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By Isaac Murphy
Premier Ipswich trainer Rob Essex is often asked to bring his talented team to Albion Park in search for feature races.
However this Saturday, the shoe is on the other foot when Essex rugs up four live chances - Maywyn Ulysses, Senorita Maywyn, Hoof It Hank and Terror Turtle - in the Ipswich Young Guns heats, with all four looking to defend home ground from Albion Park visitors.
Essex said on their day all four runners are of similar ability but provided a rundown of what to expect out of each of his chances, starting with Maywyn Ulysses - a nine-time winner at the track including a last start triumph.
“The outside draw suits him down to the ground, he used it to perfection winning last week and I certainly wouldn’t be worried to see him draw wide on the track again with his early pace,” Essex said.
“His first and second sectionals have always been elite, I’d like to think he’s getting a bit stronger home but he continually runs 30.58 which is good time but if he can find another two or three lengths, he’s a serious dog.
“He’s always had that brilliant speed even when I was bringing him through the 431 metre races, you can always rely on him at the start, whether that’s good enough to win the race, sometimes yes sometimes no but he always tries.”
Maywyn Ulysses has always been compared to Keybow/Set Her Again litter sister Senorita Maywyn, but the two go about it with contrasting styles.
“I still rate Maywyn Ulysses ahead of his sister Senorita Maywyn; they’re very different animals and she needs to be drawn near the fence because she doesn’t have the speed to get across,” Essex said.
“She’s still a really professional little race bitch, runs a nice straight line out of the boxes and has developed a good field sense.
“She needs a little more luck than her brother who makes his own, but time-wise at their best there’s not much between them.”
Essex’s youngest prospect Hoof It Hank may lack experience compared to his kennel mates, but makes up with it in ability, and having just turned two this week Essex likes what he’s seen out of him.
“Hoof It Hank is a work in progress, he needs the inside as well and seems to get his angles wrong when drawn wide,” he said.
“He’s hit the rail three of four times in the run, so I took him to Albion Park to trial and he hit the rail again.
“Even the other week when he dropped out and ran last with no dogs around him, he hit the rail at the 630 metres boxes.
“He’s big and ungainly but ability wise is right up there having run almost identical times to Maywyn Ulysses in past wins.
“That’s why the inside is so crucial if he can run that straight line he tends to stay away from the rail where if he’s coming over from an outside draw, he doesn’t quite have his bearings about him.”
Essex has a soft spot for Hoof It Hank with universally loved greyhound man Keith Sternberg owning and catching the dog well into his nineties.
“Hoof It Hank is owned by Keithy Sternberg who has been such a big part of the greyhound community from as far back as I can remember, and I know he gets a real kick out of seeing him run well,” Essex said.
“They say whoever Keith is catching at Ipswich is the dog you want to be on, it’d be wonderful to see him leading his dog back having qualified for the final.”
Two starts ago, Terror Turtle had raced thirty-three times for one win before putting two on the trot together leading into the heats, and Essex optimistic about her chances.
“Terror Turtle is another one in need of an inside draw, she just gets too far back and can’t find a way through the traffic a lot of the time but we’ve seen in her last couple of runs if she gets daylight she can really rattle late,” he said.
“If she can find the rail and be within two or three lengths coming to the final turn, she will hug that fence and be very strong home.
“She only had her maiden win before she put two together her last two starts, so the race comes along at a really nice time for her and she can go in Saturday with her chest puffed out.”
Terror Turtle is a well-travelled bitch that might not have started her winning streak if not for COVID-19 restrictions.
“She’s a Tasmanian bitch originally, I bought her at the Ipswich Auction for Paul Turtle and after she was broken in, he took her to Tasmania and brought her back in preparation for the Auction Series which hasn’t been able to go ahead,” Essex said.
“Paul was going to move her back to Tassie, but with the COVID-19 lockdown she’s been stuck up here and who knows the way she’s going she might stay.
“She’s always been very competitive ticking over in the money without winning, it’s just been a matter of maturity and being patient with her and she seems to have found her groove.”
Essex’s approach of educating and building his dogs up at Ipswich has stood the test of time and when a race like the Young Guns comes along, home track is a real advantage.
“I’ve always been very deliberate and slow in taking my dogs to Albion Park, I’ve got a tried and tested system of bringing them up through the grades at Ipswich before I take them to Albion Park,” he said.
“That method is hopefully going to pay off in the Young Guns with my four all having been solely based at Ipswich, while some of the other talent will be seeing the track for the first time.
“We can’t do anything about the box draw, but if we do get lucky I think all four are capable of making it to the final.”
Essex put Hoof It Hank on top as his knockout hope in the series, stating that the young dog’s best is very good.
“I’d have to put Hoof It Hank on top as the best chance to win the series, compared to the others he’s the young dog coming through that we probably haven’t seen the best of yet,” he said.
“He’ll need things to go his way and stay near the rail without crashing into it, but he’s got plenty of scope where the others are probably racing closer to their best.
“I’m rapt to have four genuine chances going in, it’s a race we like to be represented in and this looks like a good year.”