IMA Misha Doll may be the outsider in this week’s Group 1 Australian Stayers final, but her trainer Heather Collins is remaining optimistic of her greyhound’s chances in the lucrative feature.
The white and black bitch is rated a $31 shot with Sportsbet.com.au following on from her debut over the testing 725m trip last weekend.
Beginning well from box eight in her qualifier, Ima Misha Doll charged to the early lead but was tackled by Lionless Lulu in the run to the winning post on the first occasion, at which point punters could have been forgiven for thinking the race was over for the daughter of Collega Causeway and Lever Footprint.
Down the back and Ima Misha Doll had slipped five lengths behind the leader, but was slowly cutting back the bargain before unleashing a powerful finishing burst in the home straight to score by 0.40 of a length in 42.86.
Collins told Australian Racing Greyhound she was confident Ima Misha Doll would run out the staying trip, even when the bitch was headed in the middle stages.
“She has that little bit of a flat spot in the middle of her race and then she gets going again, that is an indication of a stayer, so we thought she would be able to run the 700 out,” Collins explained.
“She is a one paced dog, once she got through her flat spot we thought she would kick back and fortunately she was able to do enough to win.”
Ima Misha Doll moves into box six this week on the outside of speedy front-running stayer Star Recall ($2.10 with Sportsbet.com.au), which also made her debut over the long trip last week after a successful stint over the middle distance.
The daughter of High Earner and No Recall is the fastest qualifier for this week’s $100,000-to-the-winner event, having clocked 42.32 in her tough victory, and will be aiming for her sixth straight win and 40th overall at start 70.
Also well in the market is No Donuts ($2.25) which is drawn well in box two, but is also going to have to be up near the front in the early stages to score. Trained by Anthony Azzopardi, it is hard to fault the dog on his most recent form which has seen him take out the Group 1 Sale Cup (650m), the Group 1 Zoom Top (725m) and the Group 2 Summer Distance Plate (720m) within his last six starts.
While it is a classy field, Collins believes Ima Misha Doll can figure in the finish if she can do everything right at box rise.
“She has drawn box six so I am hoping she can jump to the front and get a bit of a break on them early before she hits her flat spot, if she can do that I expect her to run a bit better time,” she said.
“She has pulled up a treat after her heat, she has been working really well and there is not a problem at all with her.
“Normally the second 700 gives you an indication of whether they are going to be able to stay properly, but I don’t think it is going to be a problem for her.”
Collins says it is a wonderful feeling to be in the race, with Ima Misha Doll being the first Group 1 finalist for both her and the dog’s owners, Shaun and Nicole Cachia.
“I am very excited, it is a real thrill,” she said.
“Shaun and Nicole bred her and they normally break their dogs in around our track at home.
“Generally they offer them to us to train, we have had a few of their dogs including Ima Fairytale.
“They are a lovely young couple. They breed a lot of their own dogs and they give their dogs the best of everything so they definitely deserve their spot in the final.”
It could be a big night all round for the Collins family, with Heather’s husband Steve also preparing a runner in the Group 1 Australian Cup (525m).
Amazingly, just three trainers have qualified runners through to this year’s $250,000-to-the-winner event, with Jason Thompson rugging up five entrants and team Dailly preparing two, including champion sprinter Dyna Double One (box two).
The son of Barcia Bale and Crystin Bale is unbeaten from the checks in seven starts and will be looking to score his fourth Group 1 on Saturday night.
If he can salute, Dyna Double One ($2.10 with Sportsbet.com.au) will become the third greyhound to break the $1 million dollar prize money mark, something only achieved thus far by his freakish former kennel mate Fernando Bale and retired stayer Sweet It Is.
Collins’ runner in the final is the consistent Wheeler-owned Ernest Bale (box seven) which is currently $34 after drawing poorly in box seven.
“He is drawn on the wrong side of the track, he needs the rail,” Collins said.
“There is a lot of speed in the race, so we are hoping he can run his usual honest race and drop on the rail behind them.
“If he can do that he will be relying on a bit of a mix up on the first turn so he can scoot through.
“But it is a tough race and realistically we are just happy to be in it.”
The Collins family have trained many good performers for the Wheeler family over the past few years, most notably being four time Group winner Lamia Bale.
The brindle bitch gave the Collins family their first Group 1 win when she took out the Sapphire Crown at Sandown Park, with the daughter of High Earner and Maple Bale retired to the breeding barn at the end of last year.
“She was a super little bitch, we were very sad to see her go home because she had become like one of the family,” Collins said.
“She became a mum for the first time this week (to Barcia Bale) so I am hoping her pups can one day go through the ranks and be just as good as her.”
The Group 1 Australian Stayers is race six on the card at The Meadows on Saturday and is set to jump at 8:38pm AEDT, followed by the Group 1 Australian Cup which is race eight and scheduled to start at 9:42pm.