Group 1 Australian Cup (525m)
Best greyhounds nominated.
Heats Feb 13, Semis Feb 20, Final Feb 27
$300,000 to the winner.
By David Brasch
FIFTY-eight-year-old Dave Burnett stands in awe every second day at his Little River property in Victoria watching the power of a dog he calls Phoenix.
It is when Phoenix goes into those 80m long competition runs to get a workout. Dave cannot take the risk of putting another dog alongside Phoenix or his competitiveness will take over and the dog will do too much … take too much out of himself.
The power of those 80m gallops up and down that keep Phoenix fit for racing is so, so obvious.
All the greyhound racing world knows Phoenix as Simon Told Helen, the dynamic son of Barcia Bale-Who Told Lindylu, the reigning Australian greyhound of the year, winner of the Group 1 Silver Chief, Perth Cup, Harrison Dawson and Maturity at the highest level.
He\’s been in 16 Group finals winning eight along the way (to time of writing) picking up 26 wins from 46 starts and $909,000 in stakes.
Burnett has been in training for decades preparing himself for a dog like Phoenix.
Even though he has trained Group 1 stars in the past and is certain to do so in the future, Phoenix is a once in a lifetime animal. The ultimate professional.
Dave Burnett spends his every waking moment thinking about and caring for Phoenix\’s every move, his short and long-term future.
It is what the trainer of such a dog just does.
Dave has a target for Simon Told Helen and it centres around becoming the first male and the first sprinter to twice win Australian greyhound of the year.
\”The only dual Australian greyhounds of the year are the staying bitches Miata and Fanta Bale,\” said Dave. \”I would hope another Group 1 victory for Phoenix could clinch him a second title.\”
He gets his chance at that via The Temlee, Australian Cup and Golden Easter Egg.
Stud beckons all the time for a dog possessed of phenomenal early pace.
While those competition runs every second day are an integral part of Phoenix\’s preparation, Burnett leaves absolutely nothing not done in a bid to have the dog at his absolute peak for every race he contests.
\”I never trial him between races because he just does not need it,\” he said.
\”But every Monday after he races I drive four hours to get him checked over by my muscle man John Barbara. But, every week I also drive a total of five hours on the Tuesday to my vet Des Fegan at Cranbourne to get his blood checked.
\”It is something that has to be done and is ALWAYS done.\”
When Phoenix is not galloping in those competition runs, every other day he goes on a walking machine for just 10 to 12 minutes. It is all he needs to keep him spot on for racing.
\”The biggest thing in his armoury is this competitiveness,\” said Dave. \”If I want him to really work hard in the competition run, I will get another dog from the kennel, keep it on the lead but just walk into the other competition run.
\”Phoenix sees this dog and instantly is full on, charging up and down that run working himself. And I never let the other dog off the lead. He is that competitive.\”
Dave Burnett has been watching Phoenix since he was a pup when the dog\’s part-owner and breeder 78-year-old Brian Parsons brought him and his littermates to the Little River property to be reared.
Dave had owned a pup rearing property at Lara, but also had the Little River property of five acres ‘on standby’.
\”Brian came over every day and reared those pups at the Little River property and he gave me a hand with my own dogs,\” said Dave.
When it came time to race those pups, Dave became the trainer of Phoenix and his brother Who Told Stevie.
\”I took them to The Meadows for a run from the 700 metre boxes and they went 16.02 and 16.06. Pups have to break 17.00 to be going great,\” said Dave. \”Fortunately both of them came off with sore fibulas and this gave us the chance to give them a good break of five weeks.\”
The return to trialling saw then run 22.28 and 22.44 at Geelong – a phenomenal time for both.
\”From that day on we knew we had something,\” said Dave.
While Simon Told Helen soon became the boom youngster, it wasn\’t until he won the Group 1 Silver Chief at the start of 2020 that Dave felt the pressure come off as the dog\’s trainer.
\”It was such a dominant win and by then everyone knew how good he was. The field he beat in the Silver Chief was exceptional.\”
Dave says Phoenix is high maintenance but lives on a simple diet. \”He gets 800gms of a beef/roo mixture, Science Diet dry food at night and in the morning a 4×2 biscuit and Vitamin E in his milk, nothing else.\”
He is the first to admit when Phoenix leaves Little River for a stud career it will leave a massive hole in the Burnett kennel.
\”All the way along, I\’ve been training dogs to a routine,\” he said. \”Dogs like Snags Mackenzie have been in numerous Group races without winning and sometimes you question if your training routine is the right one.
\”But when the right dog comes long, like Simon Told Helen, then you quickly realise your training methods do work.\”
All those feature race victories, the feature race finals, the huge prizemoney and ultimately the stud career have been fashioned by Dave Burnett\’s meticulous care of a greyhound superstar.
\”I call him a great big barrelled-chested superstar,\” said Dave.
Come Australian Cup time, Phoenix will have nothing to prove. He\’s already been there and done that as Australian greyhound of the year.
But another Group 1 would certainly be the icing on the cake.
Dave Burnett has been preparing for it for decades.