By Isaac Murphy
Inconsistency and injuries plagued Matt Heilbronn’s aptly named Never, but the third-generation trainer didn’t give up on his chaser. The three-year-old has finally found his best racing and is a big chance in tonight’s Fifth Grade Publican’s Cup Heats.
Never holds the modest record of three wins from his thirty-six starts. However, two of those wins have come in his last five runs as Heilbronn finally gets to see him race to his potential.
“He’s been a tough one to crack. He’d give you a brilliant trial and then go out to race and take two steps backwards. I couldn’t work him out,” Heilbronn said.
“Ability was never in question. Before his first start he’d trialled 30.80 over the 520 at Ipswich and I thought he could be anything, but it’s been a long road with plenty to overcome to get him here.”
Heilbronn went as far as trying a horse whisperer to get Never physically and mentally sound, but it was a suggestion from fellow trainer Mick Emery that finally got him right.
“If it wasn’t for Mick Emery who recommended the Fernvale Vet and the practice, I was almost ready to call stumps on his racing career. It’s been a remarkable turnaround,” he said.
“I’d tried everything with him before I took him to Fernvale and he’s come back a new dog.”
“He had his coccyx out and since then has come on in leaps and bounds. He’s got a newfound confidence in his body and it’s just up to me to find the right races for him.”
With a first ever Thursday night win over the 520 and Monday night win over the 600 in the last five weeks, Heilbronn is trying to find the right races for his reborn chaser.
“He’s led in his 630 metre and 600 metre races at Ipswich and Albion respectively, but has just struggled to run out the trip. Hence the drop back to 520 where if he reproduces his middle-distance form. He’s a real chance,” he said.
“The Publican Cup Heats look really nice for him this week. He’s come up with the one where his only Thursday night win came from. It would be great to see him through to a final, though I’ve got back up plans for him as well.”
“He’s still got a 0-4 win under his belt if he doesn’t come out of those races with a win, so we still have a Monday night 600 up our sleeve. In November he’s eligible for the Masters where he will be more than competitive.”
Never jumps from the red in Heat One of the Cup and will have to overcome the likes of the well performed Copy Workshop, Dynamite Lucy and Chairman Jack to notch another Albion Park win.
“If he leads, he can definitely pinch it. There are dogs in the field that are quicker than him, but when you’re in front it’s worth two or three lengths. With his unpredictable racing he’s a tough bugger to pass,” Heilbronn said.
“The biggest challenge on Thursday will be the drop back in distance. He’s been racing over the 630 at Ipswich so I just hope he’s not feeling the pinch from his middle-distance races.”
Racing dogs isn’t just a profession for Heilbronn. It’s a family legacy with dad Des, Grandad Frank and Uncle Ray all having trained and played a big part in Matt’s own training career which is blossoming with the help of his dad.
“Our family has been racing dogs for generations. We bred the seventh litter out of Dad’s (Des Heilbronn) line Fear Zafonic and Daily Mail who was our last remaining brood bitch a couple of years ago, “ Heilbronn said.
“We were really down on numbers a couple of years ago. That litter along with the boost in prize money and the rebirth of Never have really got us back up and running. Between Dad and I, we’ve got eighteen in the kennel at Prenzlau, so there’s plenty of work.”
“Dad’s been in it for thirty-three years and done a lot in his time training some quality dogs. I’m just hoping I can find a few more and keep the tradition going.”