By Andrew Thomson
There will be strong support for a local with a chance in the heats of the Healesville Cup on September 5.
Smart As Jack is owned by Michael Ryan and his father Darren in the Ryano Racing Syndicate. The sprinter was bred by Michael and his brother Jack is the track manager at Healesville.
The 33kg Moreira-Rose Magic black dog has had 45 starts for 18 wins, 13 placings while collecting just over $38,000 in prizemoney under the astute care of trainer Adele Powell.
Smart As Jack has managed an impressive eight wins at Healesville, with best times of 16.41 seconds and 19.18, as well as saluting at Shepparton in 25.06, Bendigo 27.86 and scoring at The Meadows.
The Ryans and Powell are keen about their charge\’s chance but know he may need a touch of luck early to show his mid-race turn of foot.
Among the other likely leading contenders are gun sprinters Utah Ghost, Dr Tucker and trainer Jason Thompson has been trialling and racing a few at Healesville and is expected to have a big hand in the cup.
He said Zambora Lou won the straight track cup last year and would return to defend the title, while Pirate Pete, Aussie Secret and rising star Rebellious could also be nominated.
Thompson said the talented Pirate Pete had eight starts at Healesville for three wins, three seconds and one third, clocking a best time of 18.94.
The Dyna Tron-Luzaka Icon dog has had 35 starts for 12 wins and his best times include 29.71 at The Meadows, 25.62 at Warragul, 24.70 at Ballarat and 29.80 at Sandown.
Thompson said if he trialled his dogs likely to go to the cup, then Pirate Pete would probably run the quickest.
Aussie Secret (Bernardo-Sunset Believer) has won seven of his past nine starts to take his record to 26 wins and 13 placings from 50 starts, collecting $160,000 on the way.
Rebellious (Barcia Bale-On The Runway) has had just 14 starts for 11 wins and two placings, picking up almost $40,000.
He\’s clocked 24.57 at Sale, 24.93 at Shepparton, Bendigo 23.42 and a stunning 25.24 at Geelong to stamp himself as a sprinter to watch.
\”Pirate Pete trials the best, Rebellious has only had a handslip there, but he\’s probably a better race dog. He\’ll probably go back for a trial before the Healesville Cup,\” he said.
Kennel star Aston Fastnet, a litter brother to super sprinter Aston Rupee is ultimately going to be set for the Melbourne Cup and the Phoenix at The Meadows in December.
The Phoenix is a slot holder race with each slot worth $75,000. There is $1.145 million on offer with $750,000 up for grabs to the winner for the race to be held on December 18.
The black dog by KC And All out of former Melbourne Cup finalists Aston Miley has won 11 of 24 starts – clocking 29.62 at Albion Park to show how fast he could go.
\”Before he raced he was very, very quick, but when he went to the races he just got overawed,\” Thomspn said.
\”He was very green those first few starts and showed nothing in a race like what he was trialling.
\”Second look at Ballarat he went 24.85 and I don\’t think he was 17 months old. He has enormous ability. It was just he was very green and he had a slight injury after his third start, which prompted an eight-week break.\”
Thompson said when Aston Fastnet returned to the track he won his next three starts – at Ballarat in 24.94, then 24.78 at the same venue before running 29.11 at Sandown.
\”He started to get it together. Early on he needed the fence badly. He was awkward and hit and miss at the boxes.
\”He\’s now had 20 odd starts and won the St Leger final at Warragul from box eight after going around the field. He went straight – that was very pleasing.
\”In the Maturity final he slipped coming out of the boxes, but barring that run, his last 10 starts he\’s been a reliable beginner.
\”He\’s adaptable, going from 500m to the half circle. From when he first started to now, he\’s not the complete package, but he\’s come a long way.\”
Thompson believes Aston Fastnet can stamp himself a star.
\”He needs another eight to 10 starts to be a very reliable race dog at the highest level, but he\’s heading in the right direction,\” he said.
\”He\’s a dog that takes thought to train. He\’s been a bit of a challenge. The trip away to Brisbane helped. It was two or three weeks away and sometimes that really helps them mature as a race dog.
\”He didn\’t make the final, but it wasn\’t about that. He came out in a normal race and showed what he could do. I\’ve noticed a big difference. He\’s matured a lot and it\’s been reflected in his racing.
\”Now I don\’t think there\’s a lot of difference between Aston Fastnet and Aston Rupee, who has always been a really good race dog.
\”They are both really fast. At that top level you always need a bit of luck, but they are brilliant.\”
Thompson said son Ben was keeping himself busy while having an enforced break as a Queensland-based jockey.
He said Ben, who has established himself among the top handful of jockeys in Queensland, was riding trials.
But, he\’s been keen to add to an impressive property portfolio and is building on his reputation of still having his play lunch money from school.
\”He rang and said he made $136 last weekend doing Door Dash food deliveries. He was very pleased with himself,\” Thompson said.
\”I told him he could probably go and catch a few dogs at Albion Park, get $10 a dog. I think he\’s seriously considering it,\” the gun trainer said with a laugh.