By Isaac Murphy
The Racing Queensland Country Cup Final brings together the best greyhounds from Central and North Queensland for the unique opportunity at Albion Park Metropolitan glory.
Central Queensland qualifier Foxy Fireball is one of many runners seeing the track for the first time under race conditions.
While the experience may be new for the in-form bitch, Hervey Bay training tandem Marie and Graeme Richards have seen everything the industry can offer.
“I came into dogs when I married Graeme who has been in the industry for sixty years and I’ve joined him for about the last thirty,” Marie Richards said.
“We met in Sydney before coming up to Bundaberg in the late 80’s where we had a large kennel of thirty or forty dogs and for some time commuted between Bundaberg and Wentworth Park as we raced dogs at both tracks.
“When I first started dogs were like house pets, then I got into handling dogs and eventually training and breeding.”
As Marie’s training career begins to wind down the trainer said she had come to appreciate a small kennel, rather than the bustling operation of the 90’s and early 2000’s the couple ran.
“The constant travel began to wear thin and we’ve been settled here in Hervey Bay for the last ten or eleven years,” she said.
“Including Foxy Fireball we only have three in work and are pretty happy to keep it that way.
“When you’ve got a big kennel they can sometimes become just a number, but with a small team it really gives us the time to make close connections with each of our dogs.”
Despite the Richards' small operation, the couple are more than happy to make the hour-and-a-half trip to Bundaberg as Foxy Fireball’s career continues to flourish.
“She’s been flying on her home turf and recently won greyhound of the year for the Bundaberg Racing Club,” Richards said.
“We’re a very tight nit club everybody knows everybody which is sometimes good and sometimes bad," she laughed.
“It’s our home track and we’ll always love it, especially since the upgrades were made last year.”
Foxy Fireball comes into the Country Cup Final off a hat-trick of wins at her home track and Marie Richards gave punters a sense of what they can expect out of her bitch.
“She doesn’t have great box speed but has found a way to win out of every box before, so the eight doesn’t worry us,” she said.
“She’s got a very good race sense and knows how to work her way through a field and hit the line strong.”
While the bitch could not be travelling any better at home Richard’s is realistic about her chances on a foreign surface.
“She’s only ever been on the track once, she’s done all her racing almost exclusively at Bundaberg which is on turf and during daylight hours, so there are a lot of unknowns,” she said.
“In saying that I think that’s the case for a number of greyhounds especially from the Bundaberg qualifying series and it’s pretty exciting to bring our girl down for a race like this.”