By DAVID BRASCH
Each month Chase puts the spotlight on a person and/or their ‘best friend’ – a story that gives an insight into the true heart of greyhound racing (sponsored by Garrard’s Horse and Hound – a great supporter of the greyhound industry)
DARWIN-based mates Russell Savage and Steele Bolton were sitting in a pub back in October last year having a quiet drink.
Russell got a phone call from South Australian-based trainer Laurie Cahalan with an offer he and Steele could not refuse.
For $1100 they could buy a dog called Mepunga Zeus (Bella Infrared-Mepunga Hayley) – the dog already the winner of multiple races at The Meadows, Sandown and Angle Park.
\”He\’d already won at Angle Park in 29.40, but his form had tapered off by the time Laurie rang us,\” said premier Darwin trainer Steele.
\”The $1100 was to come out of the first win.\”
Victorian breeding legend Barry Smith had bred Mepunga Zeus from his Group 1 winning bitch Mepunga Hayley.
\”When I got him to Darwin, I trialled him over the 300 metres and he absolutely flew,\” said Steele. \”I had never, ever had a dog go that fast. And, he was best known as a dog who got a middle distance.\”
But, Mepunga Zeus came with a problem. He tied up badly after a race. He is such a fanatical chaser he puts every ounce of himself into a race and it can stress him.
Steele gave him time off and brought him back ever so slowly.
\”I went to Victoria for a holiday at Christmas and got to meet vet Des Fagan who advised me to do just that,\” said Steele.
That ‘steady as she goes’ build-up worked wonders for Mepunga Zeus. He won the Easter Cup at Darwin – the second biggest race in the Northern Territory.
Plans were hatched to send Mepunga Zeus to Brisbane to be trained by former Darwin trainer Jamie Hoskings.
\”I trialled him not long after he got here and he flew,\” said Jamie. \”The problem we faced was that he is top grade and is not really going to compete with dogs like Oh Mickey.\”
But, first up, Mepunga Zeus ran 30.00 at Albion Park to demolish a Masters event and the Darwin boys were immediately on cloud nine.
\”It was a huge thrill for Russell and Steele,\” said Jamie. \”How often do dogs come out of Darwin let alone come to Albion Park and run 30.00.\”
By that time, the $1100 buy had earned $16,000 for his new owners.
Jamie has his fingers crossed that Mepunga Zeus can match it with Albion Park top grade, but the ever presence of Masters racing is a godsend for the dog.
\”He is an amazing dog in that he is a war horse of a chaser,\” said Jamie. \”He\’s perfect around home, but get him to the track and he is there for one reason and one reason only.\”
The annual Darwin Cup carnival has been abandoned, but NT officials have decided to stage an added prizemoney series for locals in July called the Ladbrokes Cup. Russell, Steele and Jamie have that in mind for Mepunga Zeus.
\”We will play it by ear how he progresses from now to then,\” said Jamie. \”But, the dog\’s success has been a massive thrill for the boys in Darwin.
\”He\’s a bit too good to be racing in Darwin,\” said Steele. \”He\’s easily the best dog I\’ve ever had anything to do with.\”
When Mepunga Zeus won that Masters at Albion Park in May, he took his record to 19 wins and 20 placings from 81 starts for $60,000 in stakes.