursday night, I was asked by one of my co-commentators as to whether or not No Donuts could bounce back from injury and was he as good as he previously was?
Although its origins are unknown, I borrowed a quote which has been used by none other than revered former Manchester United manager, Sir Alec Ferguson, which goes along the lines of…’form is temporary, class is permanent.’
Not that there was much wrong with No Donuts recent form – he’d won two of his previous three starts but he was returning to the track after suffering a hip injury in early May.
“Everything was on track but he hurt himself in his final gallop up my straight track before the Group 3 Racecaller’s and we had to scratch him from that race,” said his trainer, Anthony Azzopardi.
“That was obviously a massive setback to our plans and he went into his heat last week probably two gallops short which isn’t ideal at any time let alone when you’re trying to win a heat of the Sandown Cup.”
The past two weeks has seen the popular trainer spend plenty of time at the heated pool which is located on the property of his major owner, Terry Kingcott.
But before you think Azzopardi is taking things easy sipping Bourbon and Cokes while dipping a toe in the water, the heated pool has been vital in getting his Group 1 winning stayer back to the track in peak condition.
“He’s swum that much in the past couple of weeks he’d be an odds-on favourite to win a dog paddling race anywhere,” laughed Azzopardi.
“Along with the swimming, I’ve been hand-massaging the hip day and night and for him to run best of the night figures last week on a track which wasn’t set up for fast times because of the weather, I thought it was a terrific run.”
Check out the full TAB.com.au market for the G1 Sandown Cup here.
Azzopardi believes No Donut will take immense benefit from the run last week and thinks he will be tough to beat in the world’s richest staying race for greyhounds ($175,000 to the winner), if he begins on terms with the field.
“My main concern with him is at box rise,” said Azzopardi.
“If he leads and gets clear running in the early stages, he’ll take a power of beating because he’s able to break up even the best Group 1 fields in the middle stages but if he bungles the start, that could well be the end of his chances.”
The winner of the G1 Zoom Top; G1 Sale Cup; G2 Summer Distance Plate; and more than $323,000 in earnings, No Donuts was dominant last week when leading from the first turn from box 6 before stopping the clock at 41.78 in what was his first attempt at the 715m at Sandown Park.
The toughest for the pre-post favourite to beat appears to be Zipping Kane, who was ultra impressive when winning his heat in 41.83 when contesting just his second ever start over the long distance.
The move from box 2 in the heat to box 7 in the final shouldn’t present too many problems in the early stages for Zipping Kane as he has a noted slow beginner in Luna Jinx drawn directly underneath him.
If the two favourites were to strike trouble, look for ever-green chasers such as Wind Whistler and Luna Jinx to be flooding home in the closing stages.
These two greyhounds have had a combined total of 169 starts for 45 wins and in excess of $400,000 in prizemoney and although they are closer to the end of their careers, they still continue to race, and beat, the best on offer.
Along with Nick Quinn from TAB Fixed Odds and Simone Fisher, I’ll be live trackside at Sandown Park this Thursday night on Sky Racing 1 (Ch526) with all the latest information, late mail tips and interviews with all the leading contenders.
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