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Nothing hasty about Hirstglen’s return to racing

By Isaac Murphy

The only thing holding Gerard and Justin Bowe’s Hirstglen back from stardom is himself.

The dog has done some freakish things in his ten starts but his career has been plagued by suspensions, with his most recent layoff lasting three months.

However, Justin Bowe is confident they’ve used the time wisely; the dog is switched on between the ears and physically flying after a stunning steward’s trial at Ipswich on Saturday, going 30.01 as he nears his return to racing.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more out of the steward’s trial; first he behaved himself and second he’s come back about three tenths quicker (30.01) than his previous best at Ipswich,” Justin Bowe said.

“He got out reasonably well, he’s never been a lid pinger but he went 13.03 to the back where he’s trialled in around 12.95 in the past.

“When I saw that, I was still pretty happy and thought he’d probably run around 30.3, so it was a nice surprise to see the 30.01 come up.

“That was his first 520 trial since he’s been back, we’ve worked him up to that mark and were hoping to have him right, but to go 11.56 home when the record is 11.53, he’s ahead of where we thought he’d be.”


Justin Bowe said the kennel had a clear plan of how they were going to handle his enforced spell, using all the tricks of the trade to keep his mind on the bunny.

“With his three months off he spent the first two doing absolutely nothing; we just put him out, let him relax and not even think about racing,” Bowe said.

“The last month we’ve just slowly ramped things up trying to get him to hang on properly to the lure a lot better and doing everything in our power to get his head straight for his return to racing.

“We’ve done everything possible with him and we’re pretty comfortable to put him back out there knowing he’ll go about it the right way; you never fully know but we won’t know anything until he gets back out there.”

The Bowes are set of rebuilding the two-year-old’s career from the bottom up and are ready to pull the trigger on his return to racing at a venue not many would expect.

“He’s a week-to-week proposition at the moment; he’s got his history, but we can only do so much with him and we think he’s ready to get back to the track and win a few races,” Bowe said.

“We’re looking to ease him back into racing as gently as we can, we’re thinking about taking him to Bundaberg next Monday where he’s a Fifth Grader over the 550 metres which looks ideal for him.

“He should get a bit of room to move and hopefully notch up a couple of wins just to get that hunger to race back.

“First thing’s first we hope he can handle his business up there, as I said we don’t want to look too far ahead but he’ll probably be back to a mixed Fourth Fifth grade at Ipswich if he comes through Bundaberg well.”

Justin Bowe said the itch was there to test him against the best dogs, which he’s clearly up to after his latest trial, but for now the conservative approach was the way to go.

“It’s a cliché but it’s all about confidence with him, he’s had a stop-start career and you want to be able to maintain that winning edge and we think the best way to do that is through the easier races first up,” he said.

“We had the opportunity to throw him straight in an Ipswich Young Guns on Saturday night, which is obviously attractive after his latest trial, but it’s long term with him.

“We know how good he can be in the future but we’ve just got to bide our time.”

Hirstglen was all set for a crack at the Launching Pad in Victoria this year before COVID-19 took hold, and Bowe is more than open to getting him back down there in due course after stellar results.

“There’s barriers with the border closures in Victoria at the moment but I’d love to send him back down there in a few months’ time, he didn’t put a foot wrong his first trip down there earlier this year,” he said.

“His first trial at Warragul he gave the track record a scare and then did it again at Sale and around that managed to blitz them under race conditions at Sandown Park a couple of times.

“It’s exciting stuff but we’ve got a long way to go from Bundaberg next Monday to races we want to see him in down the track.”