HUNTER Valley trainer Charlie Lamb is hoping that one of his prized greyhounds can lift his spirits by taking out Friday night’s Group 2 Black Top final at The Gardens as the industry struggles to come to terms with Premier Mike Baird’s legislation to ban greyhound racing.
The Black Top will be the second group race to be run within the state since the announcement six weeks ago that the sport will be closed down on July 1, 2017.
Lamb is located at Swan Bay, near Raymond Terrace, and has two of the leading chances in the $40,000 feature, One Hill and Maja Mahi Mahi.
Both greyhounds won their respective heats in stunning fashion last week, with the latter collecting time honours in a scintillating 29.39.
Beginning brilliantly from box four, Maja Mahi Mahi clocked 4.96 to the first mark and never looked in danger, defeating a gallant Lochinvar Holly by four lengths on the line.
The daughter of Spring Gun and April’s Legacy took her career record to six wins and six minor placings from 19 starts, including her last two at The Gardens in hot time.
Maja Mahi Mahi, $4 with Sportsbet, will jump from an identical draw in the decider this week, with Lamb believing she could improve.
“She is not at her best yet – the sky is the limit for her because she has got that great early speed,” Lamb told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“She has always been a good bitch, but she had a bit of a drop in form because she came on season and it sort of just put her back a few months.
“It has just a case of waiting for her to come back to where she was before and I think she is starting to hit her straps at the right time.
“It has taken a while, but I think she will only keep improving now. I am hoping for a lot of luck early…in big races like this it is normally whoever gets that bit of luck ends up winning.”
Also qualifying for the Black Top is One Hill, a son of Surf Lorian and Lamb’s former star greyhound One Tree Hill.
The blue fawn dog registered his 16th career victory in last Friday’s heat, running down class chaser Knight Sprite to score in 29.44.
“It was a gutsy win, especially to run down Knight Sprite who had a pretty big break down the back,” Lamb said.
“It was a great achievement by the dog and he showed he has got that massive motor and that he is a good dog.”
Lamb is hoping One Hill ($9), normally a steady beginner, can find a nice spot on the fence and avoid interference from box five this week.
“He is a very hard chasing dog and it will be interesting to see what happens because there is going to be a lot of speed vying for the early lead.
“With a bit of luck he might be able to sit in just behind them and get a lucky run through the first turn…anything could happen in dog racing.
“It is very special to have him in the final because his mother, One Tree Hill, won the Black Top for us back in 2007, so it would be the icing on the cake if he could come out on Friday and achieve what his mother did…it would be fantastic.”
Lamb’s duo will come up against a terrific field including the likes of young gun Lochinvar Klein and Victorian star Pantera Nera which have drawn boxes one and eight respectively.
When asked to split his pair, Lamb struggled, insisting that both have the ability to win but will need luck.
“They are both as good as one another, but if I had to lean towards one it would be Maja Mahi Mahi because of her early speed.
“With that being said the one, three, seven and eight also have phenomenal early speed so they might get a bit tight through the first turn and One Hill could get a nice run behind them.
“If he can get within three lengths of them down the back he will be rattling home over the top of them.
“They are both great dogs and they are very close to my heart – they are beautiful animals so I find it hard to split them.”
Heading into one of the biggest races on the provincial calendar, Lamb took time to reflect on his past within industry and what his future will hold without the sport he loves.
“My dad had greyhounds growing up and there was eight of us in the family and I was the only one who really liked the greyhounds.
“I faded out of them for a while when I was growing up and I got into sports, but I got back into the dogs when I moved to Newcastle and met my wife Lisa.
“Her father was a great trainer, the late John Brown, he had champion dogs out at Black Hill including Little Vogue, Sharon’s Vogue and Magic Top.
“He took me under his wing and taught me a fair bit and it blossomed from there.
“The industry opened a lot of doors from me. I had no education, no trade – so it was tremendous to find something I really loved and do so well.
“I am 55 years old now – I know nothing else except for this industry and there are a lot of people in the same boat.
“I have met a lot of beautiful people in this industry like Robbie Britton who trained One Tree Hill to win the Paws of Thunder and to this day I only have to call him and he is willing to help out and give me advice.
“The greyhounds are my livelihood these days so if the industry does close in NSW it is just going to shatter us.”
The Group 2 Black Top is race eight on the card this Friday night and is set to jump at 9:24pm.
Group 2 Black Top – market
Box 1 – Lochinvar Klein – $3.60
Box 2 – Wing Fan – $31
Box 3 – Little Bit Sweet – $11
Box 4 – Maja Mahi Mahi – $4 with Sportsbet
Box 5 – One Hill – $9
Box 6 – Mystic Quality – $51
Box 7 – Zipping Echo – $41
Box 8 – Pantera Nera – $1.90
1st Res – Knight Sprite – $3.50
2nd Res – Aston Ebert – $9