(Photo: Box 1 Photography)

By Pat McLeod

Victorian greyhound racing cousins Dave MacKenzie and Gavin Clifton return home today (Friday) with a trophy reminder of the biggest thrill of their lives … so far.

The training duo will leave behind Photo Man in the excellent care Queenslanders Graham and Leanne Hall. The Aston Dee Bee-Amlin Mystique flyer showed true grit in taking out the Group 2 Flying Amy Classic (520m) at Albion Park on Thursday night. But that has only opened the door to far greater riches.

“That was terrific, unbelievable, absolute gold,” Clifton said in the wake of Photo Man’s performance. “This is the highlight so far definitely (of my training career). I could not be happier.

“When the box draw came out, we thought how good is this (with favourite Photo Man exiting from the 1 Box and kennelmate Pazienza the 2). We were hoping that Pazienza would be able to come out and run some cover for Photo Man, and it all worked out, thank God.

“I was still worried about Amron Boy (Brooke Ennis) and he made some ground on our dog. I had to apologise to Brooke again, but there is still pretty good prizemoney for second.

“This is a huge thrill. We might have had to come 2000 kilometres for the biggest thrill of our lives, but it is worth every second of it.”

Clifton’s ‘apology’ to Ennis came in the wake of the Flying Amy final being almost a carbon copy of Photo Man’s tough heat win, when he finished just ahead of a hard-charging Amon Boy.

Third in the final was NSW Northern Rivers’ Black Magic Rose (Fred Swain).

Clifton says he lives by a mantra of ‘never make a plan on race day’, but that credo has to be tweaked a bit with opportunities coming fast for his talented sprinter.

“I will head off in the morning and this dog will stay here, hopefully for the Super Sprinters next week,” he said. “That is good prizemoney as well.

“As much as I would like to take him home, it is as they say ‘Beautiful one day, perfect the next’ up here. I will fly back up on Thursday next week.

“The dog could not be in better hands up here. Graham and Leanne Hall have been fantastic over the last two weeks and I cannot thank them enough.

“They are just unbelievable how well they have looked after our dogs.

“As far as beyond next week … as I say to Dave, ‘Never make a plan on race day’. That is the number one rule from the old boys that I’ve known in greyhound racing. However, the bigger picture says he has the ability to be up with them for the (Group 1) Brisbane Cup. We may as well be in it and have a crack.”

Photo Man’s win in the $150,000 Flying Amy Classic was the highlight of a stellar night that would have left Brisbane club bosses Les Bein (president) and Luke Gatehouse (CEO) as happy as winning connections.

In fact, the early rounds of the $1.9million TAB Qld Winter Racing Carnival have set a new benchmark of excellence at the Brisbane racing headquarters.

The cream of Australian racing is flooding north and, as evidenced by Thursday night’s highlight’s package, the locals are far from over-awed:

  • Bedrock Fred took the honours in the Group 3 The Dashing Corsair (710m) for Qld trainer Tony Brett, running a hot 41.60.

The son of Spring Gun, based out of South Australia, has been campaigned across the nation, but is no stranger to the Brett kennels.

He was sent north for the same carnival last year and may not have returned home with a bulging trophy portfolio, but impressed Brett enough for him to suggest the stayer return.

“Twelve months ago he never won a race up here, but his runs were good without winning,” explained Brett.  “But a year later … well he is an out and out stayer. Some stayers, like this dog, just take a little longer to develop.

“I just knew he would run the 700 on his ear. He just loves it. You know that he is always going to keep coming.

“He has put his hand up for the (invitation) Super Stayers (next Thursday at Albion Park) and then on to the big one (The Group 1 TAB Qld Cup 710m $225,000, final July 7). Next week’s Super Stayers is probably going to be one of the best we have had in a long time.”

Placegetters in last night’s Dashing Corsair were No Regrets (George Clegg) and Magic Miss (Travis Elson).

  • Qld trainer Ned Snow may have missed out on a placing in the Flying Amy when his chaser Shipwreck finished fourth, however the veteran reminded the interstate rivals that, along with Tony Brett, the home team is far from a spent force in this carnival.

His highly-regarded Shipwreck littermate Oh Oh Range returned to Queensland with an emphatic win in a 710m FFA in 41.69.

And Snow rounded his night out well when Pocket Money provided just that with victory in a 5th grade over 600m.

  • Grafton Cup winner Respectability (Michael Patterson) confirmed his carnival hopes are far from faded with a scorching 29.50 win in a 5th Grade over 520m. After missing out on a Flying Amy finals berth the Raw Ability – Fay’s Magic chaser finished three lengths ahead of WA’s Eagle Monelli (Steve Withers) with Jagger Moves (Robert Jacobsen) third.

Patterson hinted after the run that there was plenty of petrol left in this tank.

“He hasn’t reached the bottom of the well,” Patterson said.

  • Another poignant reminder came via the performance of Qld Greyhound of the Year finalist, Extra Malt.

The striking white and black bitch led from box rise before finding another gear to win by five lengths in a quality Best 8 over 520, with Power Moves (Serena Lawrence) second and See Them Try (Selena Zammit) third.