Caption: Col Graham’s Loving Smile wins recently at Albion Park. She is in a heat of the Bogie Leigh Futurity on Thursday night. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)
By Pat McLeod
Northern New South Wales trainer Col Graham is not a ‘glory glutton’, but even he can’t hold back the ‘what ifs’ going into Thursday night’s futurity and derby heats (520m) at Albion Park.
Graham has two littermates with strong claims in two of the showpiece races of the Golden Greys Summer Carnival – Loving Smile in the second of three Bogie Leigh Futurity heats and King Of Aces in the third of five Queensland Derby heats at The Creek.
“I believe that both of these dogs are good enough to win their finals,” said the respected mentor from the small hamlet of Wiangaree, north of Casino.
“But of course you’ve got to get through to the final and I am certainly under no illusions to just how good the other dogs in all heats are.
“You have to get into the final first.
“It would be lovely to do well in both races on Thursday night, but it has already been a really good year for me, so I can’t complain.”
Graham’s year took a distinct upturn when the pups from his Hooked On Scotch – Distant Star litter started to hit the track in July.
The rest of the greyhound racing world also started to take intertest when litter trump King Of Aces won at Albion Park on a Thursday night by almost 14 lengths in a jaw-dropping 29.54 over the 520m.
However, a switch to Ipswich for a campaign leading up to that club’s Group 1 Gold Cup didn’t pan out as hoped. The dog is returning on Thursday night for his first race since that November 2 cup race where he finished 5th.
“King Of Aces has come back really well, even better than before,” Graham said.
“He is thriving, bigger and stronger.
“He is ready to go.
“I have given him three trials at Grafton and I am very happy with the way he is going.
“In one of those trials, Johnny Corrigan (Grafton club president) said he had only ever seen one dog go faster.”
As attention was initially being focused on King Of Aces, litter sister Loving Smile, disappeared off the scene when she came on season.
Since coming back, she has posted four wins from five starts, including a 30.05 win over the 520m at Ipswich last Saturday night, the seventh fastest time for that journey.
“Loving Smile is such a great little chaser and she is going sensationally at the moment,” Graham said.
“She has come back from her season as a much more mature dog.
“Originally I had her pegged for this heat race and was thinking about other carnival races for King Of Aces. Now I believe she is up there with him for those other features.
“She is one of the most focused dogs that I have ever had anything to do with. All she wants to do is get out there and run.
“When she was a pup she was so timid.
“Casey and Alan Dargusch (Golden View greyhound complex at Churchable, west of Brisbane) did a great job breaking her in and she came back from them a more confident dog, but still a bit shy.
“Since having her season she is even more confident.”
There are plenty of dangers in Loving Smile’s heat, including Dennis Barnes’ Nangar Gypsey (Box 4), Jamie Hosking’s Jen’s Joy (Box 6) and Kody Charles’ Rare Speed (Box 5).
Graham said his bitch was ‘perfectly boxed’ coming out of the pink.
“That is where she wants to be, any box from four or five out.
“She does want to use the track, but is such a really keen chaser.”
Graham said he had been contacted after Saturday night’s run at Ipswich by a keen buyer.
“With that run on Saturday night her value as a brood bitch has certainly increased,” he said.
“I was asked if I wanted to sell her, but I said ‘no’.”