There’s been a definite changing of the guard in the sprinting ranks of Australian greyhound racing in recent times.
Six-time Group winner Zambora Brockie, has now officially been retired to stud following an illustrious career, while the likes of Group 1 winners Unlawful Entry, Worm Burner and Dundee Osprey are facing a barrage of opposition from some very highly talented chasers.
And the one greyhound that is on everyone’s lips is undoubtedly the odds-on favourite for this Saturday night’s Group 1 Sky Racing Australian Cup, Lightning Frank, who is shooting for his third Group 1 win at The Meadows.
In the past eight weeks, Lightning Frank (currently $1.90 with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds) has risen from being touted as a talented chaser to earning the title as possibly the best sprinter in Australia and a cursory glance at his race record during that time will confirm how good he is.
In early January, Lightning Frank was the beneficiary of an unfortunate racetrack injury to high class Queensland greyhound Thirty Talks, who was leading the G1 Silver Chief Classic by at least four lengths as they entered the back straight. Taking full advantage of the circumstances, Lightning Frank roared around the field to secure his maiden win at the elite level.
He then ventured to Sydney for a tilt at the G1 National Derby and lost no admirers when winning his heat before registering a solid third behind Big Daddy Bee in the final.
There were some questions raised as to how Lightning Frank would perform against the ‘big boys’ in the invitation-only G1 Temlee at The Meadows on the first night of the $1.3m Australian Cup carnival last week but in a twinkling of an eye, matched only by a sizzling 4.97 first split and a flying 17.44 run down the back straight, Lightning Frank put his rivals to the sword to claim his second Group 1 success in 29.66.
Going into Saturday night’s heats of the Australian Cup, the son of Black Magic Opal drew outside the very speedy Queensland galloper Zabdon Ferrari and most pundits (including this one) and speed maps had Zabdon leading in the early stages with Frank proving too strong in the run home.
We now know that Lightning Frank can’t read and doesn’t listen to what people say – he reeled off a blistering 4.94 to the first mark; flew down the back straight in a breath-taking 17.40; before stopping the clock in a Best-of-Night 29.53.
“I’m glad he proved you wrong,” laughed trainer Mathew Wright who prepares a team of just three greyhounds while operating a fencing business at Allansford, near Warrnambool, in Victoria.
“I would have been happy for him to clock the same times he ran in the Temlee but he’s just gone to another level and hopefully it continues this week,” said Wright.
A typical, laid-back country bloke, who you can’t help but like, Wright and his family have been involved in greyhounds for more than twenty years and he is still pinching himself at the meteoric rise that his dog has experienced in 2017.
“We got our first dog off Kevin Mugavin and since then, we’ve bought some, bred some, and had some luck, but it’s still a hobby for myself as the fencing business is our main source of income.
“It’s hard to know what will happen at box rise because at this level they’re all very impressive dogs but it doesn’t appear as if the two greyhounds drawn inside him have a great deal of early pace and I’d love to see him come out running again.
“If he was to miss the start I think there’s only a couple of dogs that he could run down but if Eminent Reality was to lead him, I think we’d find it tough to win because his last section is simply outstanding,” Wright said.
The former West-Australian appears to be the obvious threat to the favourite following an outstanding heat victory in 29.60 off the inside box, the same box he will exit from in the $250,000 to the winner final.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the win but I’m more delighted with the way he began tonight,” said Jacqui Greenough, wife of trainer Kel Greenough, on Saturday night.
The youngest and least experienced greyhound in the field with just twelve starts and nine wins on his CV, Eminent Reality ($3.50) headed across the nullabor following a dominant victory in the G3 Young Stars Classic at Cannington in November last year.
Such is the class of the up and coming youngsters and the way the box draw has fallen, proven top-line greyhounds such as Blazin’ Bomber ($10), Aston Bolero ($6.50) and Fanta Bale ($12) are all considered marginal chances and as with the remaining runners, they will need luck to go their way if they are to take out the 59th running of the Australian Cup.
On times, Lightning Frank ‘should’ lead Eminent Reality by nearly three lengths at the first mark and by five lengths down the back, but as we all know, greyhounds aren’t machines and they certainly don’t read or listen to the pre-race scripts of the so-called greyhound racing pundits.
Good luck and good punting.