Here we are in May, the fifth month of the year and at the end of the cycle of Group 1 features. The Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Australian and Perth Cups have been and gone in the past 6 months as too has the Hobart Thousand and Golden Easter Egg.
Superstar dogs like High Earner, Octane Show, Radley Bale, Symmetry, Dashing Corsair, Blue Lorian and St Pierre have risen the top of our sport and proven what they can do at their best. But without being disrespectful, you'd be hard pressed to say that the aforementioned crop of elite greyhounds have much left time on the track and their breeding careers look set to start in the coming months.
So which dogs are set to take their place? Who will rise from the pack to become a consistent headline in our racing game? Here are a few candidates who may just hit top form – and top prize money – when those big races come around again.
Starting in Victoria where a couple of sprinters look likely to make a presence come Superdog time at Sandown. The first is Lauren Gorman's Smoke Home. You could hardly call him a rising star – having had 55 starts – but the improvement this lad has shown in recent months suggests he'll snare a big one soon. Having started his career with mixed form on the provincial circuit, Smoke Home has since perfected his box manners and hit his straps once racing in metropolitan company. His win in a Grade 5 Thursday night final suggested this dog had some class and he has since improved to the point of winning the FFA event at Sandown as recent as last Thursday. Being a May '08 son of Bombastic Shiraz and Daintree lady, he's bred to win big races and he should have a good 6 to 9 months of racing at his peak. We know how important early speed is in big finals and this fellow has got it in spades – keep watch.
The other Victorian set to make a splash is Aston Galilee. After surprising everyone with a meteoric rise to the Melbourne Cup final with after barely any starts, he went amiss and briefly stood to stud. Well he's back doing what does best – building picket fences. Showing that the time off did him no harm, the Ray Borda owned star racked up six on the trot at Ballarat, Warragul and Warrnambool before failing in the Group 2 Warrnambool Cup Final from a wide draw. The dog's only had 16 starts and made two group finals already, and being in the care of Jason Thompson, it's just a matter of time before he snares one.
Another coming out of that 2010 Melbourne Cup final is the lightly raced Messi. Remember him?? It's been six months since he had that crack at our most prestigious event and then disappeared until last Thursday. He ran fifth in his comeback event from box one, but who cares – you don't make a Melbourne Cup final on your eleventh start if you haven't got enormous ability. Time may be slightly against him being over three, and it is his second time for a comeback but even at 90% of his full ability, he'll win plenty before his days are up. If he comes back at full strength, the trophy cabinet will get full rapidly.
Over to the west and we have seen the impact that sandgroper dogs can have with Kalden Athena, Pillow Torque and Pedrosa winning plenty, but back home there's a stayer by the name of Scuttlebut who wins, and wins and then wins again. She's sitting on seven straight at the time of writing and with nationals around the corner, she's definitely the leading chance to represent the West. Those with goods memories will remember she's already had a start in the Group 1 Galaxy and has improved noticeably since that event. She's only had 27 starts and turns 3 years old this month so her time is coming very soon.
Heading down to the Apple Isle where a future staying star is learning his caper. Rybenbrook has currently won 9 of his 10 appearnaces and recently stepped up to the middle distance at Devonport. He won that event by eleven lengths and looked like he could go another lap. Admittedly, this is an brave call as the dog hasn't even run over 700m yet, but he looks an early favourite to represent Tassie for National Distance. The way the dog finds another gear once he reaches the lead tends to suggest he'll win by big spaces over the somewhat shallow pool of Tassie stayers. Even if connections decide to stay with sprint races, he has much improvement left and he'll still be worth following for the Hobart Thousand and Launceston Cup.
Finally, a sprinting croweater who may just hit his straps come nationals or even Adelaide Cup time. He may be the most annoying dog in South Australia, but Goosebumps has the ability to make Angle Park his own. A winner of twelve from twenty-four, he's broken 30-seconds nine times already in his short career. The only issue is it appears horribly obvious that this dog simply does not try when he can't lead and has been beaten favourite more times than local punters care to remember. If he grows up and can learn to overcome pressure – and bad box draws – there probably isn't a dog in the state that can beat him.