By Isaac Murphy
Nominations came in thick and fast for Monday night’s heats of The Lightning over the 331 metres, with trainers jumping at the chance for a spot in Thursday’s Final where the short course dogs get their time in the limelight for $15,000.
Craig Chandler was already racing with Paw It On in The Tempest over the 600 on Thursday, but was ecstatic to see sprinter Red Jersey earn himself a Lightning Final spot after an impressive heat win.
“It was some sort of a win in his Lightning heat, they don’t come much quicker than Sandra (Hunt)'s Hope Sure Can, and he was able to spot her a start and run her down,” Chandler said.
“He’s been racing in good company over the 288 at Ipswich but drawing back boxes just hasn’t got a look recently, I thought he was going much better than his form and he proved that from the red rug in his heat.
“He’s a dog that’s run time over the 395 metres before, so I knew he was close enough he’d be good enough and he did everything right.”
Chandler has had to be patient with the son of Aston Dee Bee, getting him right just in time for a Lightning tilt.
“He had a flexor tendon injury earlier this year and being a big dog, it took over three months to get him back and it wasn’t until that run on Monday night I knew he’d fully overcome it,” he said.
“It’s a prestigious race to be a part of, the short course dogs like him don’t often get to show off on a Thursday night and I’m rapt he’s in there with a chance.
“It’s a very tough draw in the five with Hope Sure Can and all her speed in box six, but he’s a confidence dog and getting back in the winner's circle is just what he needed before this final.”
Still only early in his career, Red Jersey has plenty of prizemoney opportunities for Chandler, but short course races don’t carry bigger purses than Thursday night’s event.
“We had hopes that he’d get the 500 but worked out pretty quickly he wasn’t going to get any further than the 395, but he’s made a great fist of it winning eight races and having five runner-ups against some pretty hot dogs,” he said.
“He’s earnt just north of $15,000 in his career and if he’s able to win of Thursday that rockets to over $25,000, it’s a great opportunity.
“You’ve got to keep your eyes open for suitable races and while the long-term goal is to get him back to the 395, I’ll look to take him down to Grafton for a trial then a race over the 350, which he should relish.”