A little luck goes a long way
The way Jason Thompson described it: “We had a bit of luck tonight.” Plenty would like for that sort of luck.
After the eight semi-finals of the world’s richest greyhound race, the GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase at Wentworth Park on Friday night, Thompson’s his wife Seona has three runners in the October 20, Grand Final, where the first prize is $1 million.
The Thompsons will have the fastest qualifier Poke The Bear, Midnight Starlet – who qualified for the semis in the Dubbo Regional Final – and Azkaban, who actually missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals before getting a reprieve.
And just for good measure, the Thompsons won the Group 1 Adelaide Cup with Real Simple on Friday as well.
But the luck wasn’t solely with the Thompsons. Local father and son training team Andrew and Adam Crouch, also have two runners qualified for the grand final, after both Jamella Jet and Big Butters stormed home and grabbed victories in their respective semis.
The final field is now made up of four Victorians and four dogs from New South Wales.
“It’s what dreams are made of. All day you have the races running through your head, but to get two through … it’s just amazing,” Said Adam Crouch.
Poke The Bear’s semi-final was billed as a match race between the two Victorians – Poke The Bear and Benali, the latter who set a stunning 29.29s in the city qualifiers in September, and it turned out that way as the pair charged out of the straight well clear of the field.
But Poke The Bear wasn’t weakening and had one and a quarter lengths to spare over Benali in 29.66s.
All throughout the GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase we kept hearing how the Victorians would dominate, and after they claimed 12 of the 14 City Qualifiers at Wentworth Park over the past three weeks, few would have argued.
There was even talk that Victoria could have all eight finalists.
Those suggestions went out the window after just two semi-finals on Friday, when the Crouch’s Jamella Jet came with a thundering finish to claim victory and a spot in next week’s Grand Final.
Victorian trio Blue Sky Riot, Not Available and Dyna Zesty battled for the lead out of the straight, while Jamella Jet got across well from the eight to sit in fourth.
Swinging for home Blue Sky Riot still had the advantage but was under siege and the local charged down the outside to claim the grand final berth in 30.05s on a track which had been beaten by rain throughout the day, and a one in eight shot at $1million for father and son training team.
Not Available grabbed second, half a length away while Watch The Wasp ran home stoutly for third ahead of Blue Sky Riot.
New South Wales fans only needed to wait one more race, for heat three, and the State had another grand finalist when the flying Sky Wave led throughout for a brilliant win in 29.85s.
The NSW representative in the National Sprint Championships in August, flew out of the six box and easily crossed her rivals, and once in front she was always going to be hard to get past.
The Mark Wilcox-trained Off The Leash ran home strongly for second with another local, Blue Moon Rising completing a NSW trifecta.
Jodie Lagogiane’s Mystic Riot clocked the best of the night in last week’s city qualifiers, and she showed that was no fluke when she hit the ground running and raced away for the most dominant win of the night, a 29.75s performance, winning by eight and a quarter lengths from Victorian Dyna Terror.
The run of the third greyhound Miss Splendamiro – one of the favourites to win the grand final – was incredible. She was squeezed and spat out the back soon after jumping and then checked another three times in the run, but continued to chase and finished up in third place.
That made it three for NSW and when the lids rose in the fourth heat, and Bogan Doonie came out running some anticipated another local victory and grand finalist.
And it looked that way until the home turn when Victorian Azkaban started to surge.
With a rattling finish the Thompson-trained runner picked up Bogan Doonie and claimed victory by a length in 29.75s.
Azkaban actually missed qualifying for the semi-finals, finishing fourth in a city qualifier behind Dyna Zesty. But when third placegetter that night Rita’s Boy had to be scratched due to injury last Saturday, and as such received an incapacitation certificate for 10 days, the spot in the semis went to Azkaban.
Thompson sent Midnight Starlet to David Pringle, her original trainer, to prepare for the Dubbo regional series, and prepare her he did, breaking the track record in the final. Pringle, whose wife Danielle owns the bitch, then sent the greyhound back to Thompson to get her ready for the semi-final, and she got her ready.
Midnight Starlet jumped straight to the lead and held off all challengers winning in 29.90s.
The powerful Andrea Dailly kennel was expected to play a role in the Million Dollar Chase, and they had the honour of training the first dog to qualify for the event, but to the surprise of most.
Dyna Harpa, at odds of $41, jumped straight ot the front and would never be headed, clocking 29.83s in beating National Sprint Champion West On Augie by three and a quarter lengths, with the fast finishing Yankee Ethics a close-up third.
The Daillys looked like they like they might snatch another spot in the grand final in the last semi of the night with Hecton Bale, but it was time for the Crouchs again to step up and Big Butters stormed home for victory in 29.69s the second quickest of the qualifiers.
5-Poke The Bear