Caption: Tony Brett and Equalizer – two Group 3 Super Sprinters (520m) in a row. Can they also make it consecutive Group 1 Brisbane Cups (Photo: Box 1 Photography)
By PAT McLEOD
The script is in place for as mouth-watering crescendo to this year’s TAB Queensland Winter Greyhound Carnival.
As in all high-drama events, until the final curtain falls there are a myriad of plot changes possible. However, the story so far:
The main actor is a black, three-and-a-half-year-old dog called Equalizer. This supreme canine athlete won the main race last year, the Brisbane Cup. In fact, to date he has won almost half a million dollars in prizemoney from 60 starts (25 wins and 17 placings).
Soon after winning the 2021 edition, Equalizer (kennel name ‘Stan’) suffered a serious tendon injury, so serious in fact that his trainer, premier Victorian mentor Jason Thompson, did not believe he would return to the track and was assigned stud duties.
But in a riveting twist, after six months on the sidelines, Equalizer ‘convinced’ his stable to give this champ one more crack at the big time.
So, in late June, up he came to Brisbane and won a key undercard event to the Brisbane Cup, the Group 3 Super Sprinters (520m).
‘Stan’ is now the street-corner tip to complete a Lazarus-like comeback and reclaim the $525,000 SKY Racing Brisbane Cup (Group 1) title. (Update: after winning his heat on June 30.)
But wait, there’s so much more. Thompson may be a revered trainer, but he is also extremely superstitious. Because of covid he has not been in Brisbane for the past three runnings of the Cup.
In those three races his results are: 2019 – second with Black Opium; 2020 first with Black Opium; 2021 first with Equalizer.
So ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Which means the superstitious Thompson won’t come to Brisbane. His chasers are sent into the expert hands and safe-keeping of top Queensland trainer, Tony Brett.
Brett also has several chances of his own in the Brisbane Cup, including Orchestrate, who just happened to get nailed on the line by Equalizer in that recent Super Sprinters.
So, only in greyhound racing would someone send their valued race hope into the hands of one of their main competitors.
As already outlined, there are numerous other sub-plots and characters still to emerge. This is far from a two-horse race. Throw in Mario Briganti’s Rapaki Rocks and Big Opal Rocks, Gavin Clifton’s Photo Man, Mick Patterson’s Respectability, Steve Withers’ Panama Pepper, Leanne and Graham Hall’s Extra Malt … and so many more.
With the Heats of the Brisbane Cup on June 30 and the final on July 7, there is so much more of this story to be told.
But the more Thompson outlines Equalizer’s back story, the more that plot line takes hold.
“The severity of the injury that this dog had, he was basically retired. We did not expect him to race again,” says Thompson. “So, we served some bitches with him and he became a stud dog.
“But the stud dogs that we have, we treat them just like race dogs. They are in the race kennels, they get raced every day … they exercise.
“He was treated just like he would have been while he was racing. About four months into his time off he was scooting around the yard like an 18-month-old pup and if you didn’t know that he had had the injury you would have thought ‘That dog is moving well and he is obviously a race dog’.
“My vet was always looking at him and we were really happy with where he was at, but we had not envisaged that he would race again. So, I decided to start free galloping him. He worked really hard and really well.”
The outcome was an unexpected return to racing, which has resulted in five wins and three placings from 12 starts. And none of those starts have been soft runs.
“To put it in context, to come off such a long spell, get himself back to as good as he was prior to these injuries, we are just amazed,” says Thomson.
“Every race that we get out of him is a bonus. There is no pressure on the dog because we never expected him to come back to race.
“But he is enjoying it. He loves racing.
“They have to enjoy it. This dog is three and a half years old. Most of his career he has been running in special events or group races, so for him to race again he had to get back to the elite level.”
For Thompson, a veteran of greyhound racing, for Stan to even make the Brisbane Cup final would be ‘as good a moment as we have had with dogs’.
“And it is so much more special considering we have had the dog all the way through,” he says. “We nursed him back from major injury. It would be a huge thrill and let’s just hope we can do it.”
Of the Tony Brett connection, both Thompson and Brett put the relationship down to ‘trust and respect’.
“I know his ability as a trainer,” Thompson says of Brett. “As long as Tony can take them, I would send any dog to him.”
And … one more page-turner.
Brett is looking to annex the the $225,000 TAB Queensland Cup (Group 1) 710m with Bedrock Fred, who won the recent Group 3 Garrard’s Super Stayers Invitational (710m).
Thompson has also sent up two of his quality distance hopes, Collinda Patty and Collinda Lady … to T. Brett.
Brett is quietly surprised at the improvement in Bedrock Fred since recently re-joining his kennel from South Australia for the Winter Carnival.
He confirmed that improvement with the Super Stayers win.
“That run would have taken a lot out of the dog,” said Brett. “So, my job is to make sure he is right to go when he needs to.
“But he is now a serious stayer, a genuine Group 1 contender.”