MOST of the hype surrounding the 2016 Group 1 Paws of Thunder (520 metres) was focused on one greyhound, Zambora Brockie, but when the lids flew open on Saturday night at Wentworth Park, it was his lesser-known kennel mate, Asa Flying Spur, which stole the spotlight.
Starting as the $21 outsider for leading NSW conditioner Anthony Azzopardi, Asa Flying Spur speared the lids from box three, rolling straight to the early lead in the run to the first turn, with Zambora Brockie slipping into third spot behind the lamplighter before finding trouble in the run through the catching pen.
With the favourite put out of play, Asa Flying Spur was left well clear out in front, with the only danger being Elfen Bale. The Andrea Dailly-trained bitch could only get within one-and-one-quarter lengths of the winner, which clocked a quick 29.83. Smart Missile ran a terrific race to finish third, with Zambora Brockie finishing in sixth spot.
Azzopardi said it was an enormous thrill to win the prestigious feature, even though the race didn’t go exactly how he expected.
“Asa Flying Spur began better than normal and was able to find the front very easily, but when I saw Zambora Brockie get across in behind him I thought ‘oh well he is going to beat him’,” Azzopardi said.
“Unfortunately Zambora Brockie got dragged down and galloped on pretty badly which put him out of the race, but even still couple of the other dogs had their chance to get Asa Flying Spur but he was just too good on the night.”
The son of Kinloch Brae and Cawbourne Shine came into the $100,000 feature with the humble record of 29 starts for seven wins and 12 minor placings, with Azzopardi explaining the dog’s determination is what won him the race.
“Strange things happen all the time, but looking at the final you wouldn’t have given him much of a chance because he was the youngest and most inexperienced dog in the field.
“But he is a dog which just always finding that little bit extra every time you put him around and ask him to step up and that is what has won him a Group 1.”
It was a big night on Saturday for Azzopardi, who also took out the Group 2 Summer Distance Plate with No Donuts, a recent edition to his kennel just prior to the heats.
After making his debut over the staying trip the week prior, punters sent the front runner to the boxes as the $3 top elect despite the query as to whether he would be able to back up over the testing distance.
Those doubts were soon dispelled with the black powerhouse putting on a dazzling display out in front to record a one-and-three-quarter length victory in a sizzling 41.97.
Azzopardi was in awe of the performance, with No Donuts now looking a force to be reckoned with in staying features over the coming months.
“This was always going to be the week where you would find out if he could run the 700 after a tough run the week before, but he backed up well and he ran a mighty race,” he said.
“He didnt begin all that well but he showed great pace and his sectionals were out of this world which allowed him to gap them and it was just a two dog race with him and Whittaker.
“He is going to be a front running stayer, but a few of the top stayers have dropped off recently so he might just be the dog to step up and take up the mantle.”
No Donuts has now won 20 of his 37 starts, with career earnings now in excess of $214,000.
Watch Asa Flying Spur (3) winning the 2016 Group 1 Paws of Thunder.