North Queensland Cup 498m
Listed, restricted event
$15,000 to the winner
Heats November 23; Final November 30
Queensland Country News by MIKE HILL
TRAINER Harold Hovi hopes a \’one-off glitch\’ won’t affect his star sprinter Excuse Me Jack in the $15,000-to-the-winner Listed North Queensland Cup (498m) at Townsville later this month.
The talented sprinter produced an out-of-character below-par effort to finish fourth in a 498m FFA against likely Cup rivals at the Showgrounds track last month.
The performance left Hovi scratching his head.
\”I wasn’t expecting that. I was hoping for much better,\” he said.
\”It appears he wasn\’t right on the night.\”
A post-race veterinary examination failed to find any problems.
\”And I couldn\’t find any major issues with him the next day although there was a little soreness in one of his shoulders,\” Hovi said.
\”I\’m hoping it was just a one-off thing.
\”Some are saying he doesn\’t like the inside boxes. He drew two the other night.
\”Maybe I\’m starting to agree with them.
\”I know he likes the freedom and space the wider boxes give him.\”
Excuse Me Jack (My Redeemer-Fancy Dancer) has been a sensation since hitting the Townsville track in a maiden back in late April.
Since then he\’s recorded 14 wins, including victories in the Young Guns (380m), Townsville Cup Prelude (498m) and Derby (498m) and two placings, including a third in the G3 Townsville Cup, from 18 starts with prizemoney totalling just more than $32,000.
Hovi confirmed the talented sprinter was still on track for a NQ Cup campaign.
\”I might ease up on him a bit in coming weeks,\” he said.
But the astute trainer knows Excuse Me Jack will have to be at his best the land the restricted feature.
He also has his fingers crossed that Excuse Me Jack\’s super promising litter brother Redemption Day can make it back in time for the Cup series.
The black sprinter hasn\’t raced since landing a sensational 10-length victory over 498m – his first go at the distance – in a stunning 28.42s back in early August.
However, he suffered a major setback when he was gashed under the shoulder by a rival runner in the catching pen after the race.
Hovi said, at the time, the injury was in a bad spot and couldn\’t be stitched.
\”He\’s only a 50-50 chance of running in the series,\” the trainer said last month.
\”I have to give him a trial.
\”He\’s had a few gallops and I am happy with his progress, but until he has a track trial I won\’t really know where he\’s at.
\”The injury has taken longer than I thought to heal.\”
Leading trainers Rhonda Essery and Brad Belford are certain to be strongly represented in the Cup series and Robert Lound has Miss Verity firing at the right time.
Essery \’s challenge will be headed by Townsville Greyhound-of-the-Year front-runner Stratford, in-form littermate Samshu, and Miss Priddle.
Belford, who is chasing his third straight NQ Cup victory, has last year\’s runner-up Major Gibson back in work as well as promising youngster Midnight Frankie and Still Tough.
He admits his team isn\’t as strong as previous years.
Belford was successful with Murphy Rumble in 2019 and Cult Hero last year.
\”It\’s going to be harder to win it this year,\” he said.
Essery is going into the series with plenty of confidence.
Stratford has had a wonderful year of racing and litter sister Samshu is showing a liking for the 498m journey, winning the Townsville Futurity in late September in stylish fashion.
The talented bitch has a three-win, one-second record from four starts over the trip with a 28.66s PB.
\”We thought it was time for her to step up to the 498m,\” Essery said, \”and she\’s done good.\”
She said Stratford, her \’best hope of Cup success\’, had been given a freshen-up in recent weeks.
\”We\’ve let him down a bit and he\’s now ready to go,\” Essery said.
MEANWHILE, Essery claimed bragging rights over Belford in their battle to rug up 100 winners for the year.
After landing her 95th win at Townsville – with Turn The Key – at a Tuesday night meeting early last month, Essery was quick to claim the title.
She had led in another five winners – three at Rockhampton and two at Albion Park – earlier in the year, giving her a \’Queensland ton\’.
But in what he called \’friendly rivalry\’, an unfazed Belford just kept his eye on the \’big prize\’ – the first trainer to lead in 100 winners at Townsville in a season.
He knew it was coming as he was parked on 99 wins.
No trainer had topped 100 winners before, although Essery came very close last year with 99.
Belford didn\’t have to wait long, just a few days, in fact.
His 100th winner – Midnight Frankie – came at a Friday meeting just a few days after Essery\’s impressive achievement.
At the same time Essery landed a double, taking her Townsville tally to 97 and with two months of racing still to go she is certain to also claim 100 winners at Townsville.
Belford\’s century came with the impressive winning strike rate of 21 per cent and a place rate of 49 per cent.
The extra weekly TAB meeting at Townsville – introduced in May last year – has been a boon for all concerned, particularly trainers.
With two meetings and double the prizemoney each week, several trainers have even given up their jobs to go full-time training.
JENSEN-based trainer Robert Lound looks to have a promising youngster with Young Rob.
The Cosmic Chief-Izumi black sprinter was strong in winning the Maiden 1000 Final (380m) at Townsville last month.
Having only his second race start, Young Rob ($3.20) turned the tables on the Henry Parker-trained Velocity Tori ($1.55 fav) who\’d beaten him in their heat seven nights earlier.
The Lound sprinter showed strength winning by two-and-a-quarter lengths with Carol Pickard\’s Zulu Allure ($16) five-and-a-quarter lengths back third.
Young Rob continued his good form, winning a novice a few days later.
LONG-time leading owner-trainer Dallas Beckett had a night out at Rockhampton last month, rugging up a winning quartet.
The Gracemere-based trainer was successful with Red Card Bob ($19), Question Asked ($3.90), Canary Wharf ($4.40) and $2.30 favourite Unique Speed, a promising Blazin\’ Bomber-Elle Bale sprinter.
SEVERAL country features will be run this month: Futurity and Derby (510m) at Rockhampton (heats November 3; finals November 10) and the Young Guns (460m) at Bundaberg (heats November 29, final December 6).