By Isaac Murphy
All eyes will be on Wentworth Park Friday night with eight lucky greyhounds set to earn the opportunity to progress to the Million Dollar Chase Final for a crack at the biggest purse in greyhound racing.
The eight heats of the Million Dollar Chase are complemented by three heats of the Group Three Sydney Cup and with Queensland trained dogs strongly represented in both disciplines. We asked the trainers how they felt heading into Friday night.
TAB Million Dollar Chase Semi-Final Three
Quara’s Flick – Brett Hazelgrove
Hazelgrove was set to have dual chances in the semi-finals before Group Two Richmond Oaks and Origin Greyhound Series Sprint winner Dam Slippery suffered an injury. He had always said Quara’s Flick would be a good fit at Wentworth Park and she gets her chance off a promising run.
“We’re looking at about a month on the sidelines with Dam Slippery. She just tweaked her groin coming around the bend last start,” Hazelgrove said.
“The timing is disappointing as she likes Wentworth Park and I thought she could run a race, but I’m equally as confident with Quara’s Flick especially off her last start there.”
“It was her first run on the track without a trial last week. That considered, it was a big run. She travelled well, handled the track and she’ll improve second time around.”
The bitch pinged the lids from the three last week before being run down by the impressive Slingshot Hammer and Hazelgrove is hoping another quick start from a similar draw (2) can test the hot field.
“I’m definitely looking for her to run a good first section and the draw (2) is terrific, she’ll have every chance to ping the lids,” he said.
“A lot is going to depend on Federal Lilly on our inside. She has the potential to go with us early as has run very quick time around that track, but if we can cross her, she’s a chance of running a few off on the first corner.”
“The standout of the heat is Good Odds Harada for Frank Hurst. He’s drawn out in the seven which he doesn’t mind and is very strong late, so we’re going to need those few lengths early to be a winning chance.”
Quara’s Flick only came to the Hazelgrove kennel a couple of months ago, winning the Townsville Cup at her second start. Hazelgrove saying, she has continued to surprise and said a birth in the final was not beyond her.
“Front running dogs make their own luck especially at Wentworth Park. I’m not discounting her chances at all,” he said.
“She’s come to the kennel very underrated and has stepped up to everything we’ve put in front of her.”
“She’ll have to take another leap Friday, but we wanted to give her a shot at this race and she gets it with no excuses.”
TAB Million Dollar Chase Semi Final Seven
Infrared Lad – Joanne Price
Infrared Lad is a rare hybrid of strength and speed. These assets have seen him win Free For All staying races at Albion Park as well as a heat of the Million Dollar Chase at Lismore and trainer Joanne Price says he couldn’t be in better shape for Friday night.
“It’s the big stage and a tough heat, but I couldn’t be any happier with him coming off a slick (34.68) win over the 600 metres at Albion Park last Thursday. I’m interested to see what he can do,” Price said.
“He’s in there which is an achievement in itself. We weren’t sure he’d get that far with the majority of his racing being over the longer trips.”
“Jason (Aylward) and I had a bit of a back and forth whether we would take him to the series and my argument was why not, he’s going great guns and there are no races for him at home and he ended up handling Lismore really well.”
Price said every dog in the field had earned their spot and expected nothing less than a class field in a race of this status but concentrating on her own he had a lot in his favour.
“I don’t overanalyse or look at the dogs around him in his heat too much. You can only control what he does, and he likes Wentworth Park and appreciates box one which are two big ticks,” she said.
“It’s a little bit mind blowing to think that much money is available from one race. We won’t be one of the fancies, but you only have to get things your way on the night and suddenly you’re one step away.”
“With this dog it’s always been his maturity and this line seem to have to turn three before they really start to click, and he’s morphed into a really nice dog he’s exceeded our expectations, especially over the 520.”
TAB Million Dollar Chase Semi Final Seven
Brandi Alexander – Tom Tzouvelis
Tom Tzouvelis said he’d lost count of the number of Group and feature finals Brandi Alexander had made but said the soon to be four-year-old’s work was as good as ever after coming through the Casino Regional Final.
“She trialled down there (Wentworth Park) before the Golden Easter Egg earlier this year and ran 29.78, which would have seen her competitive in the race, but things just didn’t go her way,” Tzouvelis said.
“We took her down to Wentworth Park for a run a few weeks ago after she qualified and she came out and lead them the best she has in a long time, but unfortunately had a little injury which saw her drift back through the field.”
“We’ve been working on her diligently and we think we have her in pretty good shape. She trialled in 22.60 which is as good as she goes over the 395 at Albion, so she’s on song. I couldn’t fault her.”
Tzouvelis said heat seven was as deep as any, but on paper didn’t have as much early dash as some of the others giving Brandi a chance to get to the front.
“There’s not a lot of early speed in her heat. There are a couple, but they are more moderate early before they get into their work, so it gives her a chance of going to the front and I think she’s a really good each way chance in the race,” he said.
Tzouvelis said he was thrilled to be a part of the concept but had his eye on one particular litter he thought would thrive in their heats.
“It’s remarkable the quality of dogs across the eight semis. It’ll be interesting to see how Feral Franky, Good Odds Buddy and Good Odds Harada go, because if three from the same Collision, Solar Park litter make the final, which they’re a real chance I don’t think it’ll ever be repeated,” he said.
“Looking at each heat there’s three, four, five chances in each heat. Discount one at your peril.”
Group Three Sydney Cup Heat One
Miss Gingin – Tom Tzouvelis
Miss Gingin won the Queensland Distance Final from the pink and trainer Tommy Tzouvelis is hoping the rising stayer can produce a similar performance from the same draw in her heat of the Sydney Cup.
“I’m not too concerned about having the eight for her first look at Wentworth Park. She’s never trialled there so the eight box will give her the chance to get into stride without anyone crowding her,” Tzouvelis said.
“She trialled in 35 flat at Albion Park earlier in the week. Her first and last sections were excellent but she hit a little bit of a flat spot in the middle which is unlike her, but very pleased overall.”
After her trip to Cannington, Tzouvelis had planned a Melbourne campaign. However, the bitch was sturck down with illness and has only had two runs over the 600 in the lead up to Friday’s heat.
“I’d say she’s probably a little underdone when we took her to Melbourne and she missed some work because she got a bit crook, so whatever she does she should strip fitter if we’re lucky enough to make the final,” he said.
“The six and the seven look to have a little bit of speed early so if we could tack on to them and get a cart into it early that would be ideal.”
“She’s a very good 600 metre bitch, so I’m confident she’ll put herself towards the front on the race and I’m really hoping she can give herself a chance at the final, because she’ll improve lengths on whatever she does this week.”
Group Three Sydney Cup Heat Two
Radar Gunn – Jeff Crawford
Radar Gunn has sped through the Queensland staying ranks at a rapid rate and at just twenty-six months trainer Jeff Crawford is more than comfortable throwing her “in with the big boys” for Friday’s Sydney Cup Heats, expecting her to challenge for the lead early.
“I think She Will Bloom off the one will try to lead but from the three if we can push up and take it on early, we’re a good chance of getting to the front,” he said.
“We probably need to be in the lead to be in the finish. It’s a nice race for her but she’s up against the big dogs now, so we’re more hopeful than confident.”
“She’s come along and done everything right thus far and now is the time to step her up in grade, even though at just over two she has her best racing in front of her.”
Crawford has had the Sydney Cup in his sights for a number of months and an impressive Wentworth Park debut let him know Radar Gunn was up to the task.
“She had her first trip down to Wentworth Park a couple of weeks ago and came through that with flying colours. She held her conditioning brilliantly so much so I trialled her the following Thursday at Ipswich where she went around in 36.77 out of the 630 boxes which is nine hundredths off Champagne Sally’s track record,” he said.
“There were a lot of question marks whether we should drive or fly her down. We chose the former and she handled it no trouble which is great knowing we can get on a plane to Melbourne if there’s a suitable race.”
“We were really impressed with her run. She looked like she was feeling her way around the track a little bit and got held up at one stage and still came home on the heals of Just Terms who is the boom young stayer in Sydney at the moment. That’s when I was sure she’d make the grade.”