By Isaac Murphy
It’s hard to argue that Darren Taylor isn’t the King of the North, and with the help of his two sons and wife, he has built his own racing empire at Bouldercombe outside of Rockhampton.
Taylor has won every race conceivable at his local track except the crown jewel - the Rockhampton Cup - and the trainer is determined to make 2020 the year he breaks the drought with five live chances in this Friday’s heats.
When asked about his chances, Taylor went straight to Rose Ali whose last to first win in the Colleen Jackson Memorial Final had to be seen to be believed last week.
“I’ve got a couple of handy ones; I’d have to put Rose Ali at the front of the line as her run last week was phenomenal - she surprised me a little bit how well she went,” Taylor said.
“It’s fantastic to see her chase like that two weeks out from the Cup, and I think she went into that race a little but underdone as well so there’s still a few lengths in her I think.”
Taylor compared Rose Ali’s preparation to his champion veteran Are Jay Lochie, who was Queensland’s winningest dog last year but came up short in the Cup.
“She’s had just about the perfect preparation leading into the Cup, very similar to Are Jay Lochie last year when everything was falling into place -obviously on the night he just got beaten by some better dogs,” Taylor said.
“We gave her the week off before the Colleen Jackson where she went enormous and goes into the Cup heats chock full on confidence and if she makes the final there will be no excuses.
“Compared to the other dogs, she’s probably just in the right window maturity wise to go out and hopefully finally win a Rockhampton Cup for me, it’s the only race I haven’t won up here which makes me want to win it even more.”
While Rose Ali looks like a complete chaser, Precious Hope is still searching for her ceiling, and is another big danger in Friday’s heats after just eleven starts.
“The other little girl Precious Hope is still learning how to race; she’s got plenty of improvement to come and it’s just a matter of it comes quick enough in time for a realistic chance at the Cup,” Taylor said.
“What she’s done so far has been more than I would have ever asked for, I didn’t think she’d even be competing in a race like this so early in her career.”
When trainers send their dogs north, the Taylor kennel is often the landing spot and Tommy Tzouvelis put his trust in him with Precious Hope.
“Her breeding is spot on, she’s bred to run distance and if she can’t get it this year, she’s the one that I hope to have coming back the next couple to try again,” Taylor said.
“She’s one that I hope is good enough to bring to Brisbane and race in town as well, Tommy Tzouvelis owns her so I’m sure if she keeps kicking goals up here, he’ll be happy to take her to town when she’s ready.”
Numerical form can often be deceiving, especially on Cup night, and Taylor believes with the perfect storm Tommy Lava is as good a chance as any.
“My knockout dog is going to be Tommy Lava, if I can just get him around the track without hitting anything, he’d probably beat the lot of them,” Taylor said.
“He took a look of ground off the Free For Aller’s at just his third time of asking.
“His biggest asset is his strength but at this stage he just has zero race sense, I joke about him he could be in a solo trial and still hit a dog.
“I think he’s going to be a city class 600 to 700 metre dog down the track, he’s still only young but it would be nice to pinch a Rocky Cup with him.”
Taylor cites the aforementioned three as his big hopes for the Cup, but his team is five deep with Over Time and old stager Are Jay Lochie also getting a chance to stake their claims.
“The other one who’ll be in there is Over Time, he probably doesn’t have the same class as the others but races up on the speed and if a few things go wrong in a field could jag a win,” he said.
“Then you go back to the old boy Are Jay Lochie who isn’t what he was twelve months ago, but you won’t find a dog who knows his way around the track and better, it’d be a real fairytale if he could find a way.”
The Rockhampton Cup is what Taylor is after but that doesn’t mean he’ll pass up a shot at the Rocky Carnival Sprint, and the well performed Brisbane bitch Tuta Time is looking to go out on the right note for the kennel.
“Tuta Time is going really well, that’ll be her last start for me in the sprint race on Cup night before she goes back to Brisbane,” Taylor said.
“She went great guns early in Brisbane for Cecil Druery but probably hit top grade a little fast and I was more than happy to have her on loan up here.
“It’s really worked and she’s matured and learnt to run a little further than the 331 metres, she’s been hitting the line hard over the 407 metres.
“She’s had a good little campaign and it would be nice to send her home with a nice little race like that.”
Before zoning came into effect, Taylor didn’t hesitate to bring a team down on a Thursday night to Albion Park, something he’s looking forward to as COVID restrictions now ease.
“I can’t wait for all the zoning to open up again because I’ve definitely got a few dogs up here that’ll match it in Thursday night company,” he said.
“We don’t necessarily have to go down every week but when one is in form it’ll be nice to have that option again.
“Bundaberg opens back up for us too and I’ve got some nice pups coming through who I’m looking forward to starting there, but I really just want to win a Rocky Cup.”