For a trainer to get a dog to a Group One final takes a combination of getting a veritable plethora of things right.
This Saturday night, Lara mentor Rob Britton will line up no less than three starters (that’s right three) in one of Australia’s most prestigious staying events, the Zoom Top. Throw in a second reserve for good measure and you could almost say it is four.
Cheetah Zorro, Lucy Wires and Born Ali will all start in the race, with Gold Affair Two filling the second reserve rug.
ARG caught up with Britton to not only discuss the feat, but to try and uncover the secret to his success, particularly with so many quality stayers.
“I don’t go searching for stayers but, put it this way, I don’t keep dogs for long that can’t run 500 metres. So basically I’m always looking for dogs that can run over ground. Then sometimes people will give you a ring out of the blue with a stayer simply because you’ve got stayers,” Britton said.
Like any trainer, Britton loves to win races, but get’s that extra little bit of satisfaction when it comes to the longer races.
“I really enjoy the stayers and, for whatever reason, we seem to have a good run with them, so it’s worthwhile. Getting three dogs in the same Group One final is a massive thrill. I was hoping to get four to tell you the truth. I thought Gold Affair Two had probably earned a spot, but she’s a reserve, but anyway, I can’t be greedy I guess.”
Britton says that, while his training methods will not uncover any hidden secrets, there could be a few different minor factors that all add up towards his resounding success.
“I find that most of our success has been with staying bitches rather than dogs. I think that the secret to that is that, for some reason, the bitches seem to work better. For whatever reason, they do work better than the dogs in general and I think that is one of the reasons that they can develop into stayers.”
“There’s very little difference with what I do with the stayers compared to the sprinters. We work them in 300 metre runs, which is probably longer than most people, they go up and back in pairs.”
There is no tougher staying event than the Zoom Top, it’s an invitational event. That process ensures that the field is littered with the best stayers in the land and, unlike a heat/final series, no-one misses out due to bad luck in a run the week before.
Britton was quick to highlight just how hard it will be to capture the race.
“It’s a very tough race, but they’re all going well, we just have to hope for a bit of luck in running. This is probably the hardest race that the whole three of them have been in. It’s not that they haven’t met these dogs before, but it’s the fact that the best dogs in the race are very well boxed. You’ve got Dyna Willow off the red and Dyna Kayla off the pink and they’re the two who are going very well at the moment. We will need a little bit of luck because the box draw hasn’t played out as well for us as it has in the last couple of weeks.”
While the box draw may have not been favourable, Britton says that all three of his bitches are more than ready for their tilt at Group One glory.
“Born Ali is in some of the best form of her career. Since she has gone over the distance she has only been beaten a couple of times. She’s going really well. Cheetah Zorro put in an average run at The Meadows after her win in the Bold Trease at Sandown, then we struggled to get a race for a while because she is grade three at both city tracks. So we missed a number of opportunities at running over 700 and I do think that has played on her a bit. But I’ve been working hard on her to get her back. In Perth she didn’t have a lot of luck but again I was a little bit disappointed, but I don’t think she’d had enough runs over the 700 over the last month. I’ve stepped her work-rate up and she’s trialled quite well, so I think we are back on track.”
“Lucy Wires had a minor fibula injury after the Summer Distance Plate in Sydney. It was a three-week injury and she’s trialled well. She will go into the race fresh and whatever she does I think she will improve on the following week. Still, she is a naturally strong dog and I’d say that running the distance isn’t a problem for her like it might be with others.”
Regardless of the results on Saturday night, Britton’s feat of three starters is an outstanding achievement. It could be sometime before we see a top-line staying event that does not feature the name R.Britton beside at least one of the runners.