INTRIGUING NZ DERBY FIELD
Two factors stand out when looking at Thursday’s Mike Stent Decorators NZ Derby field. Nine of the ten listed runners are New Zealand-bred, while nine of the ten are provided from just two kennels. Pictured: Vikings with his co-trainer Canterbury Futurity victory (pic Dave Robbie)
Having so many Kiwi bred greyhounds contesting this $40,000 Group 1 Blue Ribbon event is a testament to the quality of the breeding programs being carried out around the country. It certainly adds additional spice to who will claim the $1,000 NZ Breeders’ prize awarded to the first NZ bred chaser to finish the race.
The five 457m heats held last Thursday resulted in complete domination by the Lisa Cole kennel and the Dave and Jean Fahey kennel. It took until the final heat for another trainer to qualify a finalist from outside this pair.
That greyhound was Thrilling Surge for Karen Walsh who strongly surged home along the rail secure his 25.48s win. His finish along the rail was the key for this noted railer, therefore being allocated the five trap to be loaded away into says he isn’t entirely suited being drawn there.
“His draw certainly hasn’t helped him – he is desperate for the rail. He won’t go around a dog and he tends to give the rail a nudge when he’s on it. He has to get himself into a good handy early spot and he is a chance if he does. He’s a hundred percent fine within himself,” confirmed Walsh.
Lisa Cole prepared three of the heat winners which included the 25.49s pace-making Bigtime Dazzler. He must undertake those same dazzling on-the-pace racing tactics after jumping from the one trap here. Drawing adjacent to him is Spare Some Time who dictated the pace throughout when delivering his 25.76s heat win. He’ll need to shave a few tenths of that time in this field. Remember this bloke was the runner-up in the Waikato Classic over 457m at Group 2 level during the Waikato New Year meeting.
Mike Stent Decorators NZ Derby finalists (from left): Thrilling Surge, Bigtime Dazzler, Spare Some Time
The omen choice in this event has to be Storm Warning judging by the rough weather warning issued for the entire northern region. He is the only Aussie bred finalist and he impressed in a strong manner that he delivered his 25.56s heat win. Jumping from trap eight can assist his stakes claim here, especially as he’s likely to receive a nice drag into the first turn. Likely to present that passage to him is his kennel mate Allegro Gun who fairly skipped across the sand/loam surface prior to being gunned down by Thrilling Surge by a half-length margin. He will leap from the seven trap here. He finished a bold third in that same Waikato Classic final.
The trainer's husband Brendon Cole was at the vet’s with a brood bitch undergoing a caesarian section when we attempted to make contact with him for comment. His brief comment via text was, “We are rapt with their draws. All dogs pulled up really good and are set to go on Thursday.” He did imply that he thought Storm Warning will be the hardest from the team to beat, while prior to the heats he had suggested that Allegro Gun is now a much stronger greyhound than when he contested the Waikato Classic final.
That leaves the Fahey’s with the balance of the field. Their Canterbury Futurity Group 2 winner Vikings was their heat winner when he stylishly delivered his 25.62s gallop. He has drawn the best from the kennel who are rapidly closing in on the impressive training feat of producing 100 Group race winners. The Fahey’s start this meeting sitting at an amazing 98 winners at the elite level. All of the Fahey’s remaining runners, including both reserves, were heat second place finishers. Min Ho finished stoutly from out of the midfield pack for his 1.25 length second behind kennel mate Vikings. He will be loaded away into the four trap here.
Mike Stent Decorators NZ Derby finalists (from left): Storm Warning, Allegro Gun, plus pictured together Min Ho (green & white) and Vikings
Bomb’s Falling produced a bold track debut effort when he pressed on to claim his three-quarter length heat runner-up possie to Bigtime Dazzler. He must break quickly from trap six. The stake earning claims that first reserve Opawa Brad cannot be lightly dismissed if he gains a race start after he finished 3.25 lengths astern of Storm Warning. Mazu was sighted putting in huge late bounds when after settling in the rear group he flew late when snatching his 3.75 length heat second to Spare Some Time.
Dave Fahey advised that all kennel runners has pulled up very well following their respective heat assignments. “They are all good and are ready for Thursday. Unfortunately, our dogs have come out on the wrong side of the draw which means they’ll be looking for some early racing luck,” he advised. He also added that he couldn’t pick out a favoured kennel runner, although when pushed he indicated, “Vikings, but only if he gets clear early on the pace run.”
Mike Stent Decorators NZ Derby finalists (from left): Bomb’s Falling, plus the reserves Opawa Brad and Mazu
By Peter Fenemor