AT close to five-and-a-half years of age, Thunder Rama would almost certainly be the oldest dog racing in the country.
Amazingly, this Saturday night, the veteran greyhound will line up in a heat of the Group 1 Perth Cup (520m) at Cannington, looking to book himself a berth in next week’s $150,000 feature.
Trained by John Iwanyk, who won the Perth Cup in 2016 with Ima Wagtail, Thunder Rama has been a sensational chaser since starting his career in April 2013.
Since his debut, the son of Hallucinate and Bananarama has faced the starter on 158 occasions, landing 39 victories and a further 63 minor placings.
Iwanyk says he is in awe of his gallant greyhound who still enjoys heading to the track to compete.
“He is the perfect athlete – I don’t know how else to describe him,” Iwanyk told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He just wants to win and he loves to race – he is a great race dog as he jumps relatively well, he hugs the fence and he tries his guts out.
“Dogs like him are one in a million.”
Thunder Rama will be having his first start over 520m this Saturday since finishing second at Cannington last October.
Since then he has been racing consistently over the short course at Mandurah and Cannington, with three wins and two minor placings at his last nine starts.
The 31kg campaigner will start from box one in the first heat of the night, with his main rivals appearing to be Funky Pirate (box two), Jamaica The Fun (box three) and Kid Kansas (box four).
“He isn’t as strong as he used to be, so we are going into the race a little unsure how he will run it out,” Iwanyk said.
“It is a concern, but there are no other races on for him so we figured we’d give him a go at it.
“He loves Cannington and he handles the track very well. Luckily for him is he seems to have struck a field which doesn’t appear overly strong, so if he can jump to the front who knows what could happen.”
Amazingly, this will be the fourth edition of the Perth Cup series Thunder Rama has contested, his best effort thus far being a second in his heat last year behind Ramifications.
Iwanyk reflected on the efforts of Thunder Rama heading into the series once more, commenting on the impact his chaser has had.
“He has been remarkable and I don’t think people realise just how much you come to love a dog like him.
“He has got a bit of a cult following over here too – people love watching him race and they all talk about him.
“It’s nice to see because he is such a great dog.
“I am not predicting anything great from him, but he does have box one which suits so if he can use it to his advantage he could run a race.”
Iwanyk also has Winsome Roxy engaged in a heat of the Perth Cup, with the daughter of Spring Gun and Winsome Charlee taking on a stellar field including boom pups Astrozone (box one) and Who’s Got Snoop (box two).
Despite coming into the event with some nice recent form, Iwanyk concedes she will face a difficult task from box eight.
“I would have liked to see her drawn closer to the fence.
“She has only had one run over here – a third – which was quite a good run – but box eight makes it very difficult for a bitch like her.
“It is a tough assignment, but once again there weren’t many other races on for her either so we thought we’d have a crack.”
Meanwhile, Iwanyk believes his best chance of the night is in race 10, with Winsome April set to contest a heat of the Group 1 Galaxy (715m).
The promising stayer will start wearing the pink stretch vest and comes into the series following two smart seconds since joining Iwanyk’s kennel.
“She has had two runs here in Perth. Her first start over the 520m was very good and last week’s run over the middle distance was nothing short sensational.
“She came from about 10 lengths behind going off the back and she only got beat a neck – by the time she got to the catching pen she was five lengths in front.
“It will all depend on where she settles from box eight, but if she is sitting midfield and gets a clear run then I think she will play a big part, for sure.
“It would be sensational to go back-to-back [in the Perth Cup], although I think my best chance is in the Galaxy.
“I would love to win a Galaxy – it is the only race on the calendar over here which I haven’t won.”
Eight heats of the Group 1 Perth Cup will be run on Saturday night in addition to four heats of the Group 1 Galaxy.
Other big names to watch out for include Pepper Fire, Kruggerland, Fanta Bale, Bogie Bekim and Trip To Eden.
The first race kicks off at 10:05pm AEDT.