The 2023 Ladbrokes Bidgee Cup heats have been unveiled with a strong local flavour dominating the three preliminaries set to be run this Friday, November 3.
The race (formerly known as the Graeme Hull Memorial Wagga Gold Cup), is a Group 3 event worth $25,000-to-the-winner, and was run twice last year and claimed on both occasions by the powerful Grenfell kennel with Vayda Bale.
The husband-and-wife duo without a runner in this year’s series meaning the title will go home with a fresh face for the first time since 2019.
“Corey [Grenfell] has won the race three times in a row now but it looks like it will be someone else’s turn this year,” Wagga Greyhound Club President, Ben Talbot, said.
“Ray Sims has a couple of nice 500m dogs coming through, Peter Sims has a few nice ones sneaking about and there’s a few good, young, local dogs coming through,” he added.
One of those talented youngsters is Try Catch Up for Peter Sims, a nine-time winner from 19 starts.
The son of Fernando Bale x Often Imitated looking well placed after producing low marks of 29.64 at Wentworth Park in July and 25.45 at Temora - less than a length off She’s A Pearl’s track record.
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“He hurt a groin running in behind ‘Pearl’ in July and hasn’t raced since. But I’ve just got him back and I reckon he’s better than ever,” Sims said.
The Illabo-based trainer bullish on the prospects of his lightly raced three-year-old.
“He’s probably just a fraction short of a nice group dog. He’s had a couple of box-to-box runs at Wagga and he went 5.18 and 17.32 to the back and only good dogs can do that,” Sims said.
“They’re winning around that track fairly often running 17.60 to 17.88 down the back so he’s flying. He’d run a half [29.50] in town now and I think so as long as he holds together, he’ll be good.”
The kennel also rugging up last-start victor Rampani in the second heat of the night.
“He’s a nice dog too. I stepped him up to 600m and he cleaned up there. He trialled extremely quick over 600m at Dapto, very low 34’s, and he juts needs a bit of room to move on Friday,” Sims added.
“I’ve only put half a dozen dogs around Wagga that can go 24.6 post-to-post and they’re both in the heats of this race so I’m looking forward to it.”
“The draw isn’t ideal but he’s handy and this is the first time I’ve raced at Wagga for a long time. The track has got Bungendore sand on it now and Benny [Talbot] has done a good job to make the track as safe as possible as well.”
It was this time last year Stagger Out Lee for Jack Strutt burst onto the scene as a staying superpower, winning the Wagga Marathon in November before going on to claim both the Group 1 Sandown Cup and Group 1 Zoom Top Stayers event over the following few months.
Wagga Marathon winner Stagger Out Lee with Jack Strutt (centre)
The reigning GRNSW Young Achiever Of The Year providing an update on the kennel stars return to racing.
“She had been back in work for a couple of months and we were setting her up for the Topgun Stayers. We got her cleared at Shepparton a couple of weeks ago but she’s hurt her wrist. We wanted to have another crack at the Bold Trease too but we’re in limbo now,” Strutt said.
Her full sister, Stagger Out Elly, will go around in the third Bidgee Cup heat for the camp.
“She’s definitely a lot faster than Stagger Out Lee but just nowhere near as strong, so she’ll need to lead because she can be pretty weak in the later stages of a 500,” Strutt said.
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“Her last couple of runs have been good though and she loves Wagga. The finish on meetings have really been helping her a lot too because she doesn’t hit the line as hard as she should sometimes.”
The 25-year-old also keen to watch “the hottest pup in Wagga” go around alongside his charge.
“Bianca’s Boy has been going really good and I think it’s got a lot of ability. I think he can go a long way and hopefully you can see him in the city after this series,“ Strutt said.
The annual Riverina feature race program also including The Wagga 400 and Bidgee Brisk (320m) series in 2023.
“We think we’ve covered a few more bases this year with some other races on the program and we’re really trying to cater for as many people as we can,” Talbot added.
“We’re also in the second year of the ‘Bidgee’ concept. The horses in town have always had the Gold Cup and we thought we needed to separate ourselves from them and make our own brand. We wanted something that represented the Riverina area and we wanted it to stand out as a Wagga club feature.”
The top two from each of the three heats, as well as the two fastest thirds, will qualify for the final of the 2023 Ladbrokes Bidgee Cup final to be run on November 10.