By Isaac Murphy
The Group Three Townsville Cup will be run and won this Friday with a bumper field including a raft of South East Queensland top liners as well as some home-grown talent.
We took the time to speak to the winners of last week’s four heats to get an insight into who will take the Cup home this year.
Heat One - Tommy Tzouvelis – Brandi Alexander – 29.16
Tommy Tzouvelis enjoyed a day out in Townsville with all three of his runners finishing no worse than third, but the trained admitted heat winner Brandi Alexander and second placed Maurice Minor would have to do it tough from boxes five and seven respectively.
“We had a pretty good day. We took three up (Brandi Alexander, Maurice Minor, One An’ Six) for a first, second and third. To have two in the final and One An’ Six as first reserve was a top result,” Tzouvelis said.
“Brandi was excellent to avoid the traffic out of the six, you’ve definitely got a big advantage if you draw one of the inside three boxes and she showed her race smarts to win from wide.”
“They’ve both come up with nearly identical draws in the five and seven respectively, so we’ll need a bit of luck in a handy final but it was the first look at the track for both of them and I can only expect improvement.”
Tzouvelis is no stranger to the Cup having won the race two years ago off an inside draw but was first to admit another city rival looked to have the drop of them.
“We were on the right end of the box draw winning up there a couple of years ago with Gadsby’s Road who got the fly from the inside, while some of the classier dogs got caught up out wide, but that’s what makes the Townsville Cup unique,” he said.
“In my opinion Dam Slippery looks to have a mortgage on the race if she comes out like she did last week.”
“Focusing on my two, they both weren’t flash out and still ran big races. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if either of them won the race, but there’s plenty to overcome.”
While Tzouvelis is all in on his two chances, he wouldn’t mind former bitch Soft Sand to run a race who now resides in Townsville with her new trainer.
“If we can’t win it I’ll be hoping Soft Sand runs a big race, because even though I don’t train her anymore she was a great dog to me and it’s good to see her still going well,” Tzouvelis said.
“Doug Warrington her owner approached me about a bitch to breed with and I recommended Soft Sand but told him she had a few more races in her legs, it’s great to see her in there as a local runner in the final.”
Heat Two - Tony Brett – Regal Recall – 28.61
Regal Recall hit the Townsville Cup heats in peak condition, having won five of his past seven starts. The good form continued for Tony Brett and the son of Barcia Bale with a heat win. The legendary trainer expects his charge to go on with it in the final.
“I was very happy with the run, it was his first look at the track and when he landed second it took him a while to get his bearings, but once he got on the bunny, off he went,” Brett said.
“It’s a tough little start and you don’t want to be bunched up in the middle, but he likes it out wide and drawing six it suits, but Shaun’s Entity and Dam Slippery are drawn well too, he’ll have to do everything right.”
Only finishing out of the placings eleven times from his forty-five starts Regal Recall has put together a stellar career and is only now getting the rewards for his talent.
“He’s always been a little bit underrated this dog. He’s never had that signature win until the Ipswich track record and the Rockhampton Cup this year,” Brett said.
“He just keeps getting the job done and while he’s in this rich vein of form it would be well deserved if he could find a way to with another Group country cup.”
Brett said it was always a great experience for the South East Queensland trainers to travel for a Country Cup and was looking forward to Friday night.
“People like to see the good dogs up there and kudos Rhonda Essery who has a big chance (Shaun’s Entity) out of the red. It should be a big crowd there Friday night and a really competitive race,” he said.
Heat Three - Brett Hazelgrove – Dam Slippery – 28.59
Queensland’s premier bitch Dam Slippery continues to impress wherever she goes for trainer Brett Hazelgrove, showing her customary early speed to win by over eight lengths in 28.59.
“She went super in her heat. We gave her a trial on the track in the lead up where she got her bearings and she couldn’t have been more impressive,” Hazelgrove said.
“It’s quite a loud lure which she appreciates and gets her out on the bunny quicker than usual, if she jumps like she did the other she doesn’t let them go past her.”
Dam Slippery has drawn a familiar box and Hazelgrove is confident she can use it to her advantage and even go a little quicker in Friday’s final.
“She’s in the three which I’m more than happy with. She won the Richmond Oaks from that draw and anything close to the rail gives her a chance to get to the fence first,” he said.
“I think there’s a bit more improvement in her for the final, we’ve been here the whole two weeks. We couldn’t have asked for a better preparation.”
Set to be an in demand brood bitch when her career comes to an end, Hazelgrove said races like the Townsville Cup serve two fold for Dam Slippery.
“We’re always trying to improve her resume when she eventually becomes a brood bitch and to have the opportunity to do that in a Group Three in Queensland is fantastic,” he said.
Dam Slippery isn’t Hazelgrove’s only chance in the final with new acquisition Quara’s Flick running a game second in her first start for the kennel.
“She was probably a little unlucky in the heat. She hasn’t been up here as long and was a bit raw, but it was a top run first up,” he said.
“We didn’t bring her up with great expectation, but she’s had the one start for us and made a Group Three Final.”
While all eyes will be on Dam Slippery in the final, Hazelgrove said Quara’s Flick’s credentials gave her a hope.
“She’s got a bit of early toe which is good, but also a bit nerve wracking drawn alongside Slippery in the four I’m praying they don’t come together, but she should put herself in the race too,” he said.
“The boys who own Dam Slippery purchased her from Victoria where she’s shown a lot of promise going around Sandown in around 29.6 so we’ve got something to build on with her.”
Heat Four - Rhonda Essery - Shaun’s Entity – 28.57
Local trainer Rhonda Essery produced a huge training performance to see rising four-year-old Shaun’s Entity win in the fastest heat time when only a few months ago the dogs career looked over.
“I got in touch with Ray Walters who trains down in New South Wales about another dog and while we didn’t get that one, he had a four-year-old he was willing to send up for free and I said why not,” Essery said.
The dog was well performed over the six hundred and the five twenty metres and wanting a dog to compete for her home Cup, Essery slowly worked him up over the three months she’s had him.
“We started him off at the 380 and it became apparent pretty quickly he wanted more ground and he’s been going great guns over the 498 ever since,” she said.
“The plan was to have him peaking for the Cup and he showed he was right on with his heat performance he couldn’t have been more impressive.”
Shaun’s Entity flew off the inside last week and ran away from the likes of Maurice Minor. Coming up with the red again has Essery believing she can mix it with the strong Brisbane brigade.
“Against this class field he needs the inside and it came down to the one and the seven and we got the red again, it’s just so exciting going into your home cup with a genuine chance,” she said.
“I’d love to lead again and that is plan A, but his run home was his quickest yet and if he lands a couple off them, he’s a big chance.”
“I’m so proud to be in there racing against the likes of Tony Brett and Tommy Tzouvelis, they’ve been a class above in recent years and may be again, but I feel like we’re closer this year.”