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The Zammit clan ready to take on the best in Wentworth Park showdown

19 April 2024

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All Natural
Jay Is Jay
Palawa King

By Pat McLeod

Master Queensland trainer Tony Zammit momentarily released his hold on the collar and lead and was simply ‘big brother’ when quizzed about Saturday night at Wentworth Park.

“There is just a lot of pride and enjoyment in the fact that Michael is also in a Final on the night,” Tony Zammit explained of the climax to the Golden Easter Egg carnival.

“I still remember him starting off with me as a youngster and then went on to make a big name for himself.

“Now, both he and (wife) Selena are highly regarded trainers in their own right.

“So, it is an incredible buzz for me to see Michael and Selena there on the night, and make no mistake, their dog (All Natural) is a big chance.”

The Zammits have been a dominant force in greyhound racing in Queensland across five decades.

Tony is a Hall of Famer and younger brother Michael was given the (unwanted) moniker of ‘Group 1 Mick’ for his big race success.

However, Saturday night at Wentworth Park showcases that this pair, and Selena, are as potent a force as they have ever been.

Squarely in the spotlight are Selena and Michael with All Natural, who sits on the third line of betting, behind the ominous Mackenna (trained by Michelle Sultana) in the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg Final over 520 metres.

Star stayer Valpolicella.

Three races earlier on that program Tony’s distance sensation Valpolicella is an early $2.50 favourite to win her third Group 1 race, the Association Cup Final over 720 metres.

“We are both excited to have one in each Final,” Tony continued.

“It would be great for two Queenslanders to knock off the southerners in these two big Finals.”

Michael is just happy to be there.

The road to Saturday night for him and Selena has been bizarre.

It starts with Selena ‘forever’ having ‘The Egg’ as the trophy she most coveted.

Then along came the emotional story of the home-bred litter with strong links to her late father, Jeff Jones, and her mother Lillian.

That litter delivered superstar Jay Is Jay, who went on to break the Albion Park 520 metre record and win the Million Dollar Chase.

'The Egg' was supposed to be part of his destiny, but a mystery form slump forced him to the sideline for blood tests.

The Golden Easter Egg Final-bound All Natural.

But, magically, in his place stepped up his litter brother, ‘The Spare’, All Natural, who proceeded to come second in his Golden Easter Egg heat and won his semi-final.

Michael isn’t being sidetracked by the back-story.

“A race is a race,” Michael says matter-of-factly.

“You just worry about the task at hand for this dog.

“We are in an Easter Egg and it is great for the litter. At the end of the day All Natural and Jay Is Jay are separate dogs. We have never been in an Easter Egg Final before and we are here now and that is all that matters.”

Michael also reports All Natural is in ‘good order’. He will drive down with the dog on Saturday morning.

“I don't think he could be in any better shape than what he is now for Saturday night. We are really happy with him,” Michael said.

“I have had a really good look at the field, and the (six) box doesn't really worry us.

“So, we are in the race for starters and the dog is going well. The dog has only had the two runs there and has improved each time.

“He is going into the Final in good order. Someone is going to win it and we just hope it is us.”

For brother Tony, his distance mission appears to be a race in two, Valpolicella and NSW supremo Palawa King (Jack Smith).

“I believe that is the way the race will pan out because after watching all the heats again I don't think there is a lot of early speed in this race,” Tony said.

Tony flies down to Sydney from Brisbane on Friday.

“So, most likely Valpolicella and Palawa King will come from behind and I just have to hope that I am a few more lengths in front of him turning for home to be any chance, because the way Palawa King finishes, he is a mighty dog at the end of a race," Tony said. 

“I'm hoping that coming out of the eight box, Valpolicella should be on the outside of the pack and she might be able to muster up a little bit better.

“The good thing about Valpolicella is that she just continues to learn about her racing, how she rails or decides to go wide. She certainly has more track sense now than she ever has and is using it.”

Leading dog man Michael Zammit.

Tony said there was no reason for confidence going into Saturday night, given the strength of the field.

“You can never feel confident about a race like this when you have a dog like Palawa King working against you,” Tony said.

“He is a very classy dog and you still have to respect the other dogs in this race.”

Tony said there would be no doubt about what Valpolicella’s status will be if she wins on Saturday night.

“She will definitely take that mantle as my best-ever dog,” Tony said.

“More so too because of the way she wins her races.

“It is great to have a good beginner who jumps straight to the lead and wins, but when you have a dog that can come from behind like she does, goes around dogs, or goes inside, they are the sort of dogs that really make your heart warm when you see them run.”



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