TWENTY-nine seconds stand between one dog and greyhound racing immortality.
This Friday night, eight of Australia’s finest canine athletes will converge on Sandown Park to contest the Group One Melbourne Cup over 515 metres.
It is a race where champions are made. That’s not just an expression, because only the best win the Melbourne Cup, after all it is the richest greyhound race in the world, worth a gob-smacking $420,000 to the triumphant hound and its trainer.
The honour roll for the Melbourne Cup is littered with more stars than the night sky.
You have dogs such as Cheltenham Lass, gee wasn’t she special? Then you have Highly Blessed, Rapid Journey, Go Wild Teddy, Bombastic Shiraz and El Grand Senor amongst a plethora of superstars which have made the race their own.
And of course, who could forget the thrilling contest in 2015 when champion greyhound Fernando Bale was run down by his kennel mate Dyna Double One. I bet you’ve never seen anyone more upset to have won close to half a million than Andrea Dailly in that post-race interview.
The 2017 race will be no different. This year’s finalists have accumulated 138 wins between them including seven group wins. Those victories have banked a whopping $1.7 million for some very lucky trainers and owners – who said greyhound racing was only for battlers?
The favourite to take out this year’s race is Aston Dee Bee ($2.60). Without sounding too blunt he is an absolute freak and it beggars belief that the son of Barcia Bale and Aston Elle has not won at the highest level. It would be somewhat fitting for him to break his maiden group 1 status in the biggest race there is.
He is trained by Seona Thompson who knows a thing or two about how to win a Melbourne Cup. Paired with her husband Jason they have already won the race three times – Light Of Fire , Got A Moment  and Black Magic Opal .
Then you look at his form. Aston Dee Bee has races 47 times for 26 wins, 5 seconds and 5 thirds. He holds two track records and has already placed in five group races, most recently the Group 1 Topgun at The Meadows.
He comes into the race having won his past two starts including his heat in a breathtaking 29.12 at Sandown Park – easily the best of the night.
Box one is perfect for him. He has won four of his five starts wearing the red coloured rug and he looks primed to become the first dog to salute from the inside alley since Closing Argument in 2005. He is our top selection for the Melbourne Cup.
Also a major chance of capturing the title is Aston Dee Bee’s kennel mate Bewildering. He is the son of a Melbourne Cup winner, Black Magic Opal, which was incidentally trained by the all conquering Thompson team.
You can get $4.00 with us about him saluting off box six. On paper that looks a terrible draw, but he is known to miss the start and with speed all around him he could drop back to the fence and prove a threat late in the piece.
Adelaide Cup winner Raw Ability is on the third line of betting at $6.00. He proved he is a genuine threat with a sublime 29.20 win in his race last week, however he will have to buck the trend Adelaide Cup winners face in the Melbourne Cup.
The last greyhound to complete the double was Rapid Journey 19 years ago. He came from box six to win the feature that year, the same box Raw Ability won his heat from. Raw Ability, which is trained at Myrniong by Anthony Azzopardi, will contest the final from box four.
Is he as good as the brindle powerhouse from the 90s? We don’t think so, but plenty of punters give him a chance.
Next best in the market is Kouta Mayhem at $7.00 for Jason Sharp. He won the first heat last week in 29.57 which he probably needs to improve on to win the final, but he is beautifully drawn in box two and gets his chance.
Omen punters might be interested to know box two has produced four of the past seven winners – the most recent being Dyna Double One in 2015.
In a race dominated by males, there is also three runners of the fairer sex lining up to take their place on Friday.
Sparring partners Up Hill Jill and Striker Light – which race each other what seems like every second week – are both $9.00 shots to take home the title.
Together with Aston Miley, a $15 outsider, the trio will be aiming to secure a win for the girls for the first time since 2012 when Got A Moment got the choccies. History is against them though, only 12 bitches have won the Melbourne Cup since its inception back in 1956.
Up Hill Jill has overcome this trend before, becoming just the third female to win the Group 1 Topgun in its 25-year history when proving too slick for Aston Dee Bee last month. She is armed with brilliant speed and will be looking to give box five back to back wins after roughie Ando’s Mac took out last year’s Cup.
Rounding out the field is Chasin’ Crackers – another $15.00 pop. He was a gallant winner in his heat and showed he is capable of matching it with the best of them with a commanding 29.62 win at Wentworth Park last month.
However, he has come up against one of the most even and talented fields to contest a Melbourne Cup in recent memory so he will need plenty of luck from box three.