Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Jen Shen is through to the Metal Worx Iron Dog final – to be run over 512 metres at Tara Raceway on Sunday – and if ever a greyhound deserves a tag of iron dog then surely it is the Tony Harding owned and trained black bitch.
Not four years old until January, Jen Shen had been lining up from box one for what would be start number 120 in last Sunday’s second round of the four-heat Iron Dog series over 400 metres.
A shock second placing in her opening round 600 metre heat the previous week at odds of $41 had her well placed on the point-scale although the $15 outsider in heat three of the short-course sprint still needed a top three finish to ensure a spot in the final.
But reputations counted for nothing. The expected “match race” between the well-fancied pair of Brazen Blue and last year’s Iron Dog winner Old Jock failed to materialise when Jen Shen led all the way to defeat Stampy Longnose – much to the delight of the “$5 rank and file punting brigade”.
It’s fair to say that Jen Shen, in what has been a busy two years of racing, doesn’t win out of turn. Her first win came at start number 32 when, as a $30 chance, she defeated Lektra Destiny. Then, 38 starts later, she won her second race – defeating Berry Bling at odds of $40 – before her third win last Sunday after another 50 starts.
By Fear Zafonic, she’s out of Ren Shen who won all but one of her eight races at Tasmania’s three tracks in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport for Hobart owner-breeder Robert English, a chiropractor specialising in Chinese herbal medicine – hence the naming of his greyhounds.
Only last month at Tara Raceway, litter brother Ming Men Shen – who has raced on “only” 64 occasions – was successful for Tahara trainer Bernie Rogers who actually also started out with Jen Shen.
However, a trailer incident at a trial track one morning was the last straw for Rogers who signed the then unraced bitch over to Harding.
“I’d been helping Bernie at the trials on this particular day but after Jen Shen trashed his trailer he went off his head and said I could have the bloody thing,” Harding recalled.
The 72-year-old Hamilton-based Harding has been training greyhounds for more than 10 years although his involvement in the sport goes back much longer than that to a time when he was involved with Tracie Price, these days a leading local trainer.
In fact, a December 1998 Tara Raceway race programme, plucked at random from the archives, revealed that a greyhound called Return A Smile, owned by Harding and trained by the then Branxholme-based Price, had won a maiden stake (512 m) and picked up $70 in prizemoney.
In what will be her toughest test in 121 starts, Jen Shen – certainly an iron dog before the race is even run – has drawn box three in Sunday’s Metal Worx Iron Dog final.