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Mate against mate and a score to settle in Queensland State Championships

By Isaac Murphy

Thursday night at Albion Park signals the running of the prestigious State Championship finals crowning Queensland’s best over the sprint and distance trips.

With plenty of story lines set to play out, the highlights look to be the battle of Selena Zammit’s kennel mates Oh Mickey and Stinger Noir in the sprint and Jeff Crawford’s Group 1 winner Classy Ethics over the distance, who will look to go one better for the trainer who was runner-up last year.


Zammit kennel mates go head-to-head

Race-7-Oh-Mickey-DSC-8547-JPG.JPGThe clash between Oh Mickey and Stinger Noir is fascinating; Oh Mickey at his best gets the nod but he’s been racing slightly below while Stinger Noir is in the form of his life and fast closing the gap.

Michael Zammit has plenty of confidence in both but knows only one can beat the rest of the field home.

“They’ve both come through the heats really well, they’re both at 100% going into Thursday night but the box draw is probably our only worry,” Michael Zammit said.

“I would have preferred Oh Mickey (8) closer to the fence; if he doesn’t come out he’ll still be desperate to get to the rail and might be in a bit of trouble as he’ll have to be on his toes early.

“It’s a tough one because if Oh Mickey does nail the start that probably disadvantages Stinger in box six, we’d love to have both of them in the picture early but might have to hope one gets it right.”

Group 1 champion Oh Mickey isn’t far away from him absolute best form, a 29.45 run in the Brisbane Cup Heats and more recently a 30 flat effort almost knocking off the track record in the Ipswich Young Guns signalling he’s close to his best - something he’ll need this week.

“Oh Mickey was playing up a bit in the boxes last week, he likes to set himself for the start and anticipate it and he just got down a little bit early last week,” Zammit said.

“With his speed, he still drove through and led from the one but doesn’t have the same luxury this week.

“It can be a good trait to have, we’ve seen throughout his career he’s timed the start perfectly and set up his race, but for the first time he’s missed it in his last couple of finals but we think we have him switched on.”

Based on form, Stinger Noir can’t be ignored out of box six, shooting for six straight in Best 8 and open company this Thursday, and the dog doing everything asked of him in preparation.

“I actually quite like Stinger drawn in the six, he likes to use a little bit of the track early and gives him the chance to wind up a bit and put himself in the race,” Zammit said.

“He’s going the best he ever has, he’s won five in a row at Albion in open company and the biggest positive is seeing him bring his time down.

“He’s got a 29.61 best now and has run in the 29.7 range multiple times which sees him really compete at the top level.

“We’re much more assured every time we go to the track with him now that he’s going to give himself a chance.

“His box manners have improved out of sight, he’s no Oh Mickey but he doesn’t need to be as he always runs a strong 500.”

Oh Mickey
Stinger Noir

Zammit concedes there are plenty of dangers outside the kennel mates, with class and experience littered throughout the field.

“It’s a tricky speed map to try to work out to the first corner; Oh Mickey and Federal Morgan are the two dogs who can go 5.4 to the first mark but neither got the start they would have liked last week,” Zammit said.

“If Federal Morgan can lead he’s clearly the big danger to both of ours, but the one I’d keep an eye on is Shakey Diesel - he’s got a lot of experience against this class of dog and probably comes up with the best draw in the race (box two) with moderate beginners either side of him.

“Special Cyndie gets a tough draw in box five, but she’s a bitch who’s run 29.57 at Albion, it’ll probably be hard for her to get on the bunny but she’s a raw talent as well.”

While state winners won’t be going on to Nationals this year, there’s still plenty to race for this Thursday night.

“It’s a fantastic incentive for the winner to go straight to the semi-finals of the Million Dollar Chase, the race is a long way off but you don’t have to stress about heats and can get a really good preparation in if we’re lucky enough to get a ticket,” Zammit said.

“You don’t take the title of Queensland Sprint Champion lightly either, you’ve got the best eight sprinters in the state doing battle and we’d love to see one of ours be recognised as Queensland’s best.”


Queensland Cup winner looks to assert her dominance

Premier trainer Jeff Crawford got everything right in timing Classy Ethics run to her Group 1 Queensland Cup win, and the trainer looks to have her spot on again for the Distance Final after a one act affair in last week’s prelude.

“She’s just so reliable, you take her to the track every week, put her in the box and know she’s going to come out humming and chase her heart out,” Crawford said.

“She does everything right which makes her very easy to train.

“I was really pleased with her run in the Ipswich Grand Prix; as we all know Velocity Bettina is a real superstar amongst the staying ranks and to give her a start and run her to a couple of lengths, I rate it right up there with her Queensland Cup run as her best I’ve seen.

“She was a shade unlucky at Albion the start prior to the prelude where she chased hard again to get to Big Boy Bruce and came together at the home turn, but that’s racing and showed us we’ve got to keep nailing the start with a bitch like Rasheda in the mix.”

Albion Park

TAB Queensland Cup (G1) F 710m

Classy Ethics drove straight to the front last week and will be looking for a similar outcome this week, but Crawford was aware of the capabilities of a proven veteran and an up-and-comer.

“I actually rang Tony Apap when the box draw came out and asked him if he kept the six rug at home with him because his bitch (Rasheda) seems to come up with it every week when she’s mad for the rail,” Crawford said.

“Cool Talk is an interesting runner in the one, new to the distance and looks to have plenty of scope and improvement in her and we’d be wanting to clear her early the way she ran home last week as well.

“As I’ve said in the past, with Classy Ethics I’ve got the luxury of not having to worry too much about where she draws given her go forward pattern and going off the prelude I’d hope she can lead again this time from box four.”

Classy Ethics was an unknown commodity beyond the 600 metres when she joined Crawford only a handful of months ago, but after a bumper winter the trainer would love to go out with the State title - where he has a score to settle.

“When she first came up here with me, the State Championships were never even on the radar, but once I realised it was there I made a few enquiries and found that she qualified to run in this race by four days - it was very fortunate we got her up here when we did,” the trainer said.

“It’s a race I ran second in last year with Radar Gunn, so to get the opportunity to go one step better, it makes you want to win this race even more.

“This bitch has gone above and beyond what we expected from her, if she was to come out and win this it’d be the cherry on top.”