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Trainers share their thoughts ahead of freakish Fifth Grade

By Isaac Murphy

As is custom at Albion Park on Thursday nights, race four on the card is a Fifth grade over the 520 metres, made up of good Thursday night dogs trying to earn their stripes.

This week is a little different; three top class sprinters - Cooper Dooper, Jasper The Jet and Sequana - look the big three winning hopes, and we spoke to all three trainers on their thoughts.

Each trainer had plenty of praise for their biggest rivals while not discounting the other runners.


Tommy Tzouvelis – Cooper Dooper – Box 1

Race-8-Cooper-Dooper-363.JPGCooper Dooper was first recognised late last year when he burst on the scene in the Group Three Golden Ticket.

He went on to win his Queensland Derby Heat in 29.82, before finishing second in the Group Two Final behind the peerless Simon Told Helen.

His rise was quick but since reaching top grade, he’s come back to earth  and Tzouvelis is desperately looking for a confidence boost on the eve of winter.

“It’s a red-hot race, they’ve got enough talent in there for a Free For All; the fields have really started to stack up with the bigger races coming up,” he said.

“Cooper is down on confidence, he’s just not where he has been and is doing everything wrong at the moment - he’s finding trouble at every turn.

“Out of form in a fifth grade I was hoping to get an average field, but I’ve got exactly the opposite.”

Lightning down the back and strong home, the box rise has always been the question for Cooper and Tzouvelis said he needs to use the red to advantage to be a chance Thursday.

“He’s trialling right up to what he has run in the past, he’s just getting knocked from pillar to post every time he goes out because he’s slow away,” Tzouvelis said.

“What that’s telling me is once he does breakthrough, some of that gusto and swagger should come back and he could string a few in a row - it’s just finding that right race.

“For him to be a realistic chance on Thursday, he’s going to have to sit behind Jasper in second and even that doesn’t guarantee he’ll run him down because Oh Mickey only got the best of him late last week.”

Cooper Dooper

Tzouvelis spoke briefly on his competition, the in form front runner Jasper The Jet and backmarker Sequana each posing their own problems.

“I’d imagine Jasper will be the likely leader with Sequana coming off the pace and Cooper somewhere in the middle,” he said.

“As well as Jasper is going at the moment, I really think the race maps well for Sequana, if she’s at her best she’s a huge threat.

“I think Sequana is more suited to a better race like she’s in on Thursday, she’s a much better bitch when the field strings out and she’s able to weave her way through - I think she’s going to be a real danger second up.”


John Catton – Jasper The Jet – Box 4

Race-1-Jasper-The-Jet-D4C-2478-JPG.JPGThere’s no substitute for form and Jasper The Jet has it in spades at the moment, his personal best dropping from 30.06 to 29.75 in a matter of one week.

John Catton’s sprinter then went out and backed it up giving Oh Mickey a run for his money in the Listed Winter Sprint last week, his early dash consistently putting him in the 5.4 second range to the first mark.

It’s been a great training effort from Catton to get the dog going like he is, having come back even stronger from a serious injury.

“He tore his Achilles tendon when he came back from racing in the Adelaide Derby, which was a bit of a setback and it really took me six months to get him fully recovered from it,” he said.

“Since he’s been back, he’s just gone from strength to strength.

“I knew he was a good dog when we first started; he’s always had the ability, he’s just tapping into it now.”

Jasper’s early dash is his calling card but Catton said the dog had matured all round to become the chaser he is.

Jasper The Jet

“He’s always been a good beginner, but like all other factions of his racing he’s just got better, he gets set in his position and doesn’t move,” he said.

“He’s a bit of a Hannibal Lector when he gets to the track; he turns into a real beast that wants to just get out there and run.

“I’ve got no doubt he’ll lead the field on Thursday, but there’s plenty of good dogs in that race and it just depends how they all turn up on the night.”

Never afraid to travel for the right race, this Thursday’s hit out will be Jasper’s last at Albion for a few weeks as he heads north.

“After tomorrow night I’m sending him up to Darren Taylor in Rockhampton for the Cup up there, I think it’s a race that’ll really suit him and we avoid Oh Mickey as well,” Catton laughed.

“Darren is the man for the job up there and if we could come back with a Rocky Cup win, we’d go into the Brisbane Cup feeling a million bucks.

“Oh Mickey is a star there’s no doubt about it, but if Jasper keeps beginning like he does anything could happen on his day.”


Selena and Michael Zammit – Sequana – Box 7

Race-5-Sequana-D4S-2576-JPG.JPGSequana has been an enigma for the Zammit kennel from the start, often getting stuck behind slower dogs and producing an eye-catching run late.

However, it was only a matter of time until she broke out.

Some of her wins have to be seen to be believed, and no margin is safe when she gets clear passage through the field.

There’s no better example than her incredible 29.48 run, pushing track record holder Sennachie right to the line in The Group Three Golden Ticket.

Mick Zammit got a first hand look at Jasper The Jet running behind Oh Mickey in the Winter Sprint last week, and has plenty of respect for Cooper Dooper coming through the Golden Ticket last year alongside Sequana.

“At a quick glance, Jasper coming back from Free For All behind Oh Mickey, who we get to see day-in day-out as just a freak is probably the form of the race and with his early sectional he’ll be hard to catch,” Michael Zammit said.

“If Sequana can stay within a couple of lengths of him out of the straight it might be a different story, because she really is full of running at the moment - we’d just much rather her drawn the fence.”

“Cooper’s form was right up there behind ours in the Golden Ticket, I know he’s gone off the boil a bit but he gets the draw we wanted, and you can’t count class out.”

Sequana Next Racing

There’s another four dogs in the race outside the big three and Zammit picked one that could be a real problem for Sequana’s chances.

“You’ve got the three runners that stick out, but the other dogs are no mugs; Serena Lawrance’s Head Bairn in the eight has gone sub-thirty there before and could be a problem for us with early speed,” Zammit said.

“I’ve seen Head Bairn win from out there before, if Jasper misses it he’d be next in line to lead the race.”

Sequana was first up for three months last week and despite finishing mid-field, Zammit saw what he wanted out of the bitch.

“She never got a chance to unwind last week, caught in traffic in the best way to put it - she just never saw the rail which she’s desperate for,” he said.

“I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the run, she still hit the line at a hundred miles an hour, so her fitness is right there.

“She’s always going to need that touch of luck in her races due to her pattern.

“She’s only drawn the red once in her career and she loved it, so hopefully we’ll see her inside soon, but she’s also a lot more experienced and needs to learn how to handle any draw going forward.”