They’ve gone troppo up north!

\"\"Caption: Carol and Greg Pickard join in the tropical fun. (Photo: Louise Partland)

Queensland wrap by MIKE HILL

TOWNSVILLE greyhound trainers have gone \’troppo\’.

Well, not really, but they have gone to wearing tropical and brightly coloured shirts.

It\’s all part of the Townsville club\’s new Tropical Fridays promotion, joining the city\’s long-standing tradition of wearing tropical shirts on Fridays.

With the support of Racing Queensland, the club introduced its new \’Tropical Fridays\’ series on Sky Racing early last month.

Leading Townsville trainer Rhonda Essery said it had been a huge success.

\”Everyone wore brightly coloured shirts,\” she said.

\”Well they had to … they weren\’t allowed on the track unless they were wearing a tropical shirt.\”

Rhonda\’s husband and TGC committee member Steve Essery said:  \”An idea and concept like this is exciting for the club.

\”We all want the code of greyhound racing to go forward and get bigger in the north and, hopefully, this will help.

\”A considerable number of participants already have tropical shirts and the club has purchased more for those who do not.\”

Under the concept, every second week, when Townsville hosts its Friday afternoon meetings, trainers and handlers will wear Hawaiian or floral shirts when boxing or catching their dogs.

Among those supporting the concept is Townsville City Council Sport and Recreation Committee chairperson Maurie Soars.

Cr Soars said Tropical Friday was well supported throughout the Townsville community and would be expanded through the TGC initiative.

\”The local tradition of Tropical Fridays embodies everything that is great about our city and region,\” he said.

\”Greyhound racing fans watching these Friday race meets from other parts of Australia are going to know by the dress code that they are watching racing from Townsville.

\”Hopefully, it encourages them to come visit us sometime, see the local greyhound racing in-person and enjoy everything else our city has to offer.\”

RQ Executive General Manager Operations Adam Wallish said the organisation had updated its dress code to allow the quirky initiative to proceed.

\”We are excited about the new concept of Tropical Fridays for the Townsville Greyhound Club,\” Mr Wallish said.

\”The club should be applauded for its willingness to look outside the square and to create a unique TV product.

\”The concept is synonymous with Townsville and we look forward to people embracing it in the North and across the nation on Sky Racing.\”

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RHONDA Essery is feeling more confident by the day that Stratford can give her another Townsville Cup success.

The Fernando Bale-Jingjing brindle sprinter boosted his stocks with a brilliant win in last month\’s Country Cup final (520m) at Albion Park and four nights later turned the tables on the talented Steve Kavanagh sprinter Louis Rumble to win a fifth grade series final at the same track.

Stratford had clocked a slick 29.93s when second to Louis Rumble in a heat of the series a week early.

Sandwiched between the two runs was the Country Cup victory.

Stratford, backed into $4.20 late, showed strength to run away with the fifth grade final, beating Louis Rumble ($1.45) by almost four lengths.

Earlier, caretaker trainer Peter O\’Reilly had \’tipped\’ victory for the Essery sprinter.

\”He\’ll beat Louis Rumble. He\’s a very good dog, too good for Townsville,\” O\’Reilly said at Ipswich on Vince Curry night – two nights before the final.

Meanwhile, Essery believes Stratford only has to remain sound to be a real chance in the Group 3 Townsville Cup later in the year.

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HAROLD Hovi, the man with the magic touch, seems to be heading for another highly rewarding year.

Hovi, based at Gumlu in far north Queensland, finished 2020 with a winning strike rate of 32 per cent and a 62 per cent place rate.

Carrying the tag \’The Magic Man\’ because of his high strike rate, Hovi and his small team landed 40 wins from 125 starts during the year.

His winning strike rate for 2021 was up to 38 per cent early last month, while his growing trophy collection was boosted by Gold Assassin\’s highly impressive win in the Townsville Australia Day Trophy final (498m) in late January.

Gold Assassin ($4.60) beat the Henry Parker pair of Johnny Dark ($16) and $2.90 favourite Sprightly Bro to boost his record to eight wins and 16 minor placings from 31 starts.

The win was the consistent chaser\’s fourth in six starts.

Meanwhile, the Robert Lound-trained youngster Broken Free won the Robert Olsen Memorial Maiden (380m) at Townsville.

Broken Free ($6.50) narrowly beat the Arthur Gosper-prepared What A Bomber ($10) with Carol Pickard\’s Polly\’s Magic ($41) third.

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THE talented Allen Kelly-trained sprinter Savuro took his career record to 15 wins from 30 starts with a powerful victory in the Australia Day Cup (460m) at Bundaberg.

A well-supported $2.25 favourite, Savuro defeated the Lin Kent-prepared Highway Gem ($11) by two lengths with Wildash Macie (Paul Burgess) – a $6.50 chance – a close third.

The black dog (Paw Licking-Go Wild Shaz) has been a model of consistency since hitting the track for the first time in the latter parts of 2019.

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MEMBERS of the Brisbane greyhound community were saddened by the passing last month of Judith (Judy) Stevens, wife of long-time trainer Alec Stevens.

\”Judy was a very special and very passionate greyhound owner,\” said  Ipswich club secretary Di O\’Donnell.

\”She was also a stickler for recording greyhound performances and times.

\”Although Judy hadn\’t been active in the past few years, she was well known and a wonderful person.\”

Bob Patching, a former Capalaba club president and life member, said Judy \’had been a permanent fixture at the club when it raced on Saturday afternoons\’.

\”She would come to the track even if Alec didn\’t have a dog racing and give staff  strawberries and other fruit she grew in her garden,\” he said.

\”I first met Judy and Alec in 1987 through Dennis Guppy, who trained my first dog.

\”Dennis had known them when they lived in Melbourne before they moved to  Brisbane in the 1970s.

\”Judy and Alec always had two or three dogs with 1996 Queensland Derby winner Fear No Judge probably their best.

\”Alec, a life member of Capalaba and also a former president, once told me that Judy would sit with the injured dogs and machine them for hours.

\”He said \’if it wasn\’t for Judy I don\’t think I would have dogs.\”

Patching said Judy had been the driving force for Alec staying in greyhounds for so long.

\”He only gave training away in recent years,\” he said.

Well-known greyhound identity Paul Dolan once wrote: \”Alec and Judy Stevens epitomise what greyhound racing is all about.

\”They simply love the whole theatre of racing, from breeding pups to leading in the winners.

\”But for Alec and Judy it\’s not about the money. It\’s being involved with the greyhounds which keeps them happy and active. \”

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