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Cooper Dooper finds form in chase for the Million

Race-1-Cooper-Dooper-DS4-8983-JPG.JPGBy Isaac Murphy

Cooper Dooper is officially back after Tommy Tzouvelis’ powerful chaser went through a crisis of confidence earlier this year.

The dog that ran second to Simon Told Helen in the Group 2 Queensland Derby was finding trouble wherever he went, however the patient trainer persevered knowing it would only take one win to turn it around.

The dog has hit a purple patch of form since late June, which now sees him a live shot in next week’s Million Dollar Chase Heats at Wentworth Park.

After a trio of wins at Albion Park, Tzouvelis took the dog to the Lismore Regional Qualifiers and despite a foreign track and top-notch competition, he booked his place in the next round.

“Lismore is probably not the perfect track for him, it tends to favour the leaders and as we know that’s certainly not his style of racing; he prefers a bigger track, so with that in mind I was really happy with how he went through the series,” Tzouvelis said.

“Some of his rivals in the regional heats and final were probably much more suited to the track; Hammer Down and All Hands Off have a lot more natural speed than him, so to beat those two in the heats and finish second in the final was a top couple of weeks.”

Having a dog in form for the Million Dollar Chase is a once in a lifetime shot and Tzouvelis is putting all his chips in to give Cooper Dooper the best chance of progressing.

“We’ve turned our attention straight to Wentworth Park, he had a trial there on Tuesday night which I was more than pleased with, we’ll probably look to get him another trial there this weekend and then it’s onto the heats,” he said.

“Wentworth Park is a very different track to Lismore, I’ve always thought it’s a very similar track to Ipswich dimension wise, giving dogs like Cooper the chance to run on - he’s always gone well at Ipswich, so I’m hoping it transfers over.”

Tzouvelis says he’s as confident as you can be when you’re racing in a series just about every good dog in Australia is a part of, and was already proud of what Cooper had achieved.

“He’s given himself a one in 1/64 chance to make it to the million, all the other dogs who have qualified have earnt their spot as well and it’s going to be the toughest racing he’s faced but we’d be mad not to try with a dog of his ability,” he said.

“The deeper you go in this race I think it is a bit of a badge of honour, there are no givens starting with the regional qualifiers so to make it this far is an accomplishment - if he can go further that’s one step closer.

“I was talking to one of my owners last night about a race and he said there’s plenty of ifs there and that’s exactly right, there are a lot of ifs and buts in racing you can’t do much about, we’ve just got to line him up and see if it goes his way.”

Cooper Dooper

Tzouvelis was at a loss when Cooper suffered a form slump earlier this year, the dog went over five months without a win and just when it looked like he was about to break out, the veteran trainer didn’t panic and finally found what the dog had been missing.

“When I brought him back from a spell earlier this year he just wasn’t the same dog, he was always finding trouble, didn’t have the track sense to get a clear run and when you go so long without winning it’s going to dent your confidence,” he said.

“I know confidence is the go-to word but that’s what it boiled down to; the dog was still physically capable to run in open company but mentally he just wasn’t there.

“In the end it was a case of perseverance, I tried to give him different looks at Albion and then Ipswich and finally he broke through in late June and he’s been going from strength to strength since.”

It’s been refreshing for trainer and pundits alike seeing the dog back to his powerful best, and since his breakthrough win, he’s gone on a remarkable winning run.

“Instead of finding ways to lose races, he was suddenly finding ways to win them; he’d swing off at the first turn at Ipswich and wind up down the back and then at Albion he began to use the inside draws like he used to, getting around that first corner and really putting his foot to the floor,” Tzouvelis said.

“It’s turned out to be the best stretch of his career, I think he’s won eight races from his last dozen starts, he’s got a bit of a strut and presence about him again which was how he was carrying himself at his best.

“We’d love to see him extend his time in Sydney a bit, but regardless of how far he goes in the Million Dollar Chase we’ll get him up here and work towards an Ipswich Cup in November.

“We couldn’t win a fifth grade earlier in the year, now we’re racing in the Million Dollar Chase and looking at Group races.”