By Isaac Murphy
Capalaba club president and trainer John Catton is confident Alpha Themis can make her presence felt in tonight's Group 3 Winter Chase Final at Albion Park.
The race features proven Albion Park stars such as Double Gee, Rasheda and Infrared Lad, but Catton isn't shying away from the task, as Alpha Themis prepares to tackle the 710m trip for the first time.
It appears a daunting test for the four-year-old bitch on paper, who until last October had completed all her racing in South Australia.
Catton bought Alpha Themis with a vision to run over the staying trips, but it has taken a little longer than expected.
“A lot of questions I’m getting are can she run out a strong seven hundred not having run the trip before and it’s a fair enough query, but I’ve been grooming her to get the distance for a while and I’ve got no doubt she’ll get to the line strong,” Catton said.
“She’ll be very competitive tomorrow night, I’m hoping she can follow Infrared Lad (7) across from the pink and sit outside the leader, she’s gone 9.98 early in her six hundred’s so if she can reproduce that she’ll be in the first two.”
It was a tough acclimatisation to Queensland for Alpha Themis, who was a victim of her own success in South Australia.
“My intention was to get her to the 710 much quicker she’d been running in some six hundred metre races in South Australia including The Group Three Oaks, I knew she had the ability it’s just taken a bit of time,” Catton said.
“The tough part about her getting settled in up here was finding the right races for her, she was on the comeback from a hock injury and because she was so highly graded in South Australia she was out of her depth when she first came to me.”
“Thankfully with a host of Queensland tracks humming now I’ve been able to get a bit creative and find her some races at Capalaba, Bundaberg and Ipswich to keep her form up for her Albion Park runs.”
Catton praised the Magic Sprite Queen of Cyprus litter she was out of for her ability to win up the 366 metre Capalaba straight to lining up in the 710 metre Group Three Final.
“She’s a very versatile chaser, she’s a Magic Sprite who’s produced some good sprinters and good stayers the bloodline continues to produce very strong 520 dogs or stayers,” Catton said
“I think she’s got a career as a stayer now and won’t drop below the six hundred metres now, it’s not easy with a very talented crop of stayers around, but you’ve got to put them in the race to give them a chance to win it.”
Catton is a self-confessed lifer in the greyhound industry who’s early roots have led him to training success and the transformation of the Capalaba Club under his presidency.
“One of my best mates old man Jimmy Chappell was a pretty astute trainer who used to race his dogs at The Gabba and I used to jump over two back fences and walk his greyhounds to the track from when I was about five years old, that’s where it began,” Catton said.
“I stayed involved as an owner with thoroughbred and dog trainer Col Sherwood, sharing some success with our best dog Lucky Alive, all through my years of playing footy (Norths, Valleys, Souths) I loved coming to the track for a punt and a beer and only as I’ve got older I’ve got the chance to get into training.”
Catton has been at the helm for several momentous occasions at the Capalaba club foremost their weekly Sunday TAB meeting, but the president is not resting on his laurels with the Straight of Origin Series set to return in 2019 over the next four Sunday’s.
“When I became involved in the Capalaba committee a few years ago I sponsored the first Straight of Origin Series, which got put on the backburner for a few years, so when I got the chance to bring it back I thought it would remiss of the club to miss out on a great initiative with increased prize money,” Catton said.
“It fits in very nicely with the Origin Greyhound Series, so the hope is we can have some really handy dogs compete in the Straight of Origin Series after they complete their Thursday night duties over the next four weeks.”
“We’re looking for the best of the best for this series with $14,000 for the winner out of a total prize pool of $21,000 so it’d be great to see some of Queensland’s best like Dam Slippery do her work up the straight.”