Sister Upstages Her Brother At Casino

By Jeff Collerson
Malcolm Ross took Phantom Bonnie to Casino for Friday night's Charcoal Inn Cup heats as a "second stringer'' to her much-vaunted litter brother Phantom Clyde but it was the trainer's "support'' runner who stole the show.

Phantom Clyde was a $1.80 hotpot but missed a place in his heat while Phantom Bonnie, a $2.40 favourite, exploded out of box eight and led throughout.

While Phantom Bonnie's time for the 484m of 27.47 was bettered by Aston Zodiac's 27.42 heat winning figures, her sectionals of 2.68 and 12.27 were fastest of the five qualifying races.

"I've come to the conclusion that Phantom Clyde doesn't like Casino because it is virtually a circle track,'' Ross said.

"He loves Lismore and handles Ipswich well but he didn't seem at ease or have a chance to take off in Friday's heat.

"Phantom Bonnie has always been very quick early and I knew she would run fast splits if she got on the lure but was worried about how she would cope with the final part of the race.

"Until Friday Phantom Bonnie had not been tried beyond 431m and she had not even been trialled over the Casino 484m trip.

"One would think the heat run would improve her and I'm hoping she can come up with box eight again in Friday's final.''

Aston Zodiac, who went within a length of being in the TAB Million Dollar Chase final and who was runner-up to Shetland in the Million Dollar Chase Consolation, is in another major run-off after winning her heat of the Casino Cup.

The Geoff Grimwood-trained front-runner led throughout to win her Cup heat in 27.42, fastest time of the five qualifiers.

Aston Zodiac was also in The MACCA, the Black Top Consolation at LADBROKES GARDENS, and her Casino heat win took her record to 14 wins and 16 placings from 37 starts.

"The Cup heat was Aston Zodiac's second visit to the Northern Rivers as she contested a heat of the Lismore Cup on October 20,'' Grimwood said.

"She did no good in that race but she had not previously seen the track because due to her TAB Million Dollar Chase commitments there was no opportunity to trial Aston Zodiac at Lismore.

"This time I did the hard yards and took her to Casino and trialled her a couple of times and in her first trial over the 484m Cup journey she went well, clocking 27.75.

"I thought the track and the 484m distance would suit her but the final is going to be tough because on times there is only a couple of lengths separating the entire field.

"Obviously box one would be lovely but she won her heat from box seven and she is an honest little girl who consistently runs quick sections.

"Aston Zodiac can win from any box but it depends on what the greyhounds drawn around her do at the start.

"Even box four would be okay if there was a wide runner drawn outside her in five.

"After Casino I plan to set her for next month's group 1 Gosford Gold Cup.

"She hasn't raced at Gosford but that course should suit her too because she goes well at Wentworth Park and LADBROKES GARDENS.

"The Gosford Cup looks a good race for her because I will have plenty of time to give her a couple of looks at that track before the heats on December 27.''

Aston Tatum, who clocked 27.54 in her all-the-way heat win after recording smart splits of 2.72 and 12.28, went into the Cup heats "cold.''

Trainer Mark Davidson said: "She had not trialled on the track so I'm hoping she might be able to 'find' a tenth in 'the final.

"Aston Tatum is a good, reliable bitch who has been ultra-consistent in the past few weeks.

"She needs to ping the lids in the final and as far as the box draw goes, I would not mind seeing her drawn anywhere from box five out to box eight because Aston Tatum steps to the right in her first couple of strides.''

Box draw for the $25,000 to the winner Charcoal Inn Casino Cup will be made on Tuesday.

None of the heat winners came close to the blistering 26.91 posted by the 2019 Cup final winner Fernando Blaster, who came from box two to win in 26.91.