THE ultra-consistent Natural Player finally broke through for its feature race success yesterday, winning the $10,000 Goulburn Cup Final.
Stepping well from box two, the Mark Wilcox-trained son of Knocka Norris and Winning Shiraz was never in doubt, racing away for a dominant three-and-one-quarter length victory in a speedy 25.36 over the 457-metre distance.
Silent Effective, which has just returned to the track following an injury-enforced spell, ran second with Pierro Kade back in third spot.
Wilcox said it was a great feeling to win the race with such an honest performer.
“He (Natural Player) has been in a couple of Group finals, he ran second in the Maitland Cup behind Paw Licking, so he really deserved to win a race like that,” Wilcox said.
“If you look through his form, he is a very fast dog. On one-turn-tracks like Bulli, Maitland, Goulburn and up the straight at Appin, he can run near record times. He is a very fast dog.”
The victory gave Wilcox consecutive wins in the Goulburn Cup, which he took out last year with Natural Player’s litter brother, Knocka’s Return.
Wilcox, who bred the litter with his wife Gillian, says that the victory was made even sweeter with both dogs having come from his successful breeding line.
“We have done everything with them, we reared them and got them to racing. It was great when his brother won it last year and for this this dog to win it again this year is really satisfying.”
Both chasers boast impressive race records and are both blessed with a tremendous amount of ability.
Knocka’s Return, a multiple city winner, is arguably the better known of the two with 25 wins from 58 starts, while Natural Player has an impeccable strike rate with 27 wins and nine minor placings from 41 career outings.
Wilcox said that while both possess a great deal of talent, they are very different dogs on the track.
“They are different types of dogs. Knocka’s Return is a very, very fast dog but he is more suited over 600 yards.
“They are both strong, but Natural Player is a sprinter, whereas Knocka’s Return is more of a middle distance dog.”
The pair are from a fantastic litter of seven – all winners which have saluted in 104 races between them for just under $170,000 in prize money earnings.
“This would be the best litter I have bred, that’s for sure, although their mother’s litter was fairly good, they won around 75 races.
“We have been pretty lucky over the years to have some pretty fair dogs.”
While it has been an incredible ride, Wilcox, who is based in the Sydney suburb of Bringelly, said it hasn’t always been an easy one.
“It has been a lot of hard work. Everybody thinks they started off really quick but, although they weren’t slow, a few of them took a while to get going.
“We have had our ups and downs with them, even Natural Player has had two split webbings, one on each back foot, so he has had his troubles.
“I have never got him to Wentworth Park, he would fly around there, but he always seems to get injured. He is a very hard dog to keep going.”
The littermates, which turn four next March, are still racing as well as ever and look set to continue doing so well into 2015. When the time does come to hang up the collar and lead for his talented team, Wilcox is hoping that their younger siblings, by Magic Sprite, may be able to fill the void.
“I have the next litter to them here and they are 13 months old tomorrow. We are just getting ready to break them in and hopefully they turn out good.
“There is a few in the litter that go as good as the dogs I am racing now up my slipping track, so I just hope they break in alright.”
“You can hope that they are as good (as the first litter), but it is hard to get a litter like the first one. If they are anywhere near as good, I will be very happy.”