Tony Brett (and family) with Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace after Just A Sort’s win in the Group 3 Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club 50th Anniversary Trophy (520m) at Albion Park on Thursday night. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

By Pat McLeod

Premier Queensland trainer Tony Brett may not currently boast the ballistic missiles of previous major race campaigns, but his ‘ground troops’ have already made an impact on this year’s $1.9million TAB Queensland Winter Greyhound Racing Carnival.

The enigmatic Just A Sort reclaimed vital ground for the Brett kennel with a solid 29.93s win in the Group 3 Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club 50th Anniversary Trophy (520m) at Albion Park on Thursday night.

That win, on a night that celebrated an historic milestone for the Brisbane club, was a confidence booster for the dog as well as the history-loving Brett.

“I have a team of dogs that are 29.80 dogs,” explained Brett, on a chilly night of racing at The Creek. “And I am watching a lot faster dogs trial, dogs that are trialing 29.60 and 29.70. But it is not always the fastest dog that wins.

“You have to be in it to be a chance and so I am excited.”

Brett knew his dog was ‘on’ for the anniversary final after a series of performances marred by less-than-perfect exits from box-rise. But the Aston Dee Bee – She’s A Sort chaser put those concerns to bed with a trouble-free jump and was leading by the first turn.

He maintained that position, keeping at bay a determined Power Moves (Serena Lawrance), with Leanne Hall’s Extra Malt in third.

“He (Just A Sort) could always run and early in his career I thought ‘I have a real nice dog here’. But he was terrible with the starts and if there was trouble, he would find it,” said Brett.

“It took him eight or ten races to win a couple. Then he started to put it together, winning the (Group 2) Queensland Derby (in late December).”

The dog’s form then fell away again with the start being his Achilles heel.

“He is a real confidence dog,” said Brett.

“Tonight, before the race, I could really see the confidence in him. He was bouncing around, he was feeling enormous. His focus was really there and I thought ‘Oh yeah!’ And then he went on to produce what he did.

“So, I’m just hoping he can string it together now.

“This dog, knowing that he can win like he did tonight is great for him.

“It won’t surprise me if he keeps doing that now, whether that is good enough to be win some of the big races I don’t know. But if he keeps doing it then at least it gives him a shot.”

Ahead now is the real ‘meat’ of the Winter Carnival, starting with the Gr2 $150,000 Flying Amy on June 16.

Thursday night’s meeting was a celebration and a perfect platform to put the south-east Queensland greyhound fraternity in a party mood after months of rain-affected meetings.

The anniversary meeting toasted 50 years of night racing for the Brisbane club, that started at The Gabba in 1972, continued at Albion Park in 1993 and is still going strong.

There was a festive flavour across the track with Sideshow Alley, fireworks, a light show, The Finns Tribute Band and a bumper crowd.

There were dignitaries – the Queensland Racing Minister Grace Grace presented the anniversary trophy to Brett.

There were also splashes of history with former headline racecallers Paul Dolan, Terry Spargo and Alan Thomas joining John ‘Bunny’ Brasch in the caller’s box.

One of the major drawcards of the night, the giveaway of a brand new Mitsubishi ASX valued at $30,000, also had an ironic twist.

Eight finalists were drawn and paired with a dog in the Anniversary Trophy final, with the winning dog to also unveil the winner of the car.

Capalaba club president John Catton was drawn as a finalist and paired with Dulceria, who is trained and owned by Matt Heilbronn.

Moments later Heilbronn was also drawn as a finalist and paired with Just A Sort.

So, although Dulceria finished seventh in the final, Heilbronn came away with his own shiny ‘silverware’.

The Anniversary Trophy night was also notable with the ultra consistent Cynthia Elson kennel finishing with four winners – Hello Bill, Love Game, Hopeful Bill, and Hopeful Hope. And rising star Jedda Cutlack reminded everyone that she will be a force through the carnival with wins to She’s Savage and the classy Sunburst.

Sunburst’s sizzling finish in the 600m FFA had Cutlack eyeing some of the carnival distance events with renewed enthusiasm.

“We will just keep chipping away with her. There are a couple of really good staying races coming up,” she said.

“Last time we tried her over 700 metres she really felt the distance. But this time around she has had a much better distance prep. So, there is only one way to find out if she can do it.”

As Tony Brett made the hour-long trek back to his Grandchester (near Ipswich) kennels, he took with him more than just memories and a winner’s cheque from the historic night

“I am a history buff,” he said.

“I remember the Gabba track, going there as a kid.

“We lived in Mackay then and if one of the kids was lucky enough we would come with dad down to a big race.

“And I do remember it. People just don’t get what it was like at that (Gabba) track. You could stand on the fence and watch the dogs roar past you, right there in front of you. There is no feeling like it.

“Like dad did, I keep the race books from big races.

“I look back at the race books that dad has kept … like winning the Mackay Cup. I will get up into the roof and go through them every now and again. I will pull them out and of course once you get stuck there, remembering, you get stuck for hours.

“So all the memorabilia from tonight, it’ll go home and go into the memorabilia box.”