By Isaac Murphy
The Racing Queensland Young Guns Final at Albion Park this Thursday brings together eight of Queensland’s best young chasers and with only small margins separating the runners in last week’s heats.
We took the time to ask the heat winning trainers Warren Nicholls, Greg Stella and Tony Brett for their thoughts on the final and what was to come.
Common Ground (Box 1) - Warren Nicholls
Common Ground was a surprise fastest-qualifier for the final out of the Warren Nicholls kennel, scorching around the 520m in a personal best of 29.87sec.
If the bitch wasn’t already the clear-cut favourite on time, to the delight of Nicholls she also drew the red making her an even tougher prospect to topple.
“I think all eight of us were angling for the inside, so I’m rapt to have come up with it,” Nicholls said
“She won out of the red in a Novice three or four starts back and that’s been her only go from the box, fingers crossed she’ll use it well second time around.”
Common Ground flew out from the six-last week with an early sectional of 5.56 and Nicholls is hoping his bitch can produce something similar to hold out the wide brigade headed by Tony Brett’s Painted Picture and also pinch a break on the stronger dogs.
“The early speed battle will be pivotal, Painted Picture will be flying across from the eight but I’d much rather be on the inside of it and hopefully lead up the back,” Nicholls said.
“Fernando Blaster (3) is probably the only dog in the race I’d be concerned about chasing her down, he’s drawn in a bit closer this week, so I’d like to see us get away early if we can.”
Exciting times are on the horizon for the Nicholls kennel with the trainer declaring Thursday the biggest final of his career to date.
“I said to my wife a few weeks ago if she cracks 30 seconds I’ll take her down to The Futurity at Wentworth Park,” he said.
“Obviously she’s come out and gone 29.87 last week so we’ll be headed there next.”
Regal Topaz (Box 6) - Greg Stella
Regal Topaz put together a professional performance for Greg Stella to be the second fastest heat winner in 30.04, but unlike Common Ground received no favours at box draw.
“The positive is she’s had practice from those boxes, but up against this field she’s going to have to be brilliant to win from box six against this field,” Stella said
“We’ve got Painted Picture on our outside and the quickest qualifier (Common Ground) on the fence so it’s not ideal, but that’s racing.”
Although not drawn to suit Stella said if his bitch can be close enough to them she’d give herself a chance.
“If the red led on its time last week you would think it’d win,” he said.
“If we can get a clear run through the first corner and be up in the first three, she’s probably as strong home as any of them, except for Fernando Blaster.
“We know what he’s capable of if he gets some luck early and he’s drawn better this week (3), it’s a tough final.”
Regal Topaz will look to carry her rich vein of form onto another set of Queensland Young Guns heats.
“We’ll go to the Young Gun Heats at Ipswich next with a fair amount of confidence, she’s had success there before and two Young Guns finals in a month would be special,” Stella said.
Painted Picture (Box 8) - Tony Brett
The third fastest Heat winner is arguably the most highly credentialed of the young field in Tony Brett’s Painted Picture.
The dog has won five of his ten starts including feature race wins in the Eric Thomson Memorial and The Christmas Stocking finals and has drawn nicely for his crack at the young guns.
“I like him out wide (8), really happy with the draw but I don’t think it’ll be as easy to get across them clean this time,” Brett said.
“The favourite is quick early and there is plenty of speed in six and seven, it’ll test him.”
Known for his lightning box speed Painted Picture found another way to win last week, much to the satisfaction of his trainer.
“It was good to see him do it all his other wins have been jump and go, whereas he had to work a little bit and show some race smarts,” Brett said.
Brett identified Common Ground as the deserved favourite but pointed out it wasn’t always easy for a young greyhound to back up from a career best run.
“The thing with Common Ground is it’s probably his hardest race to date and although last week he was super impressive it can be hard with young dogs to reproduce a run like that second up,” he said.
“The forgotten dog is Fernando Baster, who is probably the quickest dog in the field it’s just a matter of him doing things right.”
Painted Picture will be taking a different path to his rivals post final heading to Wentworth Park for an all-male age race.
“We’re going to head to Sydney for the National Derby heats which are on the 19th, so after Thursday night I’ll take him down and trial him,” Brett said.