CHARMAINE Roberts and Shayne Stiff realise they are likely racing for place prize money in next Saturday’s Group 3 Sydney Cup (720m) at Wentworth Park, but the Dubbo training duo could not be more excited to have made the final.
The pair own and train talented litter mates Packey Keeping (Bekim Bale x Kim Keeping May ’15) and Scott Keeping which have drawn boxes one and eight in the feature race, with champion greyhound Fanta Bale (David Bale x Ucme Typhoon Aug ’14) in box two.
The ‘Keeping brothers’ were both impressive in their heats, with Packey Keeping leading all the way off box three in the opening qualifier – clocking a sharp 42.50 over the ‘half-mile’.
It was his ninth win at start 23 and it continued his good run of recent form, having run in the final of the Group 3 Top Cat Video Cup at The Meadows the start prior.
Stiff said he went into the race knowing his charge could produce a bold performance.
“I was very happy with the win,” Stiff told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He has gone 42.20 at Wentworth Park in the past and he has shown a fair bit of ability. We took him to The Meadows for something different a few weeks ago and he didn’t disgrace himself down there.
“He’s always looked like getting the distance and they are all improving with every start – we are rapt with them.”
In the second heat, Fanta Bale dominated with an emphatic front running display off box seven, stretching out to defeat a gallant Scott Keeping by one and one quarter lengths in a best of night 42.46.
It was a huge effort from Scott Keeping, a winner of just two races from 20 starts, finishing so close behind a champion greyhound whose prize money is rapidly closing in on $1 million.
“He started off in Perth, but he wasn’t firing at Cannington so we brought him home,” Stiff explained.
“Since being back he has been running the hands off the clock in trials, but there aren’t many low grade 700s on so if you don’t go for these type of races he’d just be home sitting in the kennel.
“But for him to go out and run second behind Fanta Bale when he has only won two races was enormous and we couldn’t be more pleased with him.”
Stiff said he is happy with the box draw and how his dogs have pulled up heading into the race, although he admits they are unlikely to bother Fanta Bale, an eight-time group winner.
“We were over the moon with them – it is always nice to get into group races with one dog let alone two,” he said.
“The box draw couldn’t have been better unless Fanta Bale had drawn four or five and from box two it is her race to lose.
“If she jumps to the front she’ll run 42.00 run and that will be way too quick for our boys – but you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
Much like the connections of Skyfire taking on Winx in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes, Stiff said to be lining up next to Fanta Bale in the decider will be a privilege.
“Fanta Bale is one of the best greyhounds Charmaine and I have seen – she is a freak – so I think we are in the race hopefully competing for a placing behind her.
“I really want to congratulate Robbie Britton and Paul Wheeler because they’ve done a remarkable job with her.
“To just make the final is an honour really. To be able to say we raced Fanta Bale in a group race is something we can look back on and remember for a long time.”
The Group 3 Sydney Cup will be run at Wentworth Park next Saturday night and is worth $25,000 to the winner.
2017 Group 3 Sydney Cup box draw
1 – Packey Keeping
2 – Fanta Bale
3 – Vicki Keeping
4 – Obi Kenobi
5 – Midnight Treat
6 – Big Daddy Bee
7 – Good Odds Bricky
8 – Scott Keeping
9 – Smooth Claudia
10 – Ebby Ripper