The Twentieth of October 2012 was a standard Saturday night in the Sigalas household. Michael and his son Troy had settled in front of the TV watching and grading the greyhounds at the Meadows. However, this wasn’t an ordinary night. This was the night that Ronan Izmir would run at Wentworth Park in a heat of the Vic Peters.
Troy called Michael over to his desk in excitement and informed him that he had just witnessed a “Learjet in the making”, as Ronan Izmir ran an impressive third after bombing the start and showing acceleration that very few greyhounds are capable of. However, it was the following Saturday night that the Sigalas team decided that Ronan Izmir was the dog to fulfil a dream.
“I had been told that I had cancer and didn’t have long to live, and I really wanted to have the chance to win a Melbourne Cup before I died. I was covering the Meadows on the 20th and 27th, and my son Troy was focussed on the races at Wenty Park for the Vic Peters. When the dog got beaten in the semi final we were convinced he was the sprinter that could give me some enjoyment as my time winded up,” explained Michael.
“In the heat we saw a side of the dog that we really liked, as he showed scintillating speed after missing the start to drive up and lead a very smart field of chasers, but the semi final was something else. He led going 5.31 and nothing goes 5.31. Absolute flying machines go 5.35.”
“He was going that fast he missed the turn and still went 13.70 to the back, they don’t have that time now, but at that stage it was sizzling and absolutely amazing after losing four lengths on the first turn. He had only won three from eleven at that stage, but we liked what we saw,” said Michael.
“Paul Mills has the broodbitch Adhara Izmir, and via a third party we decided on a fair price for the dog in the week following the Vic Peters, and the deal was done. It has been a very good litter, with Helena Izmir, Montana Izmir and Superior Izmir all going well.”
“My daughter in law Sally had married into a greyhound family, so she thought it would be a nice way of getting involved. She purchased Zap and it has been a sensational journey for her as well,” Michael said.
This was just the beginning of a fantastic story that only true racing enthusiasts could appreciate, a story that would make the most imaginative Hollywood scriptwriter blush. A little over a month had passed, and Ronan Izmir won his first start for the Sigalas team in a lighting 23.73 over the Bendigo 425m, on Michael’s birthday. “He flew out that day and led all the way, it was a fantastic birthday present.”
Two weeks later the dog would provide Michael with the tonic he needed. “I was in intensive care in the Epworth Hospital with tubes down my throat. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t cheer, but I just cried tears of joy. It was on the Fourteenth of December and the nurses were all huddled around the iPad as he won at Geelong. It gave me an amazing boost. Every time I’ve been down and out in the last year; he has come out and done something amazing to pick me up. He won again on the Eighteenth at Warragul, this time I watched again from a hospital bed on my iPad, but I’d gotten out of intensive care and was on the way. I was told that four out of five would die from the type of cancer that I have, bad luck for the other four I told the doctors.”
This was only the start for Zap, who was beginning an amazing run of success. He won the Traralgon Puppy Classic in March, being sensationally backed on fixed markets from $3.50 into $2.10. “We had a great night that night, he was a super price,” laughed a very satisfied Troy in the background.
The dog then went on to win twelve starts in a row on one bend tracks, beginning with the Bendigo Cup and then breaking the 450m track record at Ballarat in a breathtaking 24.97 seconds. Nine days later he equalled Hot Grille’s Geelong track record of 25.42 seconds over the 460m trip.
While Zap was continuing on his winning ways, things weren’t going as well for Michael, who had again been admitted into intensive care. However, every time Michael has needed a lift, his striking black speedster had delivered, and this occasion would be no different. The nurses again handled iPad duty with aplomb, as the Epworth Intensive Care unit roared him home in both the heat and final of the Warrnambool Cup, which he won in an amazing time of 25.01.
“He was only 0.01 outside of the track record in the cup final over the 450, but he got himself another track record at Warrnambool over the 390. A very smart sprinter called Breckenridge had set a time of 21.79 over the 390 and people said that the time wouldn’t be broken. Our boy smashed the time going 21.74, it was a flying run.”
With all the group wins and track records, I was shocked at the answer when I asked Michael what has been the best run in the dog’s career. “He ran arguably his best race getting beaten in the Shepparton Cup Final behind Paw Licking, who speared the lids that night. To get beaten a length breaking 25 was an amazing run, pure guts”.
It all augers well for an amazing night’s racing on Wednesday night in the Ballarat Cup heats, with Paw Licking and Ronan Izmir both having the chance to win the $50,000 bonus for winning three country cups in 2013.
“He has done a superb job since we bought him and owes us nothing, but it would be nice to pick up the extra 50k. It’s a great incentive from the GRV, but it is so hard to have a dog at the peak of his powers for long enough to do it.”
“You can’t underestimate the Jason Thompson factor; he is the best trainer of an animal in Australia. I include in that Bart Cummings, Chris Waller and Peter Tonkin. Jason is a freak and the best without doubt.”
“I’m confident he will win the heat as he has cover from wide runners in Hurunui Hitman and Belfort. Both of those run off and won’t cross him. The final is a different story though as it will be as hot as hot with Paw Licking, Spud Regis and Banjo Boy all looking like they will get thru to the final.”