Palawa King Eyes NSW Group 1 Cup Crown

JACK Smith is hoping to mark the 20th anniversary of Irinka Barbie winning the Group 1 Association Cup with a second victory on Saturday night.

JACK Smith is hoping to mark the twentieth anniversary of Irinka Barbie winning the Group 1 Association Cup (720m) with a second victory in NSW's premier staying race on Saturday night.

Forbes-based Smith's reigning NSW Greyhound of the Year Palawa King is chasing a fifth G1 trophy in the $75,000 to-the-winner Cup.

It would be a breakthrough feature triumph in his home state.

Three of Palawa King's G1 titles have been won in Victoria – the Fanta Bale Super Stayers, Bold Trease and National Distance Championship – while he also annexed the Queensland Cup.

In fact, the Association Cup will be Palawa King's first appearance in Group staying company in NSW.

He has contested two sprint features at Wentworth Park; the G1 National Derby (4th) and G3 New Sensation (2nd) at last year's Golden Easter Egg meeting.

Palawa King powering away for his Association Cup heat Picture: Redden Video

"People keep saying he hasn't won a big race at Wentworth Park but he hasn't really had a chance," Smith said.

"The one he did contest was the (state) National Distance. 

"He ran second but because he was the wild card he went through to the final in Melbourne and won that.

"I suppose since he is the NSW Greyhound of the Year, it would be nice if he could win a Group race here!

"There's not really that many Group races for stayers at Wentworth Park, but to be fair they do have The 715 in Newcastle now and that's the race we really want!"

A son of Smith's former star sprinter-turned stud phenom Feral Franky, Palawa King is the fastest qualifier for the Association Cup after a 14-length gap job in his heat.

In trademark fashion, Palawa King came from last to put his outclassed opposition to the sword in 42.19.

While Queenslander Valpolicella was the ‘slowest' of the three heat winners, posting 42.29, she's shading the local hero for favouritism.

Valpolicella (box 8) is $2.40, with Palawa King (box 5) $2.60.

"I think it's going to be one of the three heat winners; Al's Entity (42.26) went nice in his heat too," Smith said.

Like Palawa King, Smith's 2004 Association Cup heroine Irinka Barbie, which was trained by his uncle, the late, great John Finn, was crowned NSW GOTY, but that's where the similarities end.

"Irinka Barbie would be around the first turn before Palawa King got out of the boxes!" Smith laughed.

Palawa King, pictured after winning the Queensland Cup is eyeing a fifth group 1 triumph in Saturday night's Association Cup Picture: Michael McInally

"Irinka Barbie's replays are all the same. She jumped in front and away she went, but with this bloke you never know.

"It's much more exciting with him!

"We also ran second in the race with Little Digger (2019). He ran out of his skin that night."

As Smith alluded, he's already looking past the Association Cup, with his sights firmly set on The 715, the world's richest staying race with a $500,000 winner's purse.

The heats of The 715 will be held at The Gardens on Friday week (April 26).

Smith won the inaugural The 715 in 2022 with Miss Ezmae, while Palawa King ran a close third to Zipping Orlando last year, beaten only three-quarters of a length.

"It seems like madness to say you're not focused on a Group 1 race," Smith quipped.

"But the Association Cup is worth $75,000 and we just want the half-million in two weeks!

"Because of that, I've left a little bit in the tank.

"I reckon he's 90 per cent and Saturday night will top him off perfectly."

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