By Isaac Murphy
It’s been a ground-breaking year for the Capalaba Greyhound Racing Club with the introduction of TAB meetings and the rebirth of the Straight of Origin. The trailblazing continues when the heats of the National Straight Championships get underway this Sunday.
The championships see the best greyhounds from Australia’s three straight tracks Capalaba, Healesville (Victoria) and Murray Bridge (South Australia) come together next month for the National Final at Healesville but first the dogs must qualify at their own track.
“We’re looking at four to five heats at this stage, we’ve had a lot of New South Wales dogs coming up here to race so they’re a bit disappointed they’re missing out, but they’ll just have to wait until they get a straight track,” Capalaba president John Catton said.
“It would always be nicer to have more heats, but as it stands wherever we land we’re going to have some really quality competitive races comprised of Queensland trained dogs. It should be a cracking series for us and hopefully we can beat the southerners at their own track.”
Capalaba consistently attracts some of Queensland premier dogs each Sunday and Catton singled out three top chances to represent the state.
“We’re fortunate to have a raft of greyhounds who could end up representing us in those final three slots but on form dogs like Above Average for Greg Stella, Master Douglas for Ray Burman and Tiempo Dinero for Peter Wilson look leading chances.” Catton said.
“We chose to run the heats this week and final next week to give our trainers the opportunity to have a week down in Victoria before the National Final at Healesville, giving them the opportunity to have a look at the track and acclimatise. We’re there to win.”
While Healesville will host the 2019 edition Catton is hopeful we’ll see the Victorians and South Australian’s travelling to Capalaba for the National Final in the next couple of years.
“The club is well and truly capable of holding the Nationals, unfortunately Victoria beat us to it this year, but all the states have worked together really well to get this concept off the ground, and it won’t be long till we get the chance to host.” Catton said.
Greg Stella has enjoyed a fantastic start to Above Average’s career up the straight with seven of the dog’s nine victories coming at the track he couldn’t be more excited about the two-and-a-half-year old’s chances of donning the maroon.
“He won his first start at Capalaba and has been very competitive ever since,” Stella said.
“With Queenslander’s only clause and the first three getting through in the final it’s a great opportunity for him if he can get it right starting with the heats this week.”
“The straight has been great to us so far running third in the Derby, second in the Straight of Origin and winning the Grand Prix a race like this couldn’t come at a better time, he certainly knows his way around up there.”
Capalaba has become increasingly popular with trainers looking to educate their young dogs. Above Average is a perfect example how the track can help springboard a career.
“We thought we’d just give him a couple of runs for experience originally, but he won a heat and final of The Bob Vernon Memorial and then the run of races starting at the Derby came along and I’ve just kept him ticking over,” Stella said.
Although he’s capable of winning from all boxes, Stella prefers a wide draw this Sunday to unleash his finishing burst.
“He’s not a fast beginner and needs a little bit of luck at the start, but powers home,” he said.
“I generally prefer him with an outside draw up the straight. The less dogs around him the better and it gives him a chance to wind up and use that finish I know he has.”