Jason Thompson has qualified three finalists for Thursday night’s $500,000 TAB Melbourne Cup final following a memorable night’s greyhound racing at Sandown park tonight.
Already a winner of six Group races in 2012, Thompson’s remarkable season continued with Got A Moment, Don’t Knocka Him and Proven Nitro earning their berths in the world’s richest free entry greyhound race.
“To get three finalists into the Melbourne Cup is just unbelievable,” said Thompson.
The night got off to a flying start for the Pearcedale trainer when recent kennel addition Got A Moment defeated Sapporo and the TAB Melbourne Cup pre-post favourite Renegade Chief in the night’s opening heat in 29/56 seconds.
“It was a great run. She didn’t ping the boxes but she hit the ground running.
“She was going to go underneath Sapporo but got checked off heels and went around. It was a gutsy run being only 24kg, but she has a big heart.”
The greyhound arrived in Thompson’s kennel seven weeks ago but knew form the start he had something special.
“I rang the trainer (Dianna Buxton) soon after I trialled her and said to Dianna that if things went her way she’d be a nice Melbourne Cup dog.”
Thompson’s second winner came in heat five when Macro Meats Shootout winner Don’t Knocka Him overcame box 5 to defeat Miss Markwell in a slick 29.31 seconds.
“It was an ordinary box draw but he handled it fine and was a god confidence builder for him.
“He stumbled a little coming off the matting, so hopefully he doesn’t repeat that next week. He had a pretty good run after that.”
Don’t Knocka Him won the Golden Easter Egg in April, which at the time was the richest race in the country. A win in next week’s final would take his career prize money to $726,329, smashing High Earner’s current record of $610,070.
Thompson’s third winner was perhaps his most impressive – and most fortuitous.
Proven Nitro, fresh of a dazzling win in last week’s Macro Meats Shootout, was sent to the boxes a $1.70 favourite but found trouble soon after the start and was shuffled to the back of the field.
Making his move down the back straight, Proven Nitro appeared to have run into a dead end before finding a way through to claim a hard fought victory in 29.78 seconds.
“He’s got a huge motor and is extremely tough. He’s the total package.”
Thompson has already tasted TAB Melbourne Cup success, having won the race in 1994 with Light Of Fire.
Queensland champion Glen Gallon set tongues wagging with a brilliant win in a stunning 29.23 seconds.
Maverick Tiger began like a shot from box 5, setting the fastest first split for the night before breaking the second split record. Glen Gallon spotted the early leader six lengths off the back straight before unleashing a devastating finishing burst to win by 1.75 lengths.
“It was a super run,” said trainer Tony Brett.
“He got a bit of room to move which is what he needed, but off the back there was still a long way to go to pick up the leader, especially running that time.”
Glen Gallon, a winner of $324,907 in prize money, will also break the Australian prize money record should he claim the $350,000 first prize next Thursday night.
Berwick Mazda Harrison-Dawson winner General Destini returned to his best form, finishing over the top of Peggy May to win heat four by 2.5 lengths in 29.39 seconds.
‘The General’ came into the race after finishing fifth in last week’s Group 3 Sir John Dillon Memorial, a preparation that had trainer Norm Rinaldi in two minds.
“I put him over 595m last week and I wondered if I had done the right thing, but he was getting knocked around over 515m and he needed a good hit out which he got,” said Rinaldi.
“I was very happy with his run. Box eight was a concern for me because he’s not the best beginner but I was hoping he’d come out better.
“I’m just elated to make the final. It’s hard work but it’s so rewarding – I can’t believe I have a runner in the Melbourne Cup!”
Remarkably, General Destini comes from the first litter of pups Rinaldi bred.
Track specialist Linden Magpie won his ninth race at Sandown Park and gave veteran trainer John Norden his biggest thrill in a lifetime in the sport when he won heat 2 in 29.62 seconds.
“It’s a real thrill,” said the 73 year old Norden.
“I’m just about ready to retire from the greyhounds, he’s nearly my last dog I reckon. I bred his mother and had her mother, and I bred and broke him in as well, so it’s really satisfying.”
Hurunui Hitman will look to emulate 2011 TAB Melbourne Cup winner Dyna Tron by completing the Geelong Cup-Melbourne Cup double.
Beginning brilliantly from box 8, Hurunui Hitman was never threatened, racing away to win by five lengths in 29.32 seconds.
“He’s really flying at the moment,” said trainer Stephen McKenna.
“Dyna Tron ran similar times to my bloke in last year’s Geelong Cup and they’ve run almost identical times in the Melbourne Cup heats, so hopefully history repeats next week.”
Finally, master mentor Graeme Bate will prepare yet another TAB Melbourne Cup finalist after Desalle Bale led all the way to win her heat in 29.45 seconds.
“She didn’t jump 100% but knowing Graeme I’m sure she’ll be 100% next week,” said handler Joe Briffa.
“I think it’ll be between Hurunui Hitman for the early lead so hopefully she gets room and shows her best.”
The 2012 TAB Melbourne Cup promises to be one of the most keenly contested in recent history, with the eight finalists having combined to win 146 races and $1,442,577 in prize money.
The box draw for the 2012 TAB Melbourne Cup final will be conducted at “The Dog’s Breakfast,” at Sandown Park on Monday 19 November.