There is little in greyhound racing that rivals the feeling of having a potential superstar in your kennel.
ARG was lucky enough to get a sneak-peek into the crystal ball of Victorian greyhound racing when we caught up with the trainers of some of the runners engaged in the big event. We were given a first hand account of what they have on the radar in the longer term for their exciting prospects.
Jeff Britton has the likely favourite, Mepunga Hayley, exiting box eight. He admits that there are always unknown quantities in a race like this with dogs open to such improvement. His daughter of Bekim Bale and Mepunga Harmony set the time standard of 30.01 last week and looks the one to beat.
“These races are always hard, she has the form on the board but with young dogs some are very likely to improve. You don't want box eight at The Meadows too often, but hopefully she comes out and gets around that first turn,” Britton said.
As for Mepunga Hayley's immediate plans, it will more than likely be a tilt at some quality races against her own sex.
“We just have to get through Saturday night first and then you have all the young bitches races coming up, she will more than likely have a go at those.”
Tuerong mentor Mario Briganti says that his 20-month-old dog Premier Wolfie (Premier Fantasy – Seminole) has already exceeded expectations just to make the final given the way that the breed have taken their time to come to hand for him in the past.
Premier Wolfie is owned by Queensland racing media identity Steve Hawkins. Briganti thinks the best is well and truly ahead of the youngster.
“He was probably a little bit underdone going into the heat and I said to Steve Hawkins the owner that if we can get through to the final, he will be cherry-ripe,” Briganti said.
“This is the third Seminole litter I've raced. We have had a High Earner and an El Grand Señor in the past. From experience they take a while to mature and don't hit their straps until about two-and-a-half years old. This dog has shown me a lot more early than the other two did, so if he improves at the same rate he could be a handy dog.”
“He is a good Meadows dog at this stage, I've trialled him at Sandown but he goes well at at The Meadows. But he isn't a great trial dog, he loves the competitiveness of racing. I like that in a race dog, it is better than having a dog that trials fast and then loses eight lengths in a race.”
Michelle Mallia-Magri is no stranger to a quality greyhound, yet you can hear the excitement in her voice at the prospect of her finalist Punk Pirate (Talks Cheap – Punk Portrait).
“He's a super little pup, he's only sitting on 20 months old,” she said.
“When I took him and trialled him the first time, he run a 30.78 or something like that, I was pretty happy with that for a young dog. But then when he's come out and been beaten a nose in 30.19 in the heat, I thought gee, he's improved out of sight.”
“Then he ran a really good semi too, he got knocked about a bit and just kept on coming. I honestly think that, within a couple of months, this dog could easily be a sub-thirty dog around The Meadows, he's a pretty handy little pup.”
“I think if he can maintain that early speed, then he may turn out a nice little Country Cup's dog next year, or maybe even towards the end of this year. He's got so much toe, his sectionals are just phenomenal.”
“I'm just wrapped with him, I've got his brother in the shed too who is probably as good as him, but he has just had a little bit of a set back so he's probably a good six-weeks behind him at the moment.”
“If there's any worry with Punk Pirate, it is that he doesn't spear the lids and hit the ground running, he sort of comes out and then needs a couple of strides, but his first splits are phenomenal. But he will improve, he's only had three starts, he will learn how to balance himself and that sort of thing.”
Rodney Clark is the only trainer to have two representatives in the final. But the Tolleen trainer's up-and-comers have a future path plotted that differs a little from the others.
“It's fantastic having two dogs in, it's a great little privilege,” Clark told ARG.
“Hession Boots has a huge motor, he's got a very strong run home on him and he is probably going to be a better 600 metre dog than a 500 metre dog. He doesn't have a lot of early pace.”
“I'd say the other guy, Lead Into Demise, is the better chance of the two in this particular race, he's probably not the quicker of the two, but he's got the better chance because he puts himself in the race.”
“The two of them will actually go over the 600 metre trip at The Meadows next week, they've got novice heats on and they are both absolutely suited to that, they are definitely a pair of strong dogs.”
Armed with the insight from those closest to these finalists, it will be most interesting to watch the careers of these young chasers unfold over the next couple of years.
The Vic Breeders final takes place at The Meadows on Saturday night at 8:20pm.