Behind The Looking Glass – Paws Of Thunder & Summer Distance Plate

Apart from looking at the facts, figures and numbers, it’s always interesting to have a closer look at a race from a different perspective and to listen to trainers and owners and what they say and feel about their dogs. With the Paws of Thunder and Summer Distance Plate final happening on Saturday night, here’s a bit of a look behind the scenes at what some of these dogs are about and what their plans are for the future.

Did you know that Boyce Road is related to the fabulous Oaks Road? He is owned by Edwin Kingswell and trained by Mark Gatt, the same successful combination behind Oaks Road. Boyce Road is by Mystic Pace (Spiral Nikita-Leprechaun Pace) and she is a sister to Oaks Road. Mystic Pace was based in Queensland and never raced. She was mated to Collision in 2010 which resulted in one pup that didn’t race. She (went to Collision again in February 2012 and this repeat mating has produced a number of pups owned by Kingswell and trained by Gatt. You may have seen the likes of Addison Road, Black Road and Red Road racing around the traps and winning plenty. Boyce Road is one of that litter and he has now made a Group 1 final and is fast following in the footsteps of his highly successful uncle Oaks Road.

Smart Valentino has had an interesting preparation for this series with a couple of 500’s contested prior to the heats. Unfortunately there were no staying events available for Smart Valentino, meaning trainer Mark Swift had to resort to racing over 500 metres at Bathurst and Richmond. The benefit is that it has him jumping better, but it highlights the problems for class stayers in NSW. “Everywhere I nominated there was no 700’s, so I thought if I dropped him back to a 500 it might sharpen him a bit, which has worked because he’s starting to jump a bit better. But he just doesn’t have the early speed when he hits the ground. It actually worked to his favour the 500’s. There’s nothing around”.

Set To Shine’s owner, George Tsohalis also raised a similar issue with the availability of staying events and if Set To Shine holds up, he is considering taking her down to Victoria to do some racing.

Smart Valentino’s next venture may also be in Victoria, depending on whether he gets an invite to the Zoom Top. “I’m waiting to see if he gets into the Zoom Top or not. I’ll find out halfway through the month they said. It’s best eight, invitation only. If he doesn’t get into it I’m going to give him a spell. He’s the National Champ and won the Newcastle Cup so I’m hoping he’s a chance of getting an invite.” Swift Valentino certainly has the credentials and has no doubt earned a spot in that field.

Then there’s the two group race campaigners in each final that are heading towards potential stud careers at the end of their respective racing careers. Destini Fireball and Peter Rocket are both approaching four years of age and are in the twilight of their careers and they both have impressive resumes. Destini Fireball has cracked half a million dollars in prize money and Peter Rocket has won nearly $300,000. They also both share the same father, the great Where’s Pedro.

Destini Fireball has won four Group 1 races and one Group 2 race. These include the Group 1 Sale Cup, Group 1 Zoom Top, Group 1 Stayer’s Cup, Group 1 Albion Park Gold Cup and the Group 2 AVM Distance Championship. A win in the Summer Distance Plate would round off his career well. This is what Rinaldi had to say about his charge, “every time he steps out it’s been in Group company. He’s had the young stayers to contend with coming along. He’s a trooper. This is probably his last campaign, so we’re sorta going all out to try and compete in those races. He’s won five group races, four Group 1’s and a Group 2 so he’s done pretty well. There’s been a lot of people asking when he’s going to stud so we’ll just finish his race career and then he’ll go to stud. He’s a good dog, always puts in his best effort.”

As for Peter Rocket, he has won the Group 1 Dapto Megastar, the Group 2 Horsham Cup, ran second in the Group 1 Topgun and was a finalist in the Group 1 Adelaide Cup, Group 1 Melbourne Cup and Group 3 Christmas Gift. Keith Hellmuth, the dog’s trainer, said “he’s been in a lot. It (winning the Paws of Thunder) would be good for his resume. He’s been a reserve in a couple of Group 1’s and Group 2’s and he’s also raced in a few. He’s been around. He’s an adaptable dog, he loves travelling, loves getting in the car and sleeping. He’ll go anywhere. He just tries his ass off. After the race, I’ll keep him going, if he’s still keen. I’d like to put him to stud but don’t know if he’ll get any bitches. He’s going as fast as he was when he was young, he just needs a bit of luck.”

Peter Rocket is also a tough dog and has shown his resilience after recovering from a serious thigh injury he suffered in the Adelaide Derby series. “When he went in the Adelaide Derby he tore his thigh over the sheath, in the triangle. I had to get it stitched back up and he had to have four or five months off and he’s come back perfect, it didn’t affect him at all. He’s never backed off once in his life, he just keeps going, he doesn’t care.”

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the yet to be two year old Boyce Road. His career his just starting while the likes of Destini Fireball and Peter Rocket are winding up their careers. Keep an eye out for the Bold Trease field and let’s hope Smart Valentino gets a mention. And if you are a fan of Set To Shine, you might see her pop up in a field down in Victoria for a race in the near future.

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