ISAAC MURPHY’S Albion Park round-up
It was a frustrating Winter Carnival for Graham and Leanne Hall.
Star bitch Extra Malt started strong giving Jungle Deuce the scare of his life in the Origin Match Race, but was starved of success in Group racing.
Extra Malt is sure to bounce back in time, but for now litter sister Spotted Elk has picked up the slack.
A winner of three races at headquarters in seven days Spotted Elk continues to shine, with Graham Hall hoping the only way is up.
“When you look at what Extra Malt was doing after fourteen starts and compare it to Spotted Elk, it’s a very similar situation,” he said.
“They both took a little while to come to hand before suddenly exploding.
“I’m not sure Spotted Elk will ever quite have the same brilliance as her litter sister, but she’s come to hand nicely now.”
Hall said there wasn’t much between the sisters at break-in until Spotted Elk suffered a setback before her first race start.
“We weren’t sure the wins would come this quickly for her. Shortly after break-in she came on season which lasted a good four months and can really knock a young bitch around,” he said.
“To her credit she’s exceeded our expectations at this stage of her career. Her field sense is excellent. We’d love her sister to have a little bit more of it.
“The penny has definitely dropped. She’s using her head in her racing now and is much more patient biding her time to find a way through.”
Despite the purple patch Hall has seen this story before with Extra Malt and is taking it one race at a time with Spotted Elk.
“As encouraging as her three wins in a week have been we aren’t getting too carried away,” he said.
“We know through experience with Extra Malt they get up in grade very quickly and she’ll need to keep improving once she comes up against the older dogs.
“She’s turning into a very good railer. Whether it’s from a wide draw or in close she’s finding her way to the fence and coming with a run late.”
The Halls bred the Paw Licking/It Gets Better litter themselves and aside from Spotted Elk and Extra Malt have come up with a couple of handy dogs in Double Malt and Fort Apache too.
“Ideally, we would have liked to have travelled with all four of the litter (Paw Licking/It Gets Better), Spotted Elk, Extra Malt, Double Malt and even Fort Apache who we haven’t seen the best of yet,” Hall said.
“Spotted Elk and Extra Malt will probably miss some key sprint races in Melbourne late in the year and Double Malt would’ve been a real threat around the one turn tracks.
“Instead, we’re aiming the two bitches at the Queensland Nationals in mid-August and Double Malt at Capalaba where he recently won in 19.83 on debut.”
Apache Swoop back from the Brink
The Pound Lika Hound Syndicate and trainer Barry Kitchener have become synonymous. All of their biggest wins have come as a partnership and they’re currently enjoying the ride with Apache Swoop.
After a scintillating start to his Queensland career his racing future was threatened via injury, but after a long road to recover he’s back and recently celebrated his biggest win yet in Thursday night company.
“He’s a product of The Pound Lika Hound Syndicate who I trained Zipping Cosmo to a Group Two Queensland Oaks and Zipping Blondie for who’ve probably been my best two chasers,” Kitchener said.
“They picked him up fourteen months ago for $4,000 down in Victoria, he came to Brisbane and won two of his first four 520s at Albion Park and placed in the others.
“It was looking like a really savvy purchase until a couple of runs later he fractured his hock, leaving his racing future up in the air.”
At only twenty-two months the partnership didn’t give up on the dog, giving him every chance to recover and suddenly he’s looking like his old self.
“He was still young at the time, so we sent him out to Des Heilbronn’s in the paddock for six months in the hope that he’d recuperate,” Kitchener said.
“He wasn’t back to his old self but was looking sound, so we gave him a couple of runs up the straight at Capalaba which were promising.
“We still had to make the decision whether to put him around the circle again. Eventually we did over the shorts at Albion and with his latest win at Grafton he’s won seven races since coming back from injury.”
Apache Swoop’s winning mindset never waivered despite over six months off, currently thriving on the work.
“He’s a pretty full-on type of dog. He’s never been one to sit down and chill out. That’s why we sent him to the paddock when he did his hock,” Kitchener said.
“Plenty of dogs lose that edge to race when they’re out that long but not him.
“Now he’s fit and firing we try to get him to the track as often as possible. He had three runs in six days in mid-July for a third and a win at Albion Park and a win a Grafton.”
The crown jewel was his win on Thursday the 15th of July coming from off the speed at the home turn announcing his return with a 520-metre win.
“The dream’s been to get him to the track on a Thursday night,” Kitchener said.
“I felt he was far enough removed from his injury and fit enough to tackle the five hundred and there were shades of Zipping Cosmo when he came from behind and poked his head up to win on the fence.
“There were plenty of celebrations, I’ve been through a lot with the syndicate and that Thursday night win was right up there with Zipping Cosmo’s Oaks win.”
Farmor Beach fires up over 600
If Farmor Beach was to retire today he’d be considered a champion. A Group Three Vince Curry and Group Two Ipswich Cup winner and Group Two Queensland Derby runner-up, the Scott kennel chaser has nothing to prove.
Yet he looks ready to write a new chapter in his legacy after a tremendous 34.76 debut six hundred metre run, immediately putting him in the upper echelon of middle-distance chasers.
“It was exactly the result we were looking for first time over the six hundred,” Scott said.
“My heart dropped early when he fell out of the boxes, but he was able to think on his feet and drive through to put himself in a winning position around the first turn.
“We had a few little hiccups in his preparation mainly not having raced for a couple of weeks, so it was a nice surprise to see him run out the trip as well as he did.”
Farmor Beach set the track alight winning the Vince Curry at start three, but endured a tough trip to Melbourne which the kennel spent months building him back up from.
Ever since they’ve been meticulous with their placement and were rapt to see him handle the trip.
“I was very weary of how he pulled up. Being his first six hundred he had every right to be a bit sore but he’s been bouncing around ready to go again,” Scott said.
“Being who he is, there’s always a fair bit riding on the race. He’s done some wonderful things for us, and we always want to make sure we’re doing right by the dog.
“Running 34.76 first time over the middle-distance and coming home and wanting more I think we’ve pulled the right rein.”
One of the main reasons for the rise in distance was to get the dog back jumping on the bunny.
He would find the front, but not without some nervous moments early.
“It could have been a very different story if he didn’t avoid the one dog early,” Scott said.
“He missed the kick that significantly that dog was able to clear him early and as soon as he saw the run on the fence, he took it.
“He’s one of the best railing dogs I’ve ever seen, you wouldn’t get a piece of paper between him and the rail.”
It was hardly an easy assignment for the dog as he ran into six hundred metre jet Kooringa Lucy first up but didn’t shirk the task when she came out after him.
“He took a lot of momentum around that first turn and with his turn of foot was able to skip right away from them out of the straight,” Scott said.
“Kooringa Lucy is one of the best six hundred metre bitches going around I knew she’d be closing in on him. He looked a sitting duck when she railed through to second.
“I said earlier I was surprised with his run home when he was able to repel her, but I probably shouldn’t have been given how stubborn this dog is when he gets to the front.”
With races like the Nationals and Million Dollar Chase looming it took some guts to pull the six hundred trigger.
“The step up to the middle-distance has been something we’ve been back and forth on for a while, and it got to the point where we were either going to do it or wonder what could have been,” Scott said.
Cutlack Plotting Albion Park Breakthrough
Jedda Cutlack’s Sunburst is arguably the best bitch racing at Albion Park to have not won a race.
The progeny of Sh Avatar and Sawadee has rugged up three times at the track twice finishing behind the flying Spotted Elk and once a faller just as she was assuming control of the race.
Cutlack is as keen as anyone for that breakthrough win, but knows patience is key with the rising two-year-old.
“I was disappointed she didn’t go on with it last start after beginning really well. She just hung a bit on that first corner,” Cutlack said.
“I thought it might have been a bit of a bi-product of her falling at her last Albion Park start, but she just pulled up a bit sore after the race which is probably why she didn’t run on like she can.”
“Given she wasn’t one hundred percent it was a big effort to run second behind Spotted Elk who’s won three in a row and ahead of Apache Swoop, who went on to win the following Thursday night.”
Sunburst has only been in Cutlack’s care for a little over a month, the trainer beginning to understand what makes her tick.
“Her wins have come at Ipswich, but in much easier grade. I actually like the way she’s been coming out at Albion Park,” she said.
“If you watch her runs from down south when she won, she’d fly out and clearly lead everything.
“Up here she’s been relying more on her strength except three starts ago when she was just about to take over around the first corner and tangled with the leader.”
In her mid-twenties Cutlack is building an impressive resume as a young trainer, but knows she’s capable of more.
“It was fantastic to get an opportunity in the past with a couple of the Elson’s dogs, Dynamite Travis and Dynamic Trav,” she said.
“I won some good races with them at Capalaba and Ipswich but that’s ultimately why I don’t have them anymore they reached their full potential.
“I didn’t want to get pigeonholed as a Capalaba or Ipswich trainer, not that I don’t like racing there, but I’m always striving to expand my horizons.”