By MIKE HILL
THE Shoalhaven Greyhound Club is gearing up for its flagship Ladbrokes Group 3 Nowra Puppy Classic (520m) this month.
Club secretary-manager Glenn Midson said he was expecting a high-quality field to line up in the $25,000-to-the-winner Classic final.
The three-race series hits \’the Pinebowl\’ with heats on April 11, semi-finals on April 18 and the big final on Sunday, April 25.
Midson said trainers Geoff and Leanne Grimwood were brimming with confidence after promising littermates Pixie Zesta and Kid Psycho (Dyna Double One-Elusive Zesta) recorded impressive wins at the track last month.
Leanne\’s Pixie Zesta ran a slick 29.83s in winning the Ladbrokes $5000 Red Dog February Final, while Kid Psycho – trained by Geoff – clocked a super best-of-day 29.68s in winning a fifth grade event.
Midson said the Grimwoods had travelled four to five hours from their Upper Hunter Valley base \’to give their dogs a look at the track\’.
He said they thought racing was better than a trial and the trip paid off handsomely for the team.
Pixie Zesta has raced six times for five wins – three at Maitland and two at Nowra – while Kid Psycho has been unplaced just once in 11 starts, with five wins – two at Wentworth Park (30.13s and 30.25s).
Midson said leading trainers Jodie Lord and Ashley Dwyer had some smart dogs targeted for the Classic while runners were expected from the Charlie Gatt and Kayla-Jane Coleman kennels.
Nowra Hill-based trainer Garry Edwards has already tasted success with Double Twist winning in 2013. The sprinter later went on to win the NSW greyhound-of-the-year title jointly with Jagger Swagger.
Edwards is expected to have a runner or two, while another Nowra trainer Chris O\’Brien has the promising Notified in his kennels.
With five wins from nine starts, Notified has a best time of 29.75s over the Classic journey.
Midson said most dogs that reach the final usually go on to city class.
\”If you make it, you know you have a pretty smart dog,\” he said.
The Classic became so popular the club introduced a summer and spring edition for a few years, but has now reverted back to the one-a-year format.
First run in 2003, it\’s been a hard race for trainers to win twice but several have quinellaed the Classic.
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.
The black dog went on to win 28 (eight at Wentworth Park) of his 82 starts with 33 placings.
Mountain Of Love certainly liked Nowra, scoring four wins and a second from his only five trips to the South Coast track, while 2008 winner Black Warhorse went on to win 30 of his 60 race starts for trainer Noelene Walsh.
In 2013, Double Twist recorded a seven-lengths victory in the final, running 29.65s to set a new race record.
The Garry Edwards-trained black bitch went on to score 26 wins and 12 placings in her 46-start career, including 12 wins at Wentworth Park.
Previous 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.