ZULU Power shocked race goers with a stylish win in a semi-final of the Group 3 Summer Puppy Classic (520m) at Nowra on Monday afternoon, with no one more stunned than her trainer, Ruth Matic.
The daughter of Zulu Zeus and Paua Of Love made her racetrack debut in a heat of the series the week prior, finding bother from box six before running on to finish 13 1/4 lengths fourth behind Bulkender which clocked 29.87.
Following that run, Zulu Power was sent to the boxes as a $14.90 chance off an identical draw in her semi, but showed dramatic improvement when beginning brilliantly and leading all the way in 29.81.
“We are a bit shocked, but very happy with how she is going,” Matic told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“She has trialled well in the past, but nothing to ever indicate she would be able to run that sort of time.
“She hasn’t been coming out very well in her trials – she has been either coming up with the lids or coming out on the wrong foot.
“We’ve always said if she happened to come out she would improve a fair bit, but we didn’t realise just how much.”
The 2016 series has attracted some quality youngsters, including Megsie Marble which comes into the decider unbeaten in three runs, with a near record 29.54 heat win to her name.
Also right in contention is Fantastic Polar, which will be aiming to give Jason Fletcher back to back wins in the Puppy Classic, while Bulkender also commands respect from box eight.
Zulu Power has drawn box six for the third time in her three start career in Saturday’s $25,000 to the winner final, with Matic remaining optimistic about her chances.
“Three starts for three box sixes – I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
“With that being said if she jumps and goes straight to the first line like she did last week then I don’t think the box is terribly important.
“She had the fastest first section last week so hopefully she has learned from it and can come out like that again.
“She should be running a place if she can run that time again.
“I think [Megsie Marble] has a fair bit on the field and it is only Zulu Power’s third race start so she is very inexperienced, particularly to be in a group race.
“It is inexperience which will bring her undone.”
While she concedes the white and brindle bitch faces a tough task, Matic said it is a huge thrill just to be in the final after coming into the series with low expectations.
“You have to pay the nomination fee for the race when they are only pups and it is $100,” Matic explained.
“The breeder put the whole litter in for it, but when the series came around she was the only one ready for 500m.
“To be honest we just put her in for his sake because it had cost him all that money just to get one in there.
“We were hoping she would get past the first round, although we didn’t really think she would get past the second so she has done really well.”
Zulu Power is a younger half sister to Matic’s kennel star Black Bear Lee, one of the early favourites to win the feature this time last year.
The powerhouse sprinter was knocked out in the second round in 2015, finishing fifth after finding a stack of trouble in the early stages.
He has since gone on to win 17 of his 38 career starts, his most notable achievement being a victory in the Group 2 Cyril Rowe Cup at Bulli earlier this year.
“He came into the series on the back of winning the Magic Maiden at Wentworth Park 10 days earlier,” Matic said.
“He went from group race to group race and as a puppy it was just too much for him.
“Now we are hoping [Zulu Power] can do what her big brother couldn’t do.”
The Group 3 Nowra Summer Puppy Classic is race six at Nowra on Saturday afternoon and is set to jump at 6:47pm.
Group 3 Nowra Summer Puppy Classic – box draw
1 – Blinky’s Idol
2 – Martam Gold
3 – Megsie Marble
4 – Maya Herrera
5 – Fantastic Polar
6 – Zulu Power
7 – Rafferty’s Rules
8 – Bulkender
1st res – Tin Pan Alley
2nd res – Worrigee Road