By Isaac Murphy
Victorian trainer Brendan Pursell was unsure if his star chaser Slingshot Hammer would run the 600 metres with his only previous attempt seeing him tailed off at Sandown.
But the trainer’s decision to head north for the Box 1 Photography Group Three Queensland Cup looks to be a masterstroke after his dog romped home to win his heat by 5.75 lengths in a time over four tenths quicker than the alternate heat.
With two heats the first four dogs from each progressed to next week’s final, which Slingshot Hammer is set to go around as a clear favourite.
Strong local hopes Champagne Sally and Big Bad Bob could only fill the reserve slots.
Pursell said his dog had been jumping better since his Brisbane Cup campaign in December, a trait that proved pivotal in his heat win.
“My biggest concern coming into the race was drawing the five and possibly getting crunched early like he did at his only other attempt at the distance back home,” Pursell said.
“He couldn’t have jumped any better and with only the bunny to chase it gave him every chance to run out the trip.”
Slingshot Hammer is building an impressive resume at Albion Park, missing out on the Group One Brisbane Cup Final by a nose before going on to win the Consolation comfortably the next week.
Pursell said his dog felt right at home in the Sunshine State.
“He’s had the two trips up there now and is really starting to feel comfortable,” Pursell said.
“He’s stayed with Steve Scott on each occasion and got the chance to trial earlier in the week and replicated his time under race conditions which is really pleasing looking towards next week.”
Although Slingshot Hammer will be the likely favourite in next week’s final there will be seven other seasoned greyhounds doing their best to take him down, headed by John Dart’s heat winner First Fire.
The veteran chaser was out of form and racing in Masters company less than six months ago, but the Northern Rivers trainer said the veteran had grown another leg of late.
“I trialled him Monday morning at Casino and he went as quick as he’s ever gone,” Dart said.
“I knew he’d run a good race he was only a couple of lengths off them in the Clem Jones last week and this week’s field was arguably tougher, it was a big effort.”
Dart marvelled at the soon to be four-year-old’s longevity and was confident he’d run a big race again next week.
“He’s almost had a hundred starts and to still have him improving is remarkable,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter to him (box draw), he’s seen them all and showed he could win out of a middle box tonight.”
Queensland greyhound of the year nominee Champagne Sally lined up as favourite in the same heat, but trainer Ray Burman said her lack of conditioning after an injury layoff took its toll.
“She jumped brilliantly, but unfortunately she hasn’t gone around a bend since November and was just a little short of a run,” Burman said.
The full field and draws for the Box 1 Photography Group Three Queensland Cup is listed below
- Gelantipy Gold – Selena Zammit
- Del Rey – Tommy Tzouvelis
- First Fire – John Dart
- Caribbean Red – Tommy Tzouvelis
- Cyn’s Magic – Cynthia Elson
- Slingshot Hammer – Brendan Pursell
- Magic Hornet – Ray Burman
- Infrared Star – Joanne Price
Reserve 1. Big Bad Bob
Reserve 2. Champagne Sally