Monday, September 17, 2018
The SA Derby has always been a tough race to win, even back in 1971 when the inaugural classic was run at Strathalbyn and won by the Whyalla young gun North Kinta.
These days, with the Derby carrying Group status and a $25,000 first prize, it’s little wonder that the age-restricted series for male greyhounds also attracts top young performers from interstate, in particular Victoria.
Mount Gambier’s leading trainer Tracie Price, after his recent Peter Rocket Winter Classic winner Smart Knocka impressed with a sub-30 seconds win at Angle Park 11 days ago, then decided his September 2016 whelping warranted a crack at Group 3 glory.
The BGC Industrial Cleaning Supplies SA Derby (515 m) got off to a flying start at Angle Park last Thursday night when Victorian greyhound Nervous An Weird, already a winner of more than $30,000, won the first heat in a flying 29.59 seconds for Cranbourne trainer Ashlee Terry.
Then it was Victorians Grey Ghost, trained at Anakie by Jeff Britton, and Pearcedale trainer Seona Thompson’s Aston Kimetto, a Group 3 winner this year at Warragul, that fought out the second heat which was won in 29.64 seconds.
And by the time the third and final heat of the Derby came around, it did appear as though a clean sweep for Victorian greyhounds was on the cards, Anakie trainer Angela Langton’s Blue Shadows a long odds-on favourite on the strength of some quick wins at Sandown Park.
Smart Knocka, on the other hand, was one of the rank outsiders at $14 although he looked anything but a longshot as he charged out of the first turn in front. And that’s where he stayed, his more-fancied rivals languishing at the rear as he careered away to a 5¾ length win in 29.64 seconds.
The blue youngster, by Knocka Norris out of 16-race winner Who’s Doing What, was bred by Price who races Smart Knocka in partnership with WA father and son team Peter and Andrew Haines, also owners of the dam.
Who’s Doing What – who traces a long way back on her dam’s side to Bulwark, one of Australia’s greatest and fastest dogs – will be mated with Fernando Bale next week, her litter sisters Star Recall (40 wins and $445,000 in stakemoney) and High Recall (12, $50,000) having already been mated with the boom sire that currently stands at a fee of $8800.
Price, in bed by 4.30 a.m. on Friday, looked surprising fresh a few hours later at his Compton kennels as he proudly showed off the laid back Smart Knocka who also didn’t seem any the worse for wear.
He has now raced on seven occasions for five wins, his trainer saying that Smart Knocka didn’t really break-in any quicker than the rest of the litter.
“Encouraging breaking-in assessments are nice but they don’t always mean much,” he said. “I’ve had dogs broken-in with outstanding reports that haven’t really reached great heights.
“Actually, it wasn’t until I ran him as an unnamed youngster over 512 metres on a trial morning at Tara Raceway and he clocked 29.96 seconds that I thought I might have something here.”
For the 54-year-old Price, whose first recollection of greyhounds goes back to when he was eight years old and a brood bitch called Russell’s Girl (Nulla View x Keymac), a win in the SA Derby will give him his biggest success in 30 years of training.
“Probably two of my better wins so far have been a Stan Lake Memorial at Warrnambool and the 2013 SA Country Cup with Moorak Hope at Gawler,” he said.
As far as Tracie Price was concerned, last Thursday at Angle Park was a night when reputations counted for nothing.
And it was also the night that Smart Knocka struck a blow for South East greyhound racing, putting himself in the mix for success in the time-honoured classic, perhaps even more so after drawing box one in this Thursday night’s final.