Mal eyes Casino Cup repeat

\"\"Caption: Celebrations after the 2020 Casino Cup following Phantom Bonnie’s win. From left are Helen and Mal Ross, Lauraine Bailey and John Free (Photo: Lisa Vanderstok)

By ALEX NOLAN

Victory in the 2020 Casino Cup marked a career highlight for trainer-breeder Mal Ross and he’d love nothing more than for track specialist Phantom Bonnie to go back-to-back in this month’s Group 3 feature.

Phantom Bonnie, a 19-time winner at the Northern Rivers track, ran a career-best 27.26sec to win the 484m feature in November last year.

She has since won a further 13 times at the unique circuit, the majority of which have come over the 411m trip, including a run of six straight victories across August and September.

She recently competed in a heat of the Group 2 Lismore Cup and suffered a minor, re-occurring injury but is expected to be fit in time for Casino.

Litter-mate Phantom Clyde, who has taken a liking to the Lismore track, is expected to again contest the series via Ipswich as he vies to go back-to-back in the Open Sprint (431m) on Cup Night.

“Bonnie loves Casino,” Ross told Chase.

“She won her maiden and a fifth grade at Lismore but wasn’t running the times there like Clyde.

“Someone said to me the other day, ‘are you going to take her to Grafton? She’d love it’.

“But why would I want to take her away from a track she performs so well at.

“Something went wrong there (in the heat) at Lismore but her target all along has been the Casino Cup, so I just hope I haven’t mucked it up.”

At the time of writing, Ross rated ‘Clyde’ a 95 per cent chance of contesting the $25,000 series, which kicks off on November 18 and culminates in the final on Thursday, November 25.

“Last year was probably the biggest moment of my training career winning a Group race,” Ross said.

“And, winning it with a greyhound you bred and reared … even though we didn’t own her made it all-the-more special. It would be nice to go back-to-back but it will be hard.”

Both ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Clyde’ (Fernando Bale x Clover Cottage) are progeny of a litter bred by Ross from a bitch gifted to him by good friend, the late Darryl Schafer, who Ross completed works for after moving from Brisbane to Fairy Hill and purchasing a one-acre property for breeding and rearing.

Ten of the 11-strong litter have combined for 115 winners from just 400 starters at a strike-rate of 28.7 per cent and prizemoney in-excess of $270,000.

Naturally, Ross has gone back to the well with Clover Cottage.

He has sold the majority of a now 11-month-old litter by Barcia Bale and is currently rearing a litter of 10-week old pups by two-time Group 1 winner My Redeemer (Fernando Bale x Where’s Demonica).

“We had 11 in the second litter too,” Ross said.

“Touch wood they can perform up to the same level.

“I sent them out to a good friend Marty Hallinan out at Orange. I sold six and everyone I sold them to sent them out to Marty as well.

“The owners of ‘Bonnie’ and ‘Clyde’ (Lauraine Bailey and John Free) also bought three of the pups.

“We went to My Redeemer for the third litter because of the Fernando Bale line so we’ll wait and see whether the bitch can again pop out something as good as ‘Bonnie’.”

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