By Andrew Thomson
Gippsland trainer Matty Clark believes the best is yet to come for up-and-coming star Catch The Thief after a dominant win in the prestigious Warragul St Ledger.
The light fawn 32.5kg Aussie Infrared-Dundee Ally dog has now had 25 starts for 15 wins and six placings, collecting $127,000.
The group three St Ledger trophy has now been added to the Western Australian Derby and the Winter Cup at Cannington as Catch The Thief went on a five consecutive win streak.
He won the derby final in a stunning 29.32, a length off the Cannington 520m record.
The St Leger final looked a race in two with Catch The Thief taking on the Jason Thompson-trained gun sprinter Zambora Smokey, but the $2.30 favourite missed the start and Clark\’s $3.40 chance made the final a one-act affair.
He clocked a slick 25.50, winning by about two lengths from Jeff Britton\’s Weblec Jet.
Clark said his kennel star came back from Perth and went to Wentworth Park for a trial in preparation for the Vic Peters, running a super quick 17.60 to the back.
He said he had heard that only champion Fernando Bale had gone quicker to the second sectional mark.
\”He bombed the start, but qualified for the final and finished fourth behind his litter brother Playlist, that I also train, so that could have been a worse result,\” he said.
\”It was good to see Catch The Thief back to his best at Warragul. He\’s going super.
\”He gave every indication he was going good. When we brought him back from Sydney he looked like he just needed a solid run.
\”I took him for a 520m at Cranbourne and it was a real heavy track after a three-hour drive from my place.
\”The track manager was more nervous about the trial than I was. He just couldn\’t watch. Catch The Thief went 30.20, he flew, 21.17 down the back.
\”That was the blow-out he needed and he was always going back there for the puppy classic.\”
Clark has been involved in greyhound racing for 30 years and said Catch The Thief was the best he had trained, closely followed by Playlist.
Playlist has had 23 starts for 10 wins and four placings, picking up just over $100,000 in prizemoney.
\”Good dogs run time. For the average dog, there will be excuses for the time they run,\” he said.
\”He\’s definitely the best I\’ve had and his brother won the Vic Peters.
\”It\’s a unique situation going into the Cranbourne Puppy Classic with the first and second favourites. I\’m quite humbled.\”
Clark said Catch The Thief had been something of a ‘one trick pony’ needing to get a clean start to show his best.
\”He\’s learning and we\’re giving him that opportunity by letting him race against his own age group while he can,\” he said.
\”He can now bomb the start and recover, he just keeps on coming and that just shows he\’s maturing.
\”He won three in a row at Sandown, (29.23, 29.21 and 29.32) but we\’ve kept him away from there because he will be up against the best – Simon Told Helen, Tiggerlong Tonk and Shima Shine, if he goes back there.
\”He\’ll get his chance against them but let\’s keep him to his age group for as long as we can.\”
Clark is now has considering his options with the Million Dollar Chase on offer and the Adelaide Cup.
\”I thought he was still eligible for the South Australian Derby, but he just misses out. We might head to Adelaide for the Cup instead.
\”He does still rely on box speed and seven out of 10 times he gets it right. Adelaide is a track that should really suit him.
\”He and Playlist sit in the boxes perfect, despite the COVID staggered starts. They just sit there, looking left. They are COVID dogs, suited to those starts.
\”That\’s one of their biggest assets, they just sit no matter how long they have to wait.\”
Catch The Thief has shown stunning early pace, clocking 4.95 to the first mark at Sandown.
\”I really think that on a good track he can go close to the record at Sandown. He\’s run 29.20 there and he\’s a better dog now, faster,\” Clark said.
\”Box draws don\’t worry him. He\’s maturing nicely.
\”They are interestingly bred by Aussie Infrared, so they have a double cross of the legendary Osti\’s Shadow line. There\’s a lot of that Osti\’s blood in them.
\”They really have great temperaments and that\’s what people seem to be after as much as anything else now. They are beautiful in the kennels, they want a pat, they\’re soft dogs.\”
Clark said he has 16 greyhounds in work and mixes pretraining, rearing and whelping with racing.
\”I heard for years from my Dad Geoff about a real good bitch he had called Miss Baines back in the 1970s.
\”His brother Roger did a breeding column for years and passed away last year.
\”Dad was banging on about Miss Baines for years. I\’m sure that in another 30 years I\’ll be testing the patience of my kids talking about Catch The Thief and Playlist.\”
Clark said Catch The Thief would get his chance in open company soon enough.
\”He\’ll head towards the Melbourne Cup. It\’s all about the business of Catch The Thief now,\” he said.
\”If he came out and won the cup, won 20 races from 30 starts he may never race again, he could be retired to stud.
\”A very good friend owns the majority of the dog with two friends. They trust what I say and do and they can\’t really complain up until now.
\”We have the dog\’s best interests at heart. Kenny Virtue was a great mentor to me.
\”Kenny was all about planning, preparation, being methodical and that approach was instilled in me.
\”I have the leaflet from Kenny\’s funeral at home and I look at it daily and I think about him a lot.
\”That reminds me to keep to my routine and plans, stick to the essentials and that\’s what I try and do,\” he said.
Pictured: Catch The Thief in full flight (Photo: Jason McKeown Photography through GRV)