Albion Park Roundup with ISAAC MURPHY
Before he’d even run a race the Peter Sullivan-trained Brother Jason was being anointed as Queensland’s next superstar.
The son of Worm Burner had been smashing the clock on the trial track with multiple 29.7 efforts and word got out quickly, with significant offers coming from leading Victorian kennels.
Sullivan knew he had something special though and held strong with the dog. Unfortunately he wasn’t quite ready to race in a field. He was wayward first up and was tipped out in search of some maturity last November.
Many would have taken the money and run, but Sullivan was never going to part ways with the youngster and the trainer had a huge smile on his face when the dog’s path to redemption began, winning his Novice at Albion Park on February 11.
“I really wasn’t expecting to see him win first time back at the track. He’d hardly done any work in his time off, only a couple of light gallops and he was drawn off the track as well when he wants the fence,” Sullivan said.
“It was great to see him get across from out wide, but when he paired off with Darren Russell’s dog Beau Herrera I thought the lack of fitness might tell, but he ran it out well.
“He’s into fifth grade company now which certainly isn’t beyond him. The next couple of months will be all about trying to get him to race consistently and see if we can have him ready for races like the Flying Amy and go from there.”
As excited as Sullivan was with the dog’s potential, he admitted there were plenty of nerves having the dog, with a lot riding on his performances.
“I’ve never had a dog with his ability. It was quite strange with everyone declaring him as the next superstar before he’d even raced, fielding some big offers to buy the dog. It was nothing I’ve ever experienced,” he said.
“Things obviously didn’t go his way in the Dave Brett and then we had to tip him off because of the suspension, but I got some really good advice from Peter Wilson – just to take my time with him and sort out those issues while he was young.
“We ended up giving him over two months, just trying to educate him and get his maturity to where it needs to be. Hopefully with a bit less expectation on him he can find his best again.”
Taylor Tackles the Training Ranks
Most people know Barry Taylor as the popular starter at Albion Park, but lately Taylor is juggling his responsibilities since setting out on his own training journey last year.
After starting with a few giveaways, Taylor is slowly taking on more dogs and the winners are coming, the trainer slowly ticking off his training targets.
“I’ve found setting yourself goals really useful. At the start of last year I only had a few dogs and said I’d love to have six winners in the year. We knocked off that target and said ‘OK let’s get six more’,” he said.
“With a few more dogs in the kennel this year I’ve set my target at 24 for the year. I got off to a great start with four in January and am still on track at this stage.
“If I can hit those goals it gives me opportunities financially to buy a couple more dogs. I’d love to get one or two who could get the five hundred metres. That’s the next stage.”
Building a training career from the ground up is not easy, but for Taylor the hard work’s worth it for the thrill of the chase.
“As rewarding as the journey’s been so far there’s plenty of tough work. I had Torayden in at Lismore last night where he ran second. It’s a big sacrifice making the drive for one runner,” he said.
“I drove back late last night, was up early for trials at Albion Park this morning, am working the Wednesday afternoon meet and have to pick up a couple of dogs from Claude’s (Dacey) and head back home, it can get pretty taxing.
“It’s like anything though. If you’re passionate enough about something you push yourself to do more and I genuinely love what I’m doing.”
Johnstone Red Hot at The Creek
Local trainer Darren Johnstone continues to make waves at Albion Park with an impressive double – Maggie Moo Moo breaking out of the 700m and Truthiness too good in the sprint.
Maggie Moo Moo continues to surprise the trainer with her staying ability. Bred to maybe get the 500, she’s flourished over the 600m and now 700m notching her first win over the trip.
“I was concerned she might be a bit flat after a really tough run in the Gold Cup last week, it was only her third 700m and I thought there might be a letdown,” Johnstone said.
“I saw there was a fifth grade over the trip and just gave her a really light week and she’s responded really well to it. She’s been up for a long time and doesn’t look like tapering off.
“I wanted to see her win over the 700m and now she’s done it that’s where she’ll stay, she’s still got a fifth grade up her sleeve and we’ll go from there.”
Truthiness has been indicative of a lot of Johnstone’s dogs who are converting Ipswich form to Albion and when the powerful type landed second the rest was academic.
“It took a while for him to find his feet around here. He’d get lost at the first turn and drift off the fence down the back, but we’ve just persisted and he’s come around,” Johnstone said.
“I’ve been throwing him in 395 metre races on a Monday just to sharpen his box manners up and it seems to have done the job.
“He’s gone 29.84 here in the past and if he can keep putting himself in positions like he did tonight I think he’ll knock that over soon.”
Rivals Can’t Touch All Hands Off
Northern Rivers trainer Fred Swain breathed a sigh of relief as kennel star All Hands Off made a winning return from a four-month injury on February 11.
The bitch, who’s now a winner of 16 of 24 races, has spent four months on the sidelines with multiple injuries post Lismore Cup, but she was back with a bang running them ragged in 29.85, comfortably the time of the night.
Swain might be based in New South Wales, but Albion Park is All Hands Off’s home away from home winning six of his seven starts at the circuit, Swain hoping to feature in the Winter Carnival after missing out on the summer riches.
“It’s as much a relief as anything. She had a few setbacks in her rehab, but I’ve taken my time with her and she looked like her old self out there tonight,” Swain said.
“It’s a long time to be off the scene and I didn’t want to rush her back into any of the Group races over summer. This is a nice starting point and something to build on.
“The smaller field helped her, but when she got around that first corner in second and loomed up in second, I was pretty happy.”
Swain’s enjoyed a whirlwind ride with the bitch, but knows there’s more in her and would love to knock off a big race one day.
“If she were to retire today, she would have had a wonderful career, but there’s definitely more in her I’d love to nab a signature race,” Swain said.
“The plan is to race here sparingly in the lead up to the Winter Carnival, picking and choosing when she needs a let up and when she’s ripe to go.
“It was tough sitting at home watching the Golden Ticket and Gold Bullion and thinking ‘I’d love her to be a part of that’. Hopefully she gets her chance.”