By MIKE HILL
IT was the story that revealed the true heart of greyhound racing … and could not have come at a better time.
As the entire world aches under the pain of the Coronavirus, veteran husband and wife hobby trainers Laurie and Sue Thomas shared a little light for us all.
In the central Queensland town of Bundaberg – birthplace of the legendary Bundy Rum – and far from the glare of the big-race spotlights of Albion Park, Wentworth Park or The Meadows, Laurie and Sue hit their jackpot with outsider Belli Ultra in the $27,250 Bundaberg Cup (550m).
The popular couple, who are based just a bit further south at Maryborough, collected $17,500. This might seem small change compared to some of the blue ribbon races across the nation, but to them it was a golden dream come true.
\”I can’t believe it. It\’s our biggest win ever,\” said a breathless Sue.
Laurie, who has difficulties hearing when speaking on the phone, let his wife do all the talking.
\”We\’ve been racing here for 30 years and this is the first time we have had a runner in the Bundy Cup,\” Sue said.
\”We are surprised and shocked by the victory. Belli Ultra went into the Cup final with the slowest time.
\”We definitely weren\’t expecting to win it … we were just hoping for a place. I think I am still on a high, I know I\’m not down yet. It\’s just an amazing feeling.\”
The Cup, carrying Listed level prizemoney for the first time, was staged in a crowd-free environment because of coronavirus and restricted to \’local dogs only\’ because of current zone restrictions on trainers.
\”It was a bit ghostly not having people trackside,\” said Sue, \”but I could hear all the cheers in the catching pen.
Belli Ultra, one of the outsiders in the field at $23, began well from the inside box and held a forward position heading for the first corner although challenged early by Tracy Trigg\’s fancied chaser Dolcetto Hayze ($4.20) and the David Plummer-prepared $26 hope Takura Tornado.
The Thomas sprinter pushed up along the rails and took a handy two-and-a-half length advantage into the back straight – a lead she never surrendered in the $17,500-to-the-winner feature.
In fact, Belli Ultra was going away at the end, beating the heavily supported $2.15 favourite Fernando Tears (Phil Carter) by three-and-a-half lengths with Takura Tornado hanging on third.
Thomas, who has five dogs in work at his Yengarie property on the outskirts of Maryborough, only took over the training of the black bitch (My Bro Fabio-Ultra Blue) from owner Eric Conroy late last year.
Sue said the sprinter had been improving with every run over the 550m journey and the winning time of 31.58s was a huge improvement on her previous best.
\”I am totally surprised by the win,\” she said. \”It\’s just fantastic. This is our biggest win by far.
\”We usually pick up the occasional race. We probably average a win a month with our bread and butter dogs.
\”We are just hobby trainers, something to keep us occupied in retirement.\”
Bundaberg president David Plummer said it was \’great to see a local win the Cup\’.
\”Sue and Laurie are very popular people around the club and everyone was thrilled for Laurie. They are great people.\”
Plummer said he was happy with the day despite it being a crowd-free Cup.
\”We have to consider ourselves lucky just to be racing and we\’re all in this together,\” he said.
Meanwhile, the John Kuhn-trained sprinter Miss Emmy won the $7875 Cup Consolation (550m).
Miss Emmy, a $4.20 chance, beat Greg Kennedy\’s Macdowell ($6) by one-and-three-quarter lengths with the $2 favourite Really Royal (David Raines) two-and-a-quarter lengths back third.
One of the downsides of the Cup series was the major injury to talented sprinter Elegant Eleanor.
The Ricky Hassall-trained Country Cup winner went amiss almost immediately after leaving the boxes in her heat seven days earlier when a raging hot favourite.
She suffered a dropped back muscle and early indications are she will be retired for breeding.