By Isaac Murphy
When Slick Raven notched up career win number two, romping home by thirteen lengths over the 630 metres in late September, trainer Justin Bowe declared then and there she had a future as a stayer. A month on she’s gone from winning the restricted events to Thursday night at Albion Park and is now on the doorstep of a Wentworth Park campaign.
The bitch who doesn’t turn two until next month won her debut over the 710 by four and a quarter lengths in a more than respectable 42.16. It was a night to remember for the trainer but just as he did a month ago, began to focus on the next goal.
“It was a big occasion for myself, family and friends who all came along to Albion Park and for her to step up from restricted class to win a mix 4/5 710 metres on Thursday night was a huge achievement,” Bowe said.
“The biggest takeaway is she could run out the trip. The plan was to always get her over the distance and seeing her handle it first up has opened up a bevvy of options for us.”
“As much as you enjoy the moment, the focus shifted pretty quickly to what was next and with no 710 at Albion this Thursday, we thought the timing was perfect to put her in a Fifth Grade Series over the 720 at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.”
Slick Raven is flying South without a look at the track, but Bowe said she was jumping out of her skin to race and the series provided an important opportunity for the long term.
“I definitely think she’s capable of winning the series, but the experience she’ll get on her first trip away will be invaluable,” he said.
“Wentworth Park is the epicentre of greyhound racing in New South Wales and we’d like to think down the road she’ll be in some bigger races down there.”
“She likes box eight which is a good start, and even though she’s in the hardest heat she’s feeling good and will be ready to go.”
Slick Raven’s owner Sean O’Connor said he’d been enjoying the wave of success as much as anyone and said he couldn’t thank Justin along with Dad Neil and uncle Gerard Bowe enough for their development of the bitch.
“It’s been a remarkable rise, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in Justin and his family. They’ve been at it a long time and I always trusted they’d bring the best out of her,” O’Connor said.
“Apart from my children being born and a few other things, her winning last Thursday gave me the biggest buzz I’ve had in years.”
“I’ve been breeding pups out in the bush for the last year or two spending a lot of my hard earned from my day job as a real estate agent, but it made it all worth it seeing her come through and win like that.”
O’Connor breeds and trains pups for Justin and his uncle Gerard and relishes the mutually beneficial relationship and environment for young dogs they’ve been able to create.
“The partnership works because they don’t make it all about them. We’re great friends socially and to have the level of trust we have between trainer and owner is a pretty rare thing,” O’Connor said.
“My role is more behind the scenes to replenish them with new pups and leave the training up to them because they’re incredibly patient and give every dog a chance to reach their potential.”
“Slick Raven is a perfect example. Things weren’t clicking early, but Justin continued to place her right and now my son who gets just about as much a thrill out of her success as me gets to join me in watching her at Wenny (Wentworth Park) this Saturday night, it’s great to be a part of.”
As happy as he is with their operation O’Connor believes bigger and better things are on the horizon for the team in 2020 and beyond.
“Raven is obviously the poster child for us at the moment, but I breed and rare a lot of dogs for them and the way they look after them and bring them through, I certainly hope we’ve got another few winners on the horizon,” O’Connor said.
“We’re hoping to have an even bigger presence next year with a crop a young ones coming through and hopefully we can find another Slick Raven amongst them.”
Bowe continues to remain level headed through the process and knows one 710 win doesn’t make a career and will be looking for continued improvement in the ensuing months.
“Although she didn’t have much success in some of her early races at Capalaba and the short course at Ipswich, she did develop a reasonable getaway which was vital to her winning on Thursday night,” he said.
“As she moves up in grade, she’s got to get a little bit stronger because the backmarkers will be coming, but there is certainly improvement to come after just the one run at the trip.”
From Saturday nights at Ipswich to Saturday nights at Wentworth Park it’s been a massive month for Bowe who paid tribute to his family and Slick Raven who even has the stoic trainer dreaming big.
“It’s been a whirlwind couple of months she just continues to take steps in the right direction, my family deserves a huge amount of credit, from bouncing ideas off my old man Neil and uncle Gerard to the support of my wife Belinda when I’m working or with the dogs, that network has been vital,” Bowe said.
“It’s a hard question to answer because you don’t know what will happen, but if she holds together, I’d put her at the top as the best prospect I’ve ever trained.”