It may not carry the stature and profile of the Cyril Rowe Bulli Gold Cup, but Saturday night’s Graham Gibbons Memorial Maiden Final is rapidly becoming an annual standout feature at the South Coast venue.

Three heats of the event were held last Saturday night, and the results, and subsequent box draw, have produced an intriguing $8,000 to the winner final.

Leading trainer Mark Gatt qualified two for the final, including the fastest heat winner Ritza Vonnie who posted 26.31s after overcoming a slow start. Gatt also has the fancied Rivalries who has drawn the five box, and lost no admirers in his heat, finishing a strong second to Prince Planet after walking out of the boxes.

Prince Planet, trained by top mentor Mark Bell, make full use of his rails’ draw in the heat, and looked impressive holding off Rivalries in 26.37s. He will have to deal with the four box in the final, but showed last week he is more than capable.

The other heat winner was Ray Webster’s Sir Duke who hit the ground running in his heat, leading throughout from the four in 26.51s. He’s drawn the pink in the final, and is yet another winning prospect in a wide-open final.

“There is some real up and coming talent in the race,” said Bulli Operations Manager Darren Hull. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the dogs out of the final bob up over the next six months as very good dogs.

”This race has continued to grow over the years and this year it really attracted some quality maidens.”

The Graham Gibbons Memorial is sponsored by Harry Markou, a gesture out of respect and one to remember and celebrate his good friend.

“We were good mates,” Markou said. “He trained dogs for me and Bulli was our favourite track as we lived locally.

“Graham was involved in greyhound racing for as long as I knew him. He was a perfectionist in everything he did, not just training dogs.

“It’s good to see this race growing in significance and stature and as a nice tribute to Graham.”

Markou agreed that this year’s event is more open than some may think, particularly those who believe Ritza Vonnie will justify her short quote.

“I think there are about five good chances,” he said. “Of course the favourite has a great chance, but Mark Gatt’s other one (Rivalries) has a big chance, Mark Bell’s one has a chance and so does Webster’s one.

“It’s an open race and I’d be backing the one of the chances at the best price.”