Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club

Tara Raceway, Lake Terrace East, Mount Gambier, SA

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Aston Olenna: ‘right age, right quality’

Aston Olenna in action at Tara Raceway.

According to Allendale East trainer David Peckham, Aston Olenna, winner of the recent Razza Racing Feature Maiden (305 metres) at Tara Raceway, is likely to be set for the forthcoming Summer Classic (512 m), a series for dogs and bitches whelped on or after January 1, 2019.

“He’s the right age (January 2019) and I reckon of the right quality,” he said after the fawn dog had raced at Murray Bridge last Friday. “I was happy enough with his second in a heat at the Bridge over 395 metres, considering it was first look at the track.

“He looked a bit lost so I’m hoping he’ll be improved by the run when he tackles the grade six final up there on Friday. After that there’s only a bit over a week before the Summer Classic heats in Mount Gambier.”

Peckham will be chasing consecutive classic wins with the 36 kilograms son of Aston Bolero x Aston Selena after Sweet On Me defeated Bay Me and Call Me Billy in last year’s event. The final will be run on Sunday, February 28.

Also in the kennel and of classic age is Noir Star, a March 2019 daughter of Rippin’ Sam x Vicki Keeping. Owned by Carl Margariti, this is the maiden dog that clocked a quick 29.74 seconds last month in a maiden/one win (512 m) when running second to Spring Driven.

But Noir Star, with $825 in earnings, broke her maiden status at Tara Raceway on Sunday when Peckham opted to run her against seasoned kennelmate Rajasthan, a winner of more than $400,000, in the South Eastern Hotel Mixed Stake (600 m).

Having her first crack at the middle-distance journey, Noir Star was giving early leader Rajasthan a fair start down the back before finishing strongly in the run home to get up by a neck in 35.64 seconds.

Not that it was perhaps all that surprising she ran out a strong 600 metres given her dam Vicki Keeping won three races at Richmond over 618 metres and 717 metres and one over 720 metres at Wentworth Park.

Mel Freitag, David Peckham and Jason Newman with Rajasthan and Noir Star.

However, Noir Star is no certainty to tackle the Summer Classic.

“At this stage I’d prefer to keep her at 600 metres if I can,” Peckham said. “Obviously if there are no middle-distance races available to her then the classic will be the second option.”

Meanwhile, Rajasthan has run his last race at Tara Raceway and returned this week to his Adelaide part-owner Tim Aloisi. The rising five-year-old has drawn box four in a 515 metres heat of a Masters series at Angle Park on Thursday night.

From a Summer Classic point of view there was little to come out of Sunday’s meeting with perhaps the exception of Cap Abbott’s Another Pick in the Klaassens Contractors Grade Five final (512 m).

With little 512 metres form featuring in her previous 27 starts, the daughter of Unlawful Entry and Proud Fantasy displayed plenty of early pace from box seven, leading until down the back straight where Stevick took over.

But Another Pick, a February 2019 whelping, battled on well, eventually finishing 2¼ lengths third behind Stevick and Slick Fernando in a personal time of 30.02 seconds. And that would make her more than competitive in the age-restricted classic.

The grade five final was originally planned to be run as a heats and final series. However, a lack of nominations resulted in the one-off final being run.

Greyhound Racing SA Racing Manager, Shaun Mathieson, said the controlling body’s policy on standard heats and final events was to run a straight out final with added prizemoney if there were insufficient nominations for at least two heats.

Compton trainer Tracie Price, who kicked the year off well with nine winners in January before following up with another three at February’s first meeting last Thursday, said he was currently weighing up his options as far as the Summer Classic was concerned.

“Yes, we’ve got quite a few early 2019 youngsters at the moment,” he said. “Now it’s a matter of working out which of them will be best suited to the conditions of the race.”

Following the Summer Classic will be the Michelle Niele Memorial Dual Distance Challenge, heats over 512 metres to be run on Sunday, March 7 and the 600 metres final on Sunday, March 14.

As far as Michelle Niele was concerned, cystic fibrosis had been with her for all of her 23 years. But she still developed a love of greyhounds which she co-trained with her father Michael.

Michelle died in November 2019, her father later making contact with the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club regarding the running of a race in his daughter’s memory. After all, he said, she had always enjoyed her trips to Mount Gambier with their greyhounds.

What with Covid-19 and all that went with it, the Michelle Niele Memorial has been a while coming. It should be worth the wait, though.

Third placegetter Another Pick takes the early lead in the grade 5 feature over eventual winner Stevick (No. 2) and runner-up Slick Fernando (No. 6).

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