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Finding the winning formula
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Worrolong greyhound Sookie’s Lad landed his first feature race win in a 57-start career when successful in last Sunday’s Formula 400 Sprint (400 metres) at Tara Raceway’s Mount Gambier Cup meeting.
Sookie’s Lad, who turned four years old earlier this month, settled in a forward spot from box two and after railing through on the home turn finished too well to defeat Ming Men Shen by a neck with a further half-length back to Slipper’s Chance.
By Premier Fantasy out of Sookie, a winner of 14 races and a litter sister to the Group-winning Kilty Lad, Sookie’s Lad is owned locally by Craig Hicks and trained by his father-in-law Steve Bartholomew.
The win made this year’s cup day even more special for Bartholomew, president of the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club, who handled Tara Topar, the inaugural cup winner in 1981, and has not missed a cup meeting in the ensuing 36 years.
And while Sookie’s Lad has now won 10 races and recorded 26 minor placings his trainer recalls that the black dog’s racing career back in July 2015 looked to be all but over after only 23 starts.
“He suffered a nasty foot injury at the end of a 400 metre race and was off the scene for six months,” he said.
“It actually required two bouts of surgery and to be honest at the time we doubted whether he would ever race again as the foot developed a deformed appearance.
“We were keen to persevere, though, as Sookie’s Lad had always shown potential and was a keen chaser. Not the fastest greyhound we had at the time but a pleasure to have in the kennels.”
And as a testament to the dog’s fortitude – and connections’ patience – he won upon returning to racing at the beginning of 2016 with a further four wins to follow prior to last Sunday’s cup-day success.
The Formula 400 was first run in 2015 when Tom Cryer’s Cryer’s Fred was successful, while last year’s event was won by the Dean Fennell trained Cerrone.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Last year’s cup day 600 metre feature, the Fireball, was won by the Phil Lenehan owned and trained Lektra Kelly.
This year the middle-distance feature was run as the Blue Lake 600 and it was Lenehan’s brother, Neville, or Nifty as he is better known, who was successful with King Obama.
By Kinloch Brae x Obama’s Girl, King Obama had defeated the highly-rated Texas Titan over 600 metres at Tara Raceway last month and as such had jumped a long odds-on favourite in his heat.
But the 35 kilogram black dog never fired a shot after finding plenty of trouble from box three and ultimately went down by 15 lengths to Lektra Kelly’s half-sister Lektra Destiny.
That effort saw King Obama relegated to a reserve, although as luck would have it there was a scratching and he lined up from box two in Sunday’s $2000 final.
And it was pretty clear a long way from home that Nifty Lenehan was going to win his first feature race as a trainer – he actually struggled with the presentation dais procedure – when King Obama careered away to a six length win in a personal best time of 35.60 seconds.
Not that there hadn’t been success in the past with Lenehan, now 51, enjoying heady times back in the late 1990s when he raced Star Of Mine.
By Head Honcho x Hoppy’s Star, Star Of Mine went around on 64 occasions for 23 wins and 18 minor placings and more than $74,000 in prizemoney.
Lenehan derived extra pleasure from Sunday’s success as he also bred the winner. He now has high hopes for Obama’s Girl’s next litter – by Cosmic Rumble and 16 months old.