Head-to-head analysis of the 2024 Golden Ticket

Caption: Jay Is Jay in awesome form winning his heat of the Golden Ticket at Albion Park last week. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

By Pat McLeod

The 2024 Golden Ticket match-race finale is already reverberating with the power of Jay Is Jay.

No race, especially a greyhound race, is a certainty, but Selena and Mick Zammit’s sprint superstar casts a complete shadow over Thursday night’s four, Group 2 Golden Ticket Match Races (520m).

Not only does the ‘J Factor’ have the times, the current form and the box draw (1) in his favour on Thursday night, he and the Zammits also have the incentive of an ache to erase.

They won this series last year, but not without controversy. Jay Is Jay and WA’s Throttle shared the fastest time (29.52) after the four final match races, before ‘J’ was declared the winner from a ‘lucky draw’.

The winner of the Golden Ticket is ushered directly into the final of the Group 1 Gold Bullion, where Jay Is Jay ran second to Hello Mike.

No doubt this year the Jay Is Jay camp would be aiming not to share the $60,000 Golden Ticket winner’s cheque and to also go one better, and win the hometown $375,000 Group 1 Gold Bullion (520m) on February 1.

Early betting has Jay Is Jay at $1.85 to win the Golden Ticket, with three others under double figures – King Of Aces (Col Graham) $4.60, Travis Elson’s Hello Mike $6 and Professor Snitch (Steven White) $8.

Rounding out the betting are, Oh Minnie (Jamie Hosking) $15, Saige Tenniele (Kody Charles) $19, Blue Hornet (Ray Burman) $28, Saanvi (Tom Tzouvelis) $71.

The Golden Ticket match races analysis:

Match 1: 8.59pm – Blue Hornet (Ray Burman) Box 1 vs Professor Snitch (Steven White) Box 3:

A great clash, on and off the track, to start proceedings. The proven Blue Hornet is attempting to regain past glory against a potential star seeking to confirm that potential at Albion Park. Just two months separate this pair in age. However, Mary and Ray Burman’s Blue Hornet has raced 68 times (24 wins -16 seconds – 8 thirds) for $238,810 in prizemoney, including a track record run over the Ipswich 520m (29.83). Professor Snitch has had just 27 starts (11-5-3) for $98,475, but, unlike Blue Hornet, has Group success – victory in last September’s Group 3 Warragul St Leger, for mother and daughter owners, Arlene Roy and Vanessa Heather. Both dogs have proven speed. The most telling statistic is the two dogs’ Albion Park form. Professor Snitch’s best at The Creek is just two weeks ago – a swift 29.72 on January 4. Blue Hornet’s best at Albion Park is 29.93, back in February last year.  Off the track, Ray and Mary Burman, are respected long-time owner-trainers, who have one more box to tick – victory in a Group 1 race. Arlene and Vanessa are passionate first-time owners, who have the experienced team of Victorian trainer Steven White, and local mentor Trevor Lindsay in their corner.

Match 2: 9.11pm – Saige Tenniele (Kody Charles) Box 1 vs Saanvi (Tom Tzouvelis) Box 3:

Both these dogs would need to improve dramatically to threaten for the Golden Ticket. WA visitor Saige Tenniele certainly has the ‘black type’, winning the Group 1 National Sprint Championship Final (525m) at The Meadows in late August. However, since trekking to the Sunshine State she hasn’t set the world on fine, with a 30.66, then 30.0 over the Albion Park 520m. Trainer Kody Charles is confident the Bernardo – Abstract Miss charger can lift. She recently ‘flew’ at a Mandurah trial over 400m before being sent across to Queensland. Saanvi has been a solid performer for local Brisbane trainer Tom Tzouvelis, with the best of her 11 starts at The Creek over the 520m being a 30.12. She won a heat of the Group 1 Ipswich Gold Cup (520m) in 30.25. There is no doubt both of these dogs can improve on their Albion Park times, but the big question is: Can they bring the clock down far enough?     

Match 3: 9.23pm – Hello Mike (Travis Elson) Box 1 vs Oh Minnie (Jamie Hosking) Box 3:

Another ‘re-visiting past glory’ scenario here for Hello Mike. Owned by breeding matriarch Cyndie Elson and trained by son, Travis, Hello Mike has the runs on the board to threaten the Jay Is Jay tidal wave. Early in his career the Fernando Bale – Hay Cyndie flyer set The Creek alight with a formidable 29.49. He then backed that up by winning that summer’s Group 1 Gold Bullion, with Jay Is Jay second. However, injury and race manners have greatly reduced Hello Mike’s appearances in 2023. He returned last Thursday night to the scene of his glory days, Albion Park, and posted ‘a-worth-thinking-about’ 29.82. In the very next race, Golden Ticket heat surprise Oh Minnie broke ‘30’ for the first time at the track with 29.92. That didn’t come as a surprise to trainer Jamie Hosking who has seen similar from his Fernando Bale – Crazy Bonnie chaser at numerous Queensland and interstate tracks. At her 13th start at The Creek over the 520m, Oh Minnie, found her form. The match-race format could cut her PB considerably. While Elson believes Hello Mike is still a match for any opponent in an eight-dog field, he is concerned age may have dulled the dog’s ability to notch high-end times.

Match 4: 9.35pm – Jay Is Jay (Selena Zammit) Box 1 vs King Of Aces (Col Graham) Box 3:

Cometh the hour, cometh the dog. That is the scene set perfectly for Queensland’s reigning greyhound monarch, Jay Is Jay. The statistics are heaped ridiculously in the Sennachie – Kealoah chaser’s favour. ‘J’ holds the current Albion Park 520m record at 29.35. And most importantly that time is far from a one-off. His Golden Ticket heat win was in 29.51. His winning time in the previous start at the same track (November 30) was 29.52. As master mentor Mick Zammit (who with wife Selena trains the superstar) said after the heat win: ‘That is the dog and that is what he can run consistently.’ And that is why he started at $1.15 to win that heat and will most likely almost as short in the betting on Thursday night. But in the growing crescendo around Jay Is Jay, there would be a quiet confidence in Col Graham’s kennel. Graham respects ‘J’ as much as anyone, but his home-bred King Of Aces is racing back into peak form. The Hooked On Scotch – Distant Star dog notched a 29.54 at The Creek in August last year. After an injury lay-off, his last two starts at Albion Park have resulted in wins in 29.83 and last week’s 29.77. If ‘The King’ stumbles, even the slightest, on Thursday night, King Of Aces can dethrone him.




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