WILD Walter (Magic Sprite x Takeover Teddy Jan ’15) will be aiming to make back-to-back finals of the Maitland Cup (450m) when he exits box six in the fifth heat of the Group 2 feature this Thursday.
Trained locally by Terry Priest, the black dog won his qualifier of last year’s Cup in 25.00 before finishing last in the decider won by Victorian chaser Aussie Infrared.
With an additional 12-months racing under his belt, Priest is hopeful his star greyhound has what it takes to make the $40,000 feature again this year.
“It’s always been the plan to have another go this year,” Priest told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“Last year he was the youngest in the field by a few months and back then he still didn’t know what it was all about.
“This year he is a lot more mature and a better dog.”
Wild Walter heads into the final on the back of a sizzling 24.96 win at Maitland last Thursday, defeating Blabba Mouth by four and one quarter lengths on the line.
Prior to that he had two unplaced efforts at Wentworth Park and a second in the Group 2 Richmond Derby final behind classy sprinter Hone In.
Priest says punters should ignore his two starts in town, facing tough company on a track he dislikes due to two nasty falls last year.
“He has no confidence at Wenty anymore,” he explained.
“We only went back there for the Egg series because he went so well during the Derby series, but when I got to the track he didn’t even want to get out of the car.
“Prior to those starts I was rapt with how he went at Richmond and he does love Maitland which is a big help.”
Wild Walter, which is owned by John Beattie, heads into the heats as the winner of 16 races from 42 starts with 10 placings – his prize money closing in on $40,000.
He will face some stiff opposition including Victorian Aston Dinnigan, Queenslander Fab Fit, National Derby finalist One Hour Parking and recent Gold Collar winner In The Moonlight.
BRETT BRAVO's dog HONE IN (3) claimed the 2018 Group 2 Richmond Derby! WILD WALTER (4) pushed hard and nearly stole it at the death in a thrilling final! pic.twitter.com/UXgdegRRwr
— The Dogs (@Thedogs_com_au) March 11, 2018
However, Priest remains optimistic his charge can record the times required to feature in the lucrative series.
“His brother Old Spice holds the record at Maitland and he didn’t hit his straps until he was three and a half,” he said.
“This bloke is very similar to him and he is only going to improve as he gets older. He is getting stronger and he can show good early pace too – he is starting to do it at both ends.
“The series is going to be hard, but hopefully he can begin well and show everyone what he can do because I don’t think he has ever struck a ‘fast’ track when he has won there.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to see him come out and run 24.80, but that’s probably what he’ll have to run to beat some of the big names and the Victorians which will be coming up for the race.”
This year’s Cup has attracted some fierce competition. Three-time group 1 runner-up Slick will start from box eight in the first heat, 400m track record holder Precious Sal will jump from box five in heat two and star Victorians Hone In and Kouta Mayhem will go head to head in the third qualifier.
Also vying for group glory will be Big Black, which won the Group 3 Ambrosoli last start, two-time group winner Ritza Lenny and exciting newcomer Black Forge.
Eight heats will be held all up, with the winner progressing through to next week’s feature.
The first heat is race two this Thursday which is set to jump at 4.09pm.