By Isaac Murphy
The eighty-metre jump from the 520 to the 600 metres doesn’t seem much, but the rise can make or break dogs. Trainer Warren Nicholls is confident Dusty Delight is made for the trip when he takes on the Middle Distance Challenge heats this Thursday night.
A thirteen-time winner ‘Dusty’ is known for putting himself in the race with a late surge often taking him over the top. All enviable attributes for a 600 metre dog, a distance Nicholls has been eyeing off for a while.
“Prior to the Ipswich Cup I was going to put him over the 600, but the lure of the Group race and prize money won out and we went to Ipswich,” Nicholls said.
“Things didn’t work out. I was pretty disappointed in his heat. He did just about everything wrong to run a tailed off third. He then missed the start from his favourite box (1) in the consolation, so I thought that’s it, 600 it is and we were fortunate to have this race on the calendar.”
“He’s bred to get the trip his mother Kilkee Flex was a distance dog and his last start where he surged at them late gives me every indication, he’ll run it but we’ll soon find out.”
Dusty jumps from box eight in heat two of the Middle Distance Challenge, Nicholls quite pleased with the draw but also wary of the intangibles of an interesting field.
“I’m happy with the box. He just has to muster speed a bit earlier. He’s a big long-legged thing who can sometimes take a while to wind up, but when he does he chases with everything he’s got,” he said.
“On his day he’s got the ability to get across them from the eight and if you can do that at the 600 start you take a few out on the way and skip clear.”
“It’ll be a crazy race. It won’t be over until the post. You’ve got Rasheda and Boscono who’ll be flying home and a really good front running dog in Kendall and hopefully Dusty setting the pace.”
Nicholls admits it’s a big test going straight into a feature first start over the trip, but the heat and hopefully final would serve as invaluable markers where his best racing is going forward.
“If we can fill the first four and get him through to the final, I’ll be a happy man,” Nicholls said.
“It’ll take a few starts to strengthen him up, but with plenty of 600’s coming up we’ll hopefully keep him at the distance. If he doesn’t quite make it we know he’s a very good 520 metre dog.”
Nicholls and his wife Tracy chased their dream when they sold their post office business to go into dogs full time and although they’ve endured a rough month have plenty to look forward too.
“It’s been a tough month. We’ve gone from about fifteen healthy race dogs to five but the silver lining is we’ve got Common Ground back. She’s going to have her first trial tonight, touch wood she can get a healthy campaign in this time,” Nicholls said.
“We’ve got some nice pups to look out for that’ll be hitting the track in the next couple of months, so hopefully things are turning around.”
“The big positive out of it is knowing we’ve grown to the point we can go through a bit of a rough trot and be ok whereas early days anything like this would have had us in real strife.”
The kennel has had a wretched run with injuries to star bitch Common Ground. She looked to have the world at her feet winning the Queensland Young Guns last year and was installed as a hot favourite for the Nationals before she was forced into a 150 day lay off, but after much work Nicholls said she’ll be back on the track shortly.
“Common Ground will just post to post tonight, I don’t put them out of the boxes too much when they’re race dogs and hopefully, she gives us a good marker of where she’s at,” he said.
“I’m going to be very selective with her racing and just pick a couple of big targets out, one of which will be the Gold Bullion in January and the Golden Easter Egg next year before she starts her brood bitch career.”
“All the hurdles she’s already overcome with her racing, we don’t want to push her and with her credentials and hoping she can produce some quality litters.”