Runner By Runner Guide: G1 Australian Cup

BOOM sprinter Morton deservedly headlines the Australian Cup field, but the box draw ensures he’ll need to be at his very best to claim victory.

BOOM sprinter Morton deservedly headlines the 2024 Australian Cup field, but the box draw ensures he'll need to be at his very best to claim victory.

The Australian Cup has been won by some of the sport's greats including Rookie Rebel, Half Your Luck, Tangaloa, Brett Lee and Bogie Leigh, and more recently by the likes of Dyna Double One, Fanta Bale and Tommy Shelby. Quite simply, the Australian Cup is one of greyhound racing's marquee events.


The winner of this year's race will not only etch their name into greyhound racing's history books, but net connections $300,000 in prize money. But who will it be?

Here's a case for and against each of Saturday night's Australian Cup finalists.

1. Tim Zoo

Trainer: Jason Thompson

Semi final time: 29.81 (2nd to Mepunga Smokey)

TAB price: $3.30

Case for: Early speed wins big races and when he times it right he's as quick as any out of the boxes. There will be plenty of pressure early but the inside draw gives him the box seat to hold prime position through the first turn.

Case against: He drew the same box in his semi final and despite a quick getaway, was a sitting duck for Mepunga Smokey down the back. Has only won one of three starts from the box. 

2. Schillaci

Trainer: Jihad Talgi

Semi final time: 30.06 (2nd to My Magic Man)

TAB price: $11

Case for: Enjoyed clear run to avoid trouble in his semi final and should get a clear enough run again from this draw. Showed he can mix it with the best in his Phoenix victory last December. Has firmed from $13 into $11.

Case against: Hasn't won since claiming the Phoenix, and in fact has won just two races in his last 12 races dating back to September last year. Hasn't shown the dash that was his trademark early in his career and can't afford to spot these a start. 

3. Launch Code

Trainer: Brooke Ennis

Semi final time: 29.99 (2nd to Fernando Phil)

TAB Price: $13

Case for: Noted for his early speed (albeit at times inconsistent), Launch Code has shown a different side this series coming from midfield to progress to the final despite modest getaways in both the heat and semi final. Is a veteran of top grade racing – this is his third group 1 at The Meadows alone including a brilliant win in the Maturity in 29.77 last July. He's good enough if he can recapture that form and he's a good enough price to find out.

Case against: Has led from start to finish in 11 of his 13 career wins and hasn't shown the speed to lead this field of late. Will have a lot of pressure early from the outside division.

4. My Magic Man

Trainer: Brooke Ennis

Semi final time: 30.01 

TAB Price: $34

Case for: The least experienced greyhound in the field lining up for just his 6th start over 500m suggesting he may still have more in the tank. Has been near faultless early since stepping up to city racing and showed good speed and tenacity to cross from box 7 to lead in his semi final.

Case against: He has only won of those six starts in town and while his early speed can put him in the race, he needs to find more in the final section and improve his PB to be a factor.

5. Morton

Trainer: Jason Sharp

Semi final time: 29.53

TAB Price: $2.90F

Case for: Has quickly become one of greyhound racing's glamour sprinters and it's easy to see why. His stunning 29.53 win last week was clearly the fastest of the semi finals, and no other finalist has gone close to that mark in their careers. Can lead or come from behind, has won eight of 12 this track and distance (and been placed more times), and has won three of four starts from the box – including both his recent group 1 and group 2 victories in Queensland. Clearly the one to beat.

Case against: As good as his form from the box is, box 5 is never a plus in a group 1 final. Should get a cart across from My Magic Man in box 4, but could also be squeezed by those outside him. Can't afford a mistake early.

6. Alpha Zulu

Trainer: Jason Thompson

Semi final time: 29.94 (2nd to Morton)

TAB Price: $4.60

Case for: The second of Jason Thompson's runners, Alpha Zulu ran second to kennelmate Explicit in the group 1 Temlee, and third to another kennelmate in Transponder in the group 1 Topgun. Has contested six other group races (for a 2-1-1 record) and has a PB at the track of 29.66 and has placed all five runs at The Meadows – in fact he's missed a place just four times in his 30 start career. The dog is all class and never puts in a bad run.

Case against: While he has run a stunning 4.95 split at The Meadows, he doesn't typically have brilliant early speed (his next fastest split is 5.11). That means he has to get it right from box 6 and even if he can, he could be in a tricky spot through the first turn. 

7. Mepunga Smokey

Trainer: Jeff Britton

Semi final time: 29.70

TAB Price: $15

Case for: Couldn't have been more impressive in his semi final, stalking Tim Zoo down the back and powering to victory in 29.70. That time is fast enough to win here.

Case against: Hard to see him getting through the first turn in a position to launch for the win.

8. Fernando Phil

Trainer: Michelle Mallia 

Semi final time: 29.64

TAB Price: $7.50

Case for: Has risen quickly through the ranks, contesting restricted win races in December to one of the country's premier open group 1s in February.  Exploded early to cross from box 4 in his semi final, his 5.00 split almost a length faster than his rivals here. That was no fluke and if he can repeat it here, he is strong enough at the end to claim the $300,000 winner's cheque. Has been supported by the punters, $9 into $7.50.

Case against: Is winless from three starts from box 8 – including his heat run – and has won just three from 14 starts when drawn in the outside half of the field.

Tips: 1-5-2-3

PREVIEW: Morton is the obvious pick and would be no surprise to see him win, but there is potential for trouble at the first turn which has Tim Zoo in a prime position to capitalise from his good draw and provide trainer Jason Thompson the one major missing from his CV. Similarly, Schillaci is too good a dog to be that price from the draw and if he can find a seam through the first turn is a good each-way play.

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