VETERAN chaser Knocka’s Return proved age is just a number at Maitland on Thursday afternoon, scoring his 40th career win at start 100 in a leg of the GBOTA Distance Challenge series over the 565m trip.
Stepping fairly from box five, the red brindle and white dog was able to slot into second spot behind tearaway leader Wing Fan (box one) down the back before slipping into another gear in the home straight, railing underneath the lamplighter to score by four and one quarter lengths in a sizzling 31.64.
Trainer Mark Wilcox was elated after the win, praising his grand campaigner which astonishingly celebrated his fifth birthday earlier this year.
“He is a lovely dog and he absolutely loves chasing and the time he ran today (Thursday) tells me he isn’t getting sick of it – he is still running the times he was back when he was two years old,” Wilcox told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He is just remarkable. He first started racing in 2012 so he has won across five calendar years which is just unbelievable.
“Tonight’s win was his 40th and he also has broken a couple of track records – he has been such a good dog.”
The victory put Knocka’s Return in third overall spot on the leaderboard for the Distance Challenge after taking out one of the heats at Bulli last week. The series, which was launched in 2016, is run over the sprint and distance trips at the seven GBOTA tracks within the state.
Greyhounds which compete in each of the legs get awarded points based on their finishing positions, with the eight greyhounds with the highest points progressing to the finals over 520m and 720m at Wentworth Park on June 18.
Wilcox said he decided to target the innovative race after he failed to get a run with Knocka’s Return in normal events, but says he is still able to match motors with some of the younger greyhounds coming through the series.
“He is flat out getting a run anywhere because he is out graded everywhere over all distances, so I thought I would tackle this series as he is a good 600m dog and see what happens and at the end of it we will see how he is going.
“If he is going well I will put him over the 700m but he is five years and three months so I won’t push him as I would hate something to go wrong.
“He hasn’t had a go over the 700 but I believe he will run it easily – I could have put him over it a couple of years ago but in NSW there is not much use as you win a few races and then there is no where for you to go.”
One of the most consistent dogs in the state, Knocka’s Return has won on 11 different tracks throughout his career (Appin, Bulli, Grafton, Goulburn, Maitland, Temora, Richmond, Dapto, Gosford, Bathurst and Wentworth Park), with Wilcox explaining there are numerous factors to his longevity.
“The key to him his is free galloping – he gets a lot of that and I don’t trial him much at all – and even though he has had 100 starts – which sounds like a lot – it isn’t a real lot when you divide that up over the years.
“I think another factor is that a lot his his races these days are over the longer distance – if he was sprinting he probably would have been knocked around a lot more as they tend to lose a bit of their zip the older they get.
“As well the bigger tracks suit him. He has won on nearly a dozen tracks and although he has won on the tighter ones, he likes the bigger ones more.
“He doesn’t like getting boxed up and crowded so he gets back a bit and when the straights come up they aren’t long enough on the tighter tracks so he is more likely to run into the backs of them.”
Despite starting to turn a bit grey, it appears there is no slowing down for Knocka’s Return any time soon, with the son of Knocka Norris and Winning Shiraz a very special greyhound to Wilcox and his wife Gillian.
“I just hope he can keep going – there was once a dog in South Australia named Green Lizard which raced until he was six and a half – but we won’t be pushing him once he decides he has had enough and he will have a spot on the lounge.
“The whole litter have won over 130 races now and his brother Natural Player was a very good dog and a real hard chaser – he raced until he was four and a half before injury ended his career.
“I currently have the next litter to Magic Sprite racing and they are going very well and Winning Shiraz also has a young litter of pups to Cosmic Rumble which were born in March.”