Caption: Trainer Jack Smith (right) and connections after Jungle Deuce’s win in the G2 Box 1 Photography Golden Sands at Albion Park (Photo: Box 1 Photography)
Albion Park round-up with ALEX NOLAN
DESPITE the coronavirus and mother nature’s best attempts to dampen the Golden Greys Summer Carnival, the action on and off the track has been hotter than ever.
Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club CEO Luke Gatehouse reported a 40% uplift in hospitality turnover throughout December and things were only looking up as the carnival neared its thrilling conclusion.
The $300,000 Group 1 Gold Bullion (Final February 3), the Sunshine State’s new flagship summer event, will again bring punters streaming through the gates to see some of Australian greyhound racing’s stars.
At the time of writing, the likes of Aston Rupee, Jungle Deuce, Bandit Ned and Zipping Kyrgios had been tipped to march into Albion Park, but were yet to be confirmed.
Waiting in the wings are local hopes and regular visitors alike, including Extra Malt, Spotted Elk, Louis Rumble, Impact, Ninetymile King, Farmor Beach, Orchestrate and more.
Whoever does happen to win the Bullion will join elite company, with the first two editions taken out by Sennachie (2020) and Shima Shine (2021) respectively.
LUCY’S STRENGTH ON SHOW IN TICKET
The one certainty to line up not just in the heats, but in the final is the Mitchell Northfield trained Kooringa Lucy, whose strength prevailed in testing conditions when she won the $60,000 Group 3 Golden Ticket.
The Golden Ticket comprised four two-dog match races, with the winner determined by the fastest overall winning time.
Kooringa Lucy completed the rain-sodden course in 30.12 seconds after a thrilling head-to-head battle with the John Catton-trained Little Byrnes, who stuck on bravely to finish second in the race to the overall title.
The win took Kooringa Lucy’s overall record to 34 wins from 79 starts and she has now collected more than $229,000 in earnings.
Northfield believes if Kooringa Lucy had enjoyed some luck at the right times throughout her career, those statistics could’ve been even better.
“She has won over $200,000 now and her biggest cheque was $10,000 before Thursday night, which is unbelievable,” Northfield told Racing Queensland.
Impact, who went head-to-head with Victorian Aston Ulysses as the fastest two qualifiers, got his own way in front to win his match and finish third overall.
In the other matches, Louis Rumble beat home a gallant Spotted Elk in what was billed as the match of the night, while Extra Malt chased down Magical Cyndie in the opener.
Catton said he believed Little Byrnes still had some improvement to come and deserved his shot at the big guns in the Gold Bullion.
The remaining competitors will also get their chance to redeem in the heats, with the likes of Impact and Spotted Elk likely to appreciate drier conditions.
Golden Ticket night also featured the Listed Clem Jones Cup for stayers, which proved an important pointer to the Group 3 Gold Cup.
The Samantha Grenfell-trained and Brendan Wheeler owned Knicks Bale got the better of old rival Gypsy Wyong in a thrilling run to the line.
The Warren Nicholls-trained Days Of Thunder railed through for third.
JUNGLE DEUCE RULES THE ROOST
JUNGLE DEUCE came, saw, and conquered.
Then, just like that, he was gone.
But will he return?
Jack Smith’s star two-year-old made easy work of the G2 Box 1 Photography Golden Sands over 600m and is now undefeated in five starts at Albion Park.
His romp of the Golden Sands backed up his 2021 Winter Carnival heroics which saw him take the G2 Flying Amy Classic and Origin Match Race for New South Wales.
Jungle Deuce made good use of Box 2 to rail through and take the early lead in the final and extended to win in 34.61 seconds.
The Anthony Azzopardi trained McCooly’s Lad stuck on bravely for second with Aston Ulysses further adrift in third.
Showing his remarkable versatility, the son of Barcia Bale returned to Wentworth Park just over a week later to bolt in a heat of the Paws Of Thunder.
Despite numerous efforts to persuade Smith to bring Jungle Deuce back for a tilt at the $300,000 Gold Bullion series, it was unclear whether he would return after the Paws Of Thunder.
Admittedly, it would be a big ask of the dog, with just a five-day turnaround between the Paws and the Gold Bullion heats.
Kennelmate Irinka Riley, who recorded two minor placings at Albion Park in December, franked that form when he too qualified for the Paws of Thunder final.
NINETYMILE KING BOUNCES BACK
TRAINER Bianca Whitford feared Ninetymile King’s racing days were over after he was skittled in a heat of the G2 Golden Sands but marvelled at his will to win when he bounced back in a 3/4th Grade at Albion Park on January 20.
Ninetymile King had been set for the Golden Sands over his pet distance of 600m, but his campaign came to an abrupt end when he was severely checked early in his heat.
“He was very sore and you could barely touch him,” Whitford said.
“I thought that was it for him.
“Perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to beat Jungle Deuce, but it was disappointing because he’d been set specifically for the series and never really got his chance.”
A solid course of anti-inflammatories had the three-year-old on track to return in the Golden Ticket series before he suffered another minor setback during a Capalaba trial.
Whitford, Chris Johnson and favourite punters alike had their hearts in their mouths when Ninetymile King, after jumping well from Box 1, looked to find trouble in the 3/4th grade.
After being checked no less than three times in the run, he got to the outside in the straight and proved too strong on a rain-affected track.
“He’s the best chaser I’ve had anything to do with,” Whitford said post-race.
At the time of writing he was being set for a tilt at the $300,000 Gold Bullion on February 3.
BRETT GETS IT SORTED
TONY BRETT likened Just A Sort’s win in December’s G2 Queensland Derby to an amateur that has graduated to the professional ranks.
Labelled the ‘most improved dog in Queensland’, Just A Sort completed a run of five-straight victories to win the Derby, handing Brett back-to-back wins and his fourth overall.
The Hall of Fame trainer has won bigger, more lucrative events throughout his distinguished career but it was evident this one was among his most satisfying.
Just A Sort broke his maiden over 520m at Albion Park on debut in May, 2021, but his connections would wait until September for their son of Aston Dee Bee (x She’s A Sort) to claim a Novice.
That came over 395m, but the penny was yet to drop.
Brett was at a loss to explain to Just A Sort’s group of owners, who raced the dam She’s A Sort in Brett’s care, why their promising dog couldn’t put it all together.
“He just wasn’t jumping,” Brett said.
“Now he’s started doing it consistently and that’s been the difference. He’s like an amateur turned professional and tonight he said ‘OK I’m up with the big boys now and I’m doing it’.
“There’s plenty of fast dogs out there, but they need to turn into race dogs and not all of them do.
“To see this young dog get up and do what you know he can is where the satisfaction comes from.”
Brett said it was mighty pleasing to win a fourth Derby, using history as a guide to why the race holds a special place in his heart.
“Black Enforcer (2005) went on to win a Topgun, Flash Reality (2014) went on to win a Group 1 and Sentenced (2020) would have, if he hadn’t broken down,” Brett said.
“You’re in elite class when you make the field in (the Derby), let alone win.”
Brett returned to headquarters the following week and took home the TAB Christmas Stocking with Wolf Steele.
The full sister to National Straight Track Championships winner Deck Fifty Two (Barcia Bale x Mitchie Madam) defied an alarming betting drift to claim the 520m Fifth Grade final in 29.99 seconds.
“She has just gotten that little bit stronger,” Brett said post-race.
He then unleashed what could be his star of the Golden Greys Summer Carnival in Orchestrate to win a first-up win in 3/4th Grade company on January 13, following it up with a win in the Listed Australia Day Trophy the following week.
He completed the course in 30.20 seconds on a severely rain-affected Albion Park.
“He’s another one that just continues to get stronger,” Brett said.
Orchestrate looked ready to tackle heats of the Gold Bullion but surprisingly, TAB kept his all-in quote at $18 post-race.
Brett has won the Gold Bullion – or Winter Cup as it was formerly known – six times, all between 2011 and 2018.
SIX OF ONE, HALF-A-DOZEN THE OTHER
JUST over two weeks after Cyndie Elson trained six winners on a Thursday night at Albion Park, son Travis Elson collected a six-pack of his own.
Elson boxed 9 greyhounds at the Sunday meeting on December 19 and left with six winners, namely Travis’s Lauryn, Royal Tayla, Flick’s Buck, Magic Dardar, He’s Smoking and Hope’s Golden.
Elson finished the 2021 season with 118 Albion Park winners from 673 starts at a strike-rate of 18%.
He finished a clear second on the Albion Park winners’ list, which was again headed by Cyndie Elson with 149 winners at a strike-rate of 17%.
Both kennels maintained a place strike-rate of close to 50%.
JEFF’S GOLDEN OLDIES STILL HAVE IT IN THEM
There’s still some life left in the old girls yet!
That’s what Jeff Crawford’s duo Black Mirage and Kiss And Spin effectively said after they finished first and fourth respectively in the Listed Golden Oldies Final.
Black Mirage made full use of an inside draw to take the feature for Masters Eligible greyhounds, while one time Flying Amy Classic winner Kiss And Spin ran a respectable race.
Greg Stella’s Security Code finished three-and-a-half lengths back in second, with the Noel Murdoch trained Xella Angel not far away in third.
Kiss And Spin returned to Albion Park the following Thursday and won a Masters Fifth Grade in 30.10 seconds.
Both Black Mirage and Kiss And Spin turned three-and-a-half in December and Crawford is eyeing a breeding career for them.
“I don’t want to leave too much on the track,” he said.
Crawford said he was a fan of the Golden Oldies concept and Masters races in general.
“I think it’s a great initiative from all racing bodies to offer feature races like this and, in this case, a listed race.”
Crawford said he reached a goal to earn $250,000 in stakes during 2021 and fell just short of reaching 100 winners.
He said 2022 could be a light year in terms of racing dogs, but heavy in the breeding barn.
“We’ve just had four litters and there’s a fifth one due … so in a couple of years we’re going to have some really nice pups going around,” he said.