By Isaac Murphy
Queensland will be well represented in this year’s $250,000 Golden Easter Egg Series, which gets under way at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
Among 80 of Australia’s top greyhounds will be Brandi Alexander and Maurice Minor (Tom Tzouvelis), Regal Recall and She’s A Sort (Tony Brett) and Dam Slippery (Brett Hazelgrove).
Tzouvelis said entering a series as competitive as the Easter Egg meant you needed to keep your expectations in check.
“It’s a very good series and there’s a lot of depth in those races,” he said.
“In Brandi’s race you’ve got Whisky Riot, his times in Melbourne are sensational, then Regal Recall who just broke the record at Ipswich and Dam Slippery who you could argue is Queensland’s best performed dog this year who has run second in a Group One down there.”
“There’s probably two lengths that cover the field, so the key becomes the first section and that’s where a dog like Dam Slippery gives herself a chance, even if Brandi has run time on her in the past.
Of Tzouvelis’ runners Maurice Minor has the runs on the board having mixed it with them at Group One level but enters the series with questions to answer after a few months off.
“Maurice is an interesting case coming in fresh, he needed some time off after so much travelling and racing his last three or four runs weren’t the usual Maurice Minor we’ve come to expect,” Tzouvelis said.
“He’s been trialling terrific over the short course, but he hasn’t had a go over the 500 yet so he’s probably going to be a little bit underdone.
“If we can get them both through it would be a huge result because they’ll only improve on what they do, Brandi’s first look at the track and Maurice getting a little bit of fitness in his legs.”
As Tzouvelis alluded to, Brett Hazelgrove’s Dam Slippery comes to the heats as the in-form bitch, winning her last four starts at the Group Two Richmond Oaks, The Young Guns Heat at Albion, The Young Guns Final at Albion and a Free For All at Wentworth Park.
While other dogs can run quicker time on the night, Hazelgrove said Slippery’s reliable box manners put her in a good position to progress.
“She’s in great condition, she’s had a good rest after her run down here last Wednesday and I’ve just got to put the finishing touches on her ahead of Saturday,” he said.
“The box draw is ok (4), I always prefer her closer to the inside and even though the four is really a middle box, she won the Young Guns out of the five at Albion, so it shouldn’t bother her.”
Hazelgrove said the heat was all about advancing and hoped Slippery could leave quick enough to guarantee her a top three spot.
“There are some quick dogs in the field including Tony’s (Brett’s), Regal Recall on our inside, hopefully she carries her confidence from those recent starts and can get to the bunny early.”
“We’re hoping to make the next stage with her, we’re not all that worried if she doesn’t win.”
Tony Brett brings a pair of runners both coming off impressive wins last Thursday night at Albion Park, with recent Ipswich 431 metre track record holder Regal Recall jumping from box three in the loaded first heat, while She’s A Sort steps from the seven alley in heat nine.
“Their runs last week convinced me to come, they both stepped up and did what I wanted them to do, so I thought they deserved a chance, Brett said.
“Neither of them has travelled before and with races like Million Dollar Chase also held at Wentworth Park it won’t hurt them to have a look around and get accustomed.”
Brett acknowledged Regal Recall would have to run a huge race in his hot heat but gave She’s a Sort a nice push in heat nine.
“Regal Recall has drawn a really tough heat with some quality dogs across the board, I’m happy enough with his draw in the three, but he’ll have plenty of company early,” Brett said.
“She’s a Sort she loves the wide draw (7) and the way she’s jumping at the moment she could lead any race if she gets it right.
“They’ll be up against it, but for them if they can finish anywhere in that top three this week and get a feel for the competition that’ll be a win for us.”
Outside Dam Slippery Northern Rivers trainer Terry Jordan brings in one of the hottest dogs in the country, with Fernando Blaster coming off a 29.73 gallop at Albion and a 2nd placing in The Group Two Maitland Cup, the trainer quite happy with box seven in heat two.
“We’ve done alright with the heat, it’s not the hardest, but not the easiest either,” Jordan said.
“He’s in probably the best form of his career, he’s drawn well, I trialled him this morning at Lismore and we went as well as he’s ever gone, so fingers crossed we get down there safe and sound Saturday and he can put his best foot forward.”
Jordan said he had no worries about how the dog would handle the track after a brilliant first up run in this year’s Australian Derby.
“He went super there first up, so there’s no drama there handling the track, which is one less thing to worry about.”
“He’s made four finals now The Young Guns, The Christmas Stocking, The Australian Derby and the Maitland Cup, he’s putting himself in the right positions, hopefully he can crack one soon.”
“My expectations are not necessarily to go down there and win it, but I’m confident we can compete over the three weeks and put on a good show.”
Whiteman’s Creek trainer Evelyn Harris rugs up ageless wonder and Queensland Greyhound of the Year nominee Cosmic Bonus along with in form Fernando Bale progeny Bad Neighbour.
Bad Neighbour jumps from the six in heat three while Cosmic Bonus gets the five in heat four, Harris expecting both contests to push her dogs.
“Both of them have pretty tough heats Miss Splendamiro is in box one in Cosmic Bonus’ heat and Poke The Bear is in box one for Bad Neighbour’s heat,” Harris said.
“We’ve learnt you can only hope in these races, if you come in with expectations with the quality of dog you can easily get burned.”
Despite odds stacked against them Harris said neither greyhound could be travelling any better in the lead up.
“I’m not worried about him (Cosmic Bonus) coming back up to the 500, he broke the 411-metre track record at Casino last month and his finishing sectional has always been strong, he comes in going as good as ever.”
“He also returns to Wentworth Park for the first time since he won the $130,000 Ladbrokes Masters Meteor Final, he’ll be almost five when that race rolls around this year, but we hope we can get him there.”
“Bad Neighbour won last night at Lismore, she flew the lids and is probably going to have to do something similar Saturday night.”