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Trainers assess Vince Curry semi-finalists

By Isaac Murphy

The Group Three Vince Curry Memorial Maiden Series kicked off at Ipswich last Saturday night with ten heats featuring the future champions of Queensland Greyhound Racing.

The eighty runners were cut down to thirty-two for the semi-finals this Saturday night with the top three greyhounds from each heat progressing, along with the two fastest fourths.

With so many quality young runners still alive in the series we asked the trainers of some of the most eye-catching winners what they thought of the first-up runs and their chances at beginning their careers by winning the Group Three crown.

Darren Russell - Bago Bluff (30.24sec) 

Russell enjoyed a huge 2018 at the Ipswich Greyhound Club taking out the Ipswich Sprint Final and the Group Two Ipswich Cup. He looks on track to continue his success with Bago Bluff posting the fastest heat time in 30.24sec.

“It was a hell of a run, you never want to get too ahead of yourself with a maiden, but it was a top start,” Russell said.

“I thought he would go well but I didn’t expect him to go that quick, that track was obviously in better nick than when he trialled there four of five weeks ago which were good runs but not that good.”

Russell said although the pup was in great order for the race it was always a big relief to see them do well first up.

“You can do all the work with young pups like this and they come out of the boxes last, fortunately he got it right on Saturday and if he can continue to jump he’ll be hard to catch with his run home,” Russell said.

The lightning run has given Russell plenty to think about over the next few months.

“He just scrapes in at 30 months for the Queensland Young Guns in a few months’ time or we could take him to the Launching Pad Series in Melbourne,” he said.

Tony Zammit - Emmaville Star (30.53sec) 

Emmaville Star was the only heat winner to have previously had a race start with a flashing second at Albion Park in early January.

Zammit said he knew after that run the Vince Curry Series would be ideal for the bitch and set her for the series.

“I said to her owner Clint Kratzmann after that race with a bit of work out of the boxes she could be a really good chance to go well in the Vince Curry,” Zammit said.

“It was a really beneficial five weeks it gave us the chance to trial her at Ipswich and Albion Park and those experiences are only going to help at her age.”

Zammit said the bitch's biggest challenge would be to overcome her moderate first sectional as she did in her 30.53 heat win and use her run home to finish over the top.

“She left really well in her heat the five dog just had exceptional early speed an burnt her off, but her biggest asset is her finish and she never stopped chasing and came over the top,” he said.

Zammit said he was hoping for another inside alley for the semis and gave a glowing review of what the three-week series could do for young greyhounds.

“My main concern will be drawing nice and handy to the fence for the semis and hopefully the final because that can certainly offset her average starts,” he said.

 “The Vince Curry has always been a good series it’s not always the dog that runs the fastest time in the heats that wins the final, dogs can really improve dramatically after each race.”

Tony Brett - Exciting Times (30.73sec)

Brett was rapt with his twenty-two-month-old Exciting Times who exceeded the trainer's expectations.

“He actually surprised me a little and went better than I thought he would, there’s a lot of upside,” Brett said.

Jumping as a short priced favourite from box seven Exciting Times did plenty wrong in the run, but answered Brett’s biggest question if he would stay the trip.

“He crashed hard left out of the boxes which isn’t always good when you’re drawn in the seven, but he’s a big strong dog and once her overcame that,” he said.

"When he found the front I was a big nervous he might get tired the last 50 but ran it out well.”

Brett said owners George Kairouz and Terry Hill had also owned multiple Group One Winner Fast Times and were keen rapt to get involved in another promising bitch out of Clockwise.

“George, Terry and I all had such a great ride with Fast Times so they were over the moon to buy into another Clockwise prodigy,” Brett said.

“Right from his early trials he’s shown he’s got a bit of class about his and he’s no Fast Times at this stage, but you never know.”

Brett said he Vince Curry Series had always featured heavily in his calendar and was hungry for more success after achieving a unique feat in 2017.

 “Up until 2017 I’d run second in it four times, but we continued to plan all our maiden’s around it and finally broke through and dead heated the race with a little bitch called Split Image and another bitch called Paua To Avoid.”

“It was the first dead heat in the races history and they were both out of my kennel it was a pretty special night.”

Mary Burman - Blue Diva (30.74sec)

Blue Diva for Ray and Mary Burman was the youngest heat winner, not yet eighteen months old, but perhaps showed the most maturity overcoming a slow get away.

“The thing I was most pleased about was how she won the race, she showed great track sense,” she said.

“After copping a little bit of a bump at the first corner she scooted around them and got away with a pretty explosive second split and had one of the quickest run homes of the night.”

Burman said she expected the bitch to leave the boxes a bit quicker than she did and was hoping for improvement this week, she even went as far as a tentative comparison to Champagne Sally.

“I’d love her to do what Champagne Sally does out of the boxes, It may not mean anything but at the same age she’s doing better than Sally,” she said.