By Isaac Murphy
Thagoona trainer Noel Evans has had his fair share of gun pups over his stellar career but with Werina Express he thinks he might just have his best yet.
After braining his competition by eight lengths in his first start in the Dave Brett Memorial Heats, the dog will run a hot favourite in the Final this Thursday night.
“It’s hard to declare him as the best pup I’ve had after one start, but it’s very rare to get one with both the physical and mental attributes he possesses,” Evans said.
“I’ve had others that have made Vince Curry Finals on pure ability, but I’d say he would have to be the most promising pup I’ve had; so clean was his break in, trials and everything I’ve asked him to do.”
Although last Wednesday was the dog’s race debut, Evans had seen enough to indicate he’d be hard to beat and he’s hoping he can replicate the performance in the final with a cosy inside draw when boxes are released.
“He’s always been a real race dog from day one and we were able to get him a few field trials where we saw that, but it was another thing to do it from box eight in a full field on debut - it really affirmed my opinion of him,” Evans said.
“To win by the margin he did was nice but we’re probably not going to get the trouble we did behind in the Final, so I’d love to see him come up with an inside box and take a bit of luck out of the equation.”
Winning a first start in 30.18 in a feature maiden from box eight could certainly be considered special, but Evans had seen this innate ability behind the scenes for some time in the lead up and predicts the dog can go on with it Thursday.
“If we can manage to lead again, his second sectional is where he can do some serious damage putting five or six on them down the back and without being brilliant home, he should have enough left,” Evans said.
“He missed the kick from the pink last week, we were actually lucky he had a little bit of room out wide to re-gather and accelerate, I’d love to see him nail the box rise this week.
“From his first trial I knew he was something special, we were actually holding him back for this race.
“He was busting to get to the track we’ve had to fill his time with a few 395 metre trials.
“Some of the stuff he was doing early days I hadn’t seen before with my pups, trialling open-class time at sixteen months.
“Most of his trialling came at Albion from the 395 and 331 metre starts being the track he was going to race at, and every day he was running the time of the day bar one when Calum Anderson’s bitch Marseille went quicker than him.”
At eighteen months, Werina Express could have a long racing career at his feet and Evans is making sure he doesn’t push too hard too early.
“With him being so wound up, win or lose Thursday night I’ll probably give him a couple of weeks off to freshen up before we go again,” Evans said.
A keen breeder, Evans showed great foresight investing in a couple of brood bitches almost a decade ago.
They have now paid huge dividends, with a number of good litters and possibly the best yet with the Fernando Bale/Slip Sliding combination.
“We bought Slip Sliding and Bat Out of Hell about eight years ago when I was looking to replenish my brood bitch stocks…and it’s turned out perfectly, they’ve both produced good litters and have more to come,” Evans said.
“Werina Express is a product of Slip Sliding’s third litter and first with Fernando Bale, and given how good the pups look so far we’ve just put in another application for a second Fernando Bale litter.
“She’s produced some very good greyhounds from a previous litter with Queen Werina and Mbye who was a stayer down in Sydney, but I think in time this will be by far her best.”
The rest of the litter are slowly making their way to the racetrack, with results so far indicating Werina Express won’t be the only successful pup.
“We sold one pup Riverboat Queen to Warren Nicholls who won her maiden on Sunday, and I’ve got Werina Ace in tomorrow who with a bit of luck will win, Evans said.
“I’ve got another four at home who are at various stages of development.
“We’ll just take our time with them, they’re only babies at eighteen months and to already have one like Werina Express who has about three lengths on the rest of the litter we’re more concentrated on him now.
“The ones who haven’t raced yet all copped the backlash of the virus, but they’re all back on deck now and everything they are doing points towards promising careers as well.”
Noel’s boom litter means he’ll be able to keep bragging rights over son and fellow trainer Matt (Evans), who got a close-up look at Werina Express’ brilliance a couple of months ago.
“He’s always trying to get one up on me and I know that, while it’s good to see him coming into his own as a trainer and getting some winners I’ll try to hold the mantle as long as possible,” Noel Evans said.
“Earlier this year when I was looking for a trial, he said I’ve got Giggling Sal who’s won two of three races, why don’t you put Werina Express in with her and he beat her by six lengths which knocked him down a peg.”