Zammits have the numbers, but now banking on Group 1 luck

Caption: Mick Zammit and All Natural take centre-stage after a Group 1 Gold Bullion heat win at Albion Park on Thursday night. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)  

By Pat McLeod

Team Zammit may have a firm grip on this year’s Group 1 Gold Bullion Final (520m), but master trainer Mick Zammit knows his kennel still needs one more crucial ingredient – luck.

Successful northern Gold Coast husband and wife greyhound training team, Selena and Mick Zammit, have four runners in the $375,000 final after Thursday night’s four Gold Bullion and three Gold Cup (710m) heats at Albion Park.

However, Mick tempered the celebrations after Cluster, All Natural and Another Chance joined Golden Ticket winner Jay Is Jay in next Thursday night’s final.

“We have got four in the final and three of those are litter-mates,” he said.

“That is just amazing.

“Of course, Jay Is Jay has been a special dog, but it would be great if any of them could win this.

“Yes, we did win the Million Dollar Chase last year, but over the years we actually don’t have a lot of luck in big races.”

Those words hit home later on Thursday night, when kennel trump Jay Is Jay drew the eight.

Despite that draw, Mick was rapt with his kennel’s heat performances, especially the win to All Natural, who with Jay Is Jay and Cluster, are all from the same Sennachie – Kealoah litter.

“That was sensational tonight,” he said of All Natural’s win in 29.90.

“We have always known that he has got a lot of ability.

“When they were pups, if I had to pick one, I probably would have picked him as the best out of the litter.

“In his early trials, what he could run was amazing. It is really just his last few starts that he is showing that again. 

“It just took him ages to get into a really good race rhythm.”

While the numbers game weighs heavily in Mick and Selena’s favour, both Jason Sharp (Morton) and Travis Elson (Bear’s Bullet) are far from discouraged about their final’s claim.

“I go in to next week’s final with a little bit of confidence,” Lara (Victorian) based Sharp said after Morton had edged out Greg Stella’s Magistrate in the fastest heat (29.90).

 “That was a great run. He has done well.

“Since Sydney (where he failed to make the final of the National Derby) we have given him a pretty easy couple of weeks. We have backed off because we have a lot of races coming up.

“We went in a little bit under-done, so I’m really happy with him.”

Ultra-consistent group performer Bear’s Bullet was back to near her tenacious best, winning her heat in 29.92.

“She is an amazing dog. She just wins it at the start,” Elson said, before revealing there were plenty of doubters after his bitch ran third as favourite in her return to the track at Albion Park on Saturday.

“I had a lot of people during the week saying that Bear’s Bullet is off her best.

“Her tenacity to stay in front is amazing. It is as though she hears them coming and just says ‘no, I want to get there first, not you’. She is a tiger.”

Elson acknowledges that although Bear’s Bullet is not the fastest dog in the final, she does have claims.

“She just needs to find that fence, get clear, run those first two sections and then she will just try her heart out.

“If she is to win this race, she wins it at the start. She has to jump to the front, just like she did in the Ipswich Cup.

“Dogs are different when they’re chasing.

“Some of these good dogs (in the final) can run really quick times, solo. But when you get them in a full field, it comes down to box draw and luck getting out of the boxes.”

It was a bitter-sweet night for Elson whose defending Gold Bullion champion Hello Mike did not finish his heat after suffering a serious muscle injury.

That heat was won by Tom Tzouvelis’s Saanvi, capping off an incredible night for the kennel.

Other than her securing a Gold Bullion final spot (and the two reserves – Scarlatti and Valhalla), Tzouvelis also nabbed four positions in the Group 1 Gold Cup Final (710m) – Pursuer, Scintillate, Sorority and Sanisha.

“Tonight has been a great night for the kennel,” said kennel representative Jedda Cutlack.

“So, really happy to end up with good representation across two group races. That is what we aim for.

“We don’t have as many dogs in the kennel as we used, but we certainly like to keep the quality there and I think that shows tonight.

“I was really happy with Saanvi’s run tonight.

“She always finishes off her runs really well. Tonight she was able to jump with them instead of jumping behind.

“She really put herself in the race and got the reward.”

Tzouvelis’s Sanisha won the third of the Gold Cup heats, surprisingly relegating hot favourite Valpolicella (Tony Zammit) to second.

“I was surprised to beat Tony’s dog tonight,” said Cutlack.

“I always believed she (Sanisha) would be a good stayer.

“They haven’t gone at a blistering pace, but it was just a good run.

“The fact that we have got four in the (Gold Cup) final is just amazing and they are all out of the same mother (Sherbini).

“I’m happy for us, but obviously the breeders have done a great job.”

The other two Gold Cup heats were won by Shane Drummond’s Sale Cup champion, Drill Sergeant, and Tim Britton’s Pearly Tears.

The Melbourne-based Drummond flew in to Brisbane with his dog at midday on Thursday and was flying out early on Friday.

Although having campaigned over Geelong’s 680m and of course Sale’s 640m, Thursday night’s heat was Drill Sergeant’s first time over 700m.

“That was a good run and over the last 40 metres you could tell he was starting to struggle a little bit,” Drummond said.

“Hopefully he pulls up good and will be better for the final.

“He is a very relaxed dog. He just laid on the floor of the motel for about four hours after the flight up.

“This is my first time at Albion Park, but it looks like a good set-up.

“As far as the final is concerned, you can never go into a dog race with confidence.

“In dog racing everything has to go your way. I am just rapt that he won and got around OK.”

The Churchable-based Tim Britton was also happy with the 41.87 winning performance of Pearly Tears, who was flown up from the Britton family’s Lara (Victoria) headquarters last week specifically for the Gold Cup.

“That was a good run,’ he said.

“I wasn’t sure how well she would go because she has only trialled here last week and only three-quarters of the way around.

“She didn’t start very well, but then she worked through the race and got there in the end.

“Since flying up last week she has settled in very well. She is very relaxed up here.

“She will most likely go back to Victoria after the final.

“Personally, I think she is one of the better stayers around. She is very honest.

“If she can get out well next week, I think she can be right in it.”

The Box draws:

Group 1 Gold Bullion (520m): 1. Bears Bullet (Travis Elson), 2. Magistrate (Greg Stella), 3. Cluster (Selena Zammit), 4. All Natural (Selena Zammit), 5. Morton (Jessica Sharp), 6. Saanvi (Tom Tzouvelis), 7. Another Chance (Selena Zammit), 8. Jay Is Jay (Selena Zammit). Res: 9. Scarlatti (Tom Tzouvelis), 10. Valhalla (Tom Tzouvelis).

Group 1 Gold Cup (710m): 1. Pursuer (Tom Tzouvelis), 2. Scintillate (Tom Tzouvelis), 3. Pearly Tears (Tim Britton), 4. Big Suzie (James Shaw), 5. Valpolicella (Tony Zammit), 6. Drill Sergeant (Shane Drummond), 7. Sorority (Tom Tzouvelis), 8 Sanisha (Tom Tzouvelis). Res: 9. Buckeye Bullet (Wayne Spann), 10. Spot On Polly (Greg Brennan).



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