Rising six-year-old to celebrate his swansong at Ipswich

Lil Bit Sparky with Jeffress (far left), Maxine and Rick Kuhl and Susan Harris. PIC Just Greyhound Photos.

ANTHONY Jeffress is hoping that the stars can align this Thursday night at Ipswich as the respected race caller and owner farewells his grand old campaigner Lil’ Bit Sparky (Bit Chili x Lilly Grace Oct ’11).

The black and white greyhound, which is now mostly white around the eyes, will be lining up for start 149 on Thursday night, having won 13 races with 41 placings throughout his career, earning $26,450 for connections.

Trained at Marburg by Maxine and Rick Kuhl, Jeffress said it was a hard decision to make to retire ‘Deano’ but says he has a life of luxury to look forward to with his new owners, Emma and Peter Moore, who will also be trackside to cheer him on this Thursday.

“A decision to retire him was made in the last fortnight when we realised he was getting close to 150 starts – and its fitting that Thursday will be his 100th start at Ipswich where he has done most of his racing so it seems a good milestone to go out on,” Jeffress told Australian Racing Greyhound.

“He still wants to race but obviously the welfare of the dog has got to come first and we think he has done more than enough to deserve a couch for the rest of his days.”

Lil’ Bit Sparky will contest race 10 at Ipswich this Friday night which has fittingly been named the ‘Happy 100th at Ippy Deano’ Stakes over 431m.

In a stroke of luck, Lil’ Bit Sparky has drawn the coveted rails alley – a draw from which he has won two of his 13 starts with five minor placings.

Despite the good draw, Jeffress said he isn’t going into Thursday’s swansong expecting Lil’ Bit Sparky to salute, although he is hoping for a competitive performance in front of a group of ‘fans’ who will be trackside to cheer him on.

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“He is a very well known and recognised dog in the area and we are expecting about 20 of his ‘fans’ to come along to celebrate his career.

“I want to keep my expectations realistic. He is probably racing 12 lengths off his best and at his best these days he is going to be running around the 25.80 mark.

“Whilst they are probably going to be going a bit quick for him I am hoping he is going to be in the mix there somewhere off the inside draw.”

With plenty of tears expected after Lil’ Bit Sparky crosses the line this Thursday, Jeffress thanked several people who have been a part of the greyhound’s life including Maxine and Rick Kuhl, Susan Harris who catches the greyhound and the Arnold family who whelped, reared and raced ‘Deano’ throughout the early stages of his career.

“It is going to be a hard one and I am actually calling the meeting so I am hoping all the stars will align – I think it might be a sign from the greyhound gods,” Jeffress quipped.

“No matter what happens on Thursday night we are all very proud of him. He has been a great old dog for us and we know he’ll be out there giving 100 per cent so the only thing that matters to us is that he makes it around safe.”

If you find yourself struggling to sleep at 10.05pm this Thursday night, be sure to tune in to watch race 10 at Ipswich and cheer on ‘Deano’ before he hangs up the collar and lead.