Yesterday’s two 512 metres heats of the Michelle Niele Memorial Dual Distance Challenge at Tara Raceway resulted in tight finishes with seven of the eight finalists breaking the 30 seconds mark.
In the first heat it was the Tracie Price trained Golly Gumdrops, chasing her first win since the Christmas Cup, who quickly found the front from box one.
Then it was a case of the Compton-based daughter of Worm Burner x Psychotic Gold defying Saint Maddie, Montaya and Saint Rock to run her down, the black bitch hanging on to win by a head in 29.81 seconds.
It was another Price-trained runner in Ton Eighty who took up the early running in the second heat from Spring Value, chasing his 11th win from 16 starts at the track and distance, and Hostile Savage.
And in the run home a great finish resulted with Kevin Mugavin’s Spring Value, a son of Spring Gun x Magic Matese, holding out Hostile Savage for a neck win in 29.79 seconds with a further 1½ lengths back to the early leader. Also through to the final is Noir Star.
Sunday’s final, to be run over 600 metres, now throws up something of a mixed bag when it comes to the finalists and how they’ll handle the middle-distance journey.
Golly Gumdrops has tackled the longer journey only once, finishing 8¾ lengths fourth over 643 metres in October at Gawler while the Dean Fennell trained Saint Maddie was a quick 600 metres winner in 35.04 seconds at Tara Raceway last month.
Peter Franklin’s Montaya is a 650 metres winner at Warrnambool and the Robert Walsh trained Saint Rock has won over 600 metres at The Meadows and Tara Raceway.
Spring Value has been unplaced once over the middle-distance while the locally owned Hostile Savage is a 600 metres winner at The Meadows for Portland trainer Nifty Lenehan.
Hostile Savage is raced by Jim Collins, who was on track on Sunday to witness his black dog put in a big run at his first Tara Raceway 512 metres start when clocking a personal time of 29.81 seconds.
He purchased the son of Hostile as a pup from breeder Jamie Quinlivian, the dam being Sweet Savage, a winner of five 400 metres races at Gawler and a member of the successful Cape Hawke x Rustic Reeta litter.
Ton Eighty, a brother to proven middle-distance performers Punchline, Sneaky Marquee and Ultra Lightbeam, has been placed over 595 metres at Sandown Park.
And wrapping up what should be a great race is David Peckham’s Noir Star whose only win has been over 600 metres at Tara Raceway on February 7 when she defeated Rajasthan.