Controversy Marred Auckland Cup This Sunday

The 2020 edition of the $90,000 Auckland Cup hasn’t been staged without its share of controversy and that's before Sunday's group 1 final has even been run.

Peter Fenemor

28 February 2020

The 2020 edition of the $90,000 Auckland Cup hasn’t been staged without its share of controversy.

And it won’t be forgotten quickly either, even before the group 1 final has even been decided.

Controversy has plagued the event following the abandonment of a heat last Sunday, plus the subsequent suspension of a heat winner.

A lure failure during the second 527m event saw a rarely used GRNZ rule being utilized to determine a finalist. The rule allows Greyhound Racing NZ discretion to whom can be selected to go into a final field following an abandoned heat.

It was the Craig Roberts prepared perennial Group 1 finalist Dyna Dave who received the nod.

However, it then turned to custard for Roberts after his 30.45 heat winner Uthor Bale received a 28 day stand down period when he was charged with failing to pursue the lure.

Roberts immediately lodged an appeal against the suspension which was heard on Thursday. The appeal was unsuccessful and Uthor Bale, who had been correctly drawn into the field, subject to the appeal, was immediately scratched.

“It was no surprise he didn’t get off it. The definition of that part of the rule needs to be changed – he was judged on just the first metre of his race when I consider he was balancing after making an awkward start,” Roberts stated.    

Can the trap eight drawn Dyna Dave finally annex an elusive Group 1 title in his ninth crack at an elite race – he’s had five seconds and a third placing.

“Dave is what he is. As usual the early stages will be key for him. I have no doubt he is good enough to make his presence felt – it’s a case what type of run will he get around the first turn. I had to give him more work during the week which he handled good,” said Roberts.

Oster Bale had to be strong to claim victory in his heat which he nailed in 30.77 also for Roberts. He was stuck in early traffic where he suffered from a degree of jostling. 

“He tried and he tried to get racing room – he just couldn’t get a run through them with a wall of dogs in front of him. Once he got the gaps, he was off and gone. He’s a very strong dog,” said Roberts.

Master conditioner Ray Adcock guided last year’s Auckland Cup runner-up Ringside through to deliver the quickest heat time. It was a solid effort this fella produced when returning in 30.32. 

“He isn’t the dog he was last year (30.14s heat win) owing to some issues he’s had since, but in saying that he still has to rate as a top chance. He’s like his older brother (Ring The Bell) as he looks after himself – he’s a professional greyhound,” advised Adcock.

That was a super training effort by Steve Clark to not only get his New Zealand Cup winner Pinny Mack ready for the heats, but to come out and win it in 30.73s.

Yes, the dual Group 1 winning chaser has had his problems since his emphatic NZ Cup victory back in November.

He copped an injury two weeks after his cup win and that has seen him being parked on the side-line since then. He can only be improved following his bold heat assignment.

“I think being out in the seven (trap) can help him, especially if there’s any inside pressure. Yes, he will take benefit from his recent trial and his heat race. Hey, at the end of the day he’s there and it was a big effort by him to make it (into final),” suggested Clark.

Robson stylishly won this season’s Group 1 Waterloo Cup at this venue and he displayed a welcome glimpse of the form when he delivered his sound 5.5 length heat second to Uthor Bale.

“We have done a few things different with him which seems to be paying off as he’s a very happy dog. That was more like his old self last Sunday, especially when he overcame a first turn check,” stated trainer Peter Ferguson.

Kennelmate Silenci has been provided with the one trap to race from. Geez, he was brave in the manner he overcame interference during the run home to stick to his task when finishing just a neck behind Pinny Mack. 

“Yes, that was a gutsy effort by him to stick to his guns when he was hindered in his heat. He is a really good dog who is still on his way up,” added Ferguson.