By Isaac Murphy
Anyone following greyhound racing in South-East Queensland has seen the name Darren Johnstone pop up in the winners list.
As if his home-grown dogs weren’t going well enough, one particular acquisition from New South Wales has put an even brighter light on the in-form kennel.
“I’ve had another really good week; a treble and two doubles, I sound like a broken record but we’re just trying to enjoy it, it’s been an amazing run,” Johnstone said.
“Having Jilliby Caz and especially Federal Morgan come up from Sydney have brought an x-factor to the kennel, I’ve been really happy to reward the owner Scott Eaton who took a leap of faith sending him to me with three consecutive wins and hopefully four in Thursday’s Thunder final.”
Johnstone knew he had a good one right off the bat, and the only thing slowing Federal Morgan down was getting crook off his sister.
“He came up with his sister Jilliby Caz who had to perform a steward’s trial at Ipswich, and we decided to send him round and well and he went 30.53 over the 520 first look at the track,” he said.
“Jilliby Caz got a severe case of water diabetes and passed it on to her brother, fortunately it wasn’t as bad but that put us on the back foot for a few weeks.”
Getting back to full strength, Johnstone wanted to ease his new star into work starting with a couple of promising runs at Capalaba before he almost took the track record at Ipswich.
“We got him back and started off at Capalaba, where he was beaten half a head by Made In America in the Young Guns heats and didn’t get it all his way in the final, but it was a good place to start,” he said.
“I didn’t want to rush him up to 520 too quickly, I threw him in the 431 metre races because he was a fifth grader, where in the 500 he’s a third grader so I thought I’d just gradually bring him along.
“24.66 at Ipswich got my attention, I thought he’d run well after he trialled 25.06 but to come out and do that blew me away.
“I knew he had a bit in him but not that much, he flew the lids and then went into overdrive on the run home - I couldn’t have been more impressed.”
The Listed TAB Thunder heats over the 395 metres run on Sunday looked right in Federal Morgan’s wheelhouse, the dog showing he had toughness and well as talent.
“At Albion Park he didn’t jump as well as I would have liked, but in saying that the seven and eight were quick out and had raced at the track before,” Johnstone said.
“That was his first look at Albion, I didn’t have time to trial him before the Thunder heats.
“When the seven and eight cut him off and gave him a check, I thought ‘he’s gone can’t win from there’ and he powered home three wide around the turn, he showed me something I didn’t know he had again.
“I spoke to his owner and he said that’s the dog’s best win he’s ever seen.
“Even the couple of times he’s won at Wentworth Park he’s got out and led them, to come around dogs over the short trip was exceptional when plenty didn’t go his way.”