By MIKE HILL
SHOALHAVEN Greyhound Club secretary-manager Glenn Midson is expecting a talented crop of youngsters to contest this month’s $56,000 Ladbrokes Nowra Puppy Classic (520m).
In its 20th year, the Classic has had a major prizemoney boost as the club strives to have the race elevated to Group 2 status.
“It’s still a Group 3 event but carrying Group 2 prizemoney for the first time,” Midson said.
Winning connections will take home a record $40,000, up $15,000 on last year’s purse.
“It’s all part of the progression to a G2 Classic,” he said.
Midson said the event had grown in stature over years from its inaugural running in 2003, and was a race specially targeted by leading trainers from Sydney and the NSW South Coast.
The Classic is open to all greyhounds whelped on or after January 1, 2020, although maiden performers are ineligible, with heats on Sunday, April 17, and the final on Saturday, April 23.
The club boss said the series had become a launch pad for many successful careers.
“Most dogs that reach the final usually progress to city class and the better ones go on to Group racing,” Midson said.
“If you make it in the Puppy Classic, you know you have a pretty smart dog.”
As an example, he said Double Twist, the 2013 winner for Nowra Hill-based trainer Garry Edwards, went on to win 26 races, including 12 at Wentworth Park, and shared the NSW Greyhound-of-the-Year award with Jagger Swagger.
Other standouts include last year’s winner, the Jodie Lord-trained Bandit Ned.
The blue brindle son of Fernando Bale and Bombshell Bandit has progressed to the elite class, winning the G1 Vic Peters Classic (520m) at Wentworth Park in October, and amassing more than $200,000 in prizemoney with 18 wins and four placings from 27 starts.
Tuiaki, fourth to Tasman Boy in the 2010 Classic, went on to Group glory, winning the G2 Peter Mosman Classic (520m) at Wentworth Park and the G2 Gosford Gold Cup (515m).
It appears to be a hard race for trainers to win twice, although several have quinellaed the final.
In 2009, Ray Steele’s Tian Hao Lee defeated kennelmate and litter sister Tian Hao Miss, while Jason Fletcher watched Fantastic Spiral down kennelmate Fantastic Sid by three-quarters of a length in 2015.
Ruth Matic prepared two finalists for the 2007 edition, scoring with Mountain Of Love while Precious Love finished sixth.
Midson said several leading trainers, including Jodie Lord, Mark Gatt, John Finn, Jason Fletcher and David Smith, had already shown interest in this year’s Classic.
“They usually come from everywhere,” he said.
“Bargo trainer Nev Brown has been trialling some young dogs at the track lately, while Victorian trainer Rob Camilleri has had success in recent years, winning with Zipping Leroy in 2019 and placing third with Overflow Lisa last year.”
Midson even suggested the powerful Tom Tzouvelis-Jedda Cutlack Queensland kennel could be represented after Sunburst finished fourth to Bandit Ned in a heat of the rich Country Classic at Nowra in late February.
He said he was expecting at least four heats for the Easter Sunday meeting but was hoping for more with the increased prizemoney this year.
“And we should have a bumper crowd for the Saturday night final,” he said.
Nowra Puppy Classic winners: 2003 Boonchu Boy, 2004 Fashion Thief, 2005 Little Bit Shy, 2006 Old Fifty Five, 2007 Mountain of Love, 2008 Black Warhorse, 2009 Tian Hao Lee, 2010 Tasman Boy, 2011 Chenzhou Boy, 2012 Classy Love, 2013 (Apr) Double Twist, (Oct) Ritza Hattie, 2014 (Mar) Shilton Blue (Oct) Paua To Roar, 2015 (Apr) Fantastic Spiral (Oct) Spritely Dancer, 2016 (Apr) Megsie Marble (Oct) Shy Gambler, 2017 Tiempo Dinero, 2018 Sky Wave, 2019 Zipping Leroy, 2020 –, 2021 Bandit Ned.