Talented Agland Luai ready to line up in the Goulburn Cup Final
Don't be fooled by Orange trainer Jai Opetaia's humility when talking about Agland Luai, a $6 winning chance with Palmerbet for the Goulburn Cup Final on Friday night.
“If they come out running then we're in a bit of trouble”, and “if he can get around the outside it'll be a bit of a miracle” were some of his reflections.
The Group 3 race over 440m and worth $54,600 certainly does not lack star power.
But dismiss Agland Luai's chances at your peril.
The two-year-old won his heat in 24.68 seconds, not far behind $3.20 favourite Aston Barak (24.49 for Jason Fletcher), Mellcat Big Boy (24.65 for John Mellon) and Yuko Girl (24.66 for Sam Sultana).
From box seven, Opetaia believes the start will be crucial for Agland Luai.
“Hopefully he steps out well. He just can't miss the start against that type of quality of opposition,” he told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He's ready to go and there's a lot of pace on the inside. Hopefully something can give so we get a good run on the outside.
“The likes of Yuko Girl, who's pretty faultless, and Aston Barak – if they come out running then we're in a bit of trouble.
“We just won't be able to cross them for pace.
“He doesn't finish the race strongly and he's not flying early. But he accelerates on the bends.
“If they're in front of him at the corner, it'll be all over.
“But hopefully they pressure each other so he can give them the inside, and if he can get around the outside it'll be a bit of a miracle.”
Alongside Agland Luai for all 29 of his starts, it has been a journey to remember for Opetaia, just 19, but already with a great knowledge for what he does.
Just last month, his star chaser finished fourth in the 2022 Million Dollar Chase, producing a respectable time of 29.75 seconds.
He said his legendary grandfather Greg Board and uncle Scott Board have been massive positive influences on him at this young stage of his career.
“It (the training journey) has been terrific. To get a dog of this class early on in your training career, I'm pretty lucky,” Opetaia said.
“He (Agland Luai) is a pretty special dog, and hopefully he keeps taking me to a few more good races.
“The family is breaking in some pups at the moment and there are some nice ones in there.
“My pop and uncle have taught me pretty much everything I know.
“Me, Scott and (Scott's son) Josh are all training together. We all do the same thing with them, and all our dogs get worked the same way.”
Opetaia said the best piece of advice he's received from Greg and Scott Board has been to ride the highs and lows.
That is because if you continue working hard, success cannot be far away.
“Patience. This dog started well. Breaking him in and pre-training he looked like something special,” he said.
“And then he started and got knocked around a little bit.
“He went through a bit of a slump. We persisted with him and it was a bit of a struggle.
“He was a bit down, but we kept at it and he came through it.
“He's a good dog now.”
Opetaia also said a level head was needed for Agland Luai's next big assignment after Friday, the Silver Chief, with the Group 1 final at The Meadows on December 10.
“He's racing the best dogs in Australia at the moment,” he said.
“He's top grade, but he'll be going to the Silver Chief in December.
“So when he goes back to his age group I'm hoping he can fire there.
“Because he's so young, he got a little bit lost at The Gardens first-up (in the Black Top heats, finishing fifth on September 30).
“He needs a look at the track, so hopefully he can get used to The Meadows quick enough.
“We've got a trial booked in in three weeks, and a trial at Sandown next week for the Melbourne Cup.”
You guessed it – Agland Luai is named after star Panthers five-eighth and reigning two-time NRL champion, Jarome Luai.
Opetaia also has Samoan heritage like the Penrith pivot.
The well-spoken youngster admits he wouldn't name his star chaser after the Samoan international now.
That is because of his infamous “Daddy loves you” comments after Penrith's grand-final triumph over Parramatta.
But the Panthers' second consecutive NRL title certainly added a spring to his step.
However, there is one thing that would top that feeling.
“If I can land a Group race with him it'd be a life goal,” Opetaia said.
Goulburn Cup Heat 2 440m Replay – 14/10/22
AGLAND LUAI – 24.68