It wasn’t that long ago that on big race nights at Nowra, Deb Coleman’s children would be a fixture, carrying those signs bearing the names of the feature event finalists. Their mother spent a long time working with the club, and Kayla-Jane and Ricky delighted in playing their roles on the big nights.
Last Saturday night at Nowra, the pair were again on hand for a feature – the Ladbrokes Nowra Puppy Classic – and both would again play a role, however significantly different this time around.
“It was a bit of a sentimental story for us this race on Saturday night,” Deb’s partner Robert Camilleri explained. “Deb comes from NSW and she worked at Nowra for a long time and her children used to go out holding the signs up in front of the dogs, and now, her children handle the dogs in these races and their kids are the ones coming out with the signs.
“On Saturday night Ricky and Kayla stayed at Nowra to look after the dogs there and Deb took off to Wentworth Park (where the couple had Slingshot Hammer engaged in the heats of the Group 3 Bob Payne).”
And both camps came out winners.
At Nowra, the family had Zipping Leroy and Zipping Norton engaged in the final. The latter was fancied following a smart heat win two weeks ago but was drawn out in the unsuitable eight, while the former had battled his way into the final, and despite having the one, was really only considered an outside chance.
“They are both very inexperience, both still immature pups,” Camilleri explained. “If Norton drew inside he would have found three legs, he’s mad for the inside, he goes very, very well when he draws inside, he just doesn’t know how to race around dogs yet.
“Leroy, before he went up there he only had a couple of starts on horse shoe tracks, and didn’t know how to race around two corners or 500m and he just progressed and learnt as he went along and (on Saturday) he got a dream run behind them and he’s very strong, so he had a bit of luck there and it was terrific.”
Zipping Leroy charged away on the home turn and won by 1 ¾ lengths from What Time Smoko, with the race favourite Regal Twist a further two lengths away in third. Zipping Norton had no luck and wound up in sixth place.
Zipping Leroy had managed just fourth in the heats on April 22, and as a result was only a reserve for the semi-finals.
“He only got into this race - or the semi - because of Kayla’s dog being injured. Kayla’s dog (Hypnotia) qualified for the semis, but got injured and had to be scratched and we were reserve and we got Kayla’s dog’s spot. It was terrible luck for Kayla, but look how it’s turned out.
“It’s a real family thing for us, and it was a great thrill for the whole family.
”Deb was over the moon. She’s had a long association with the track and the people who run the track at Nowra, and the kids were even raised on the track in some ways … you couldn’t have written a better script actually the way it turned out.”
While her children were collecting the $25,000 winner’s cheque in Nowra, they weren’t the only ones enjoying success. At Wentworth Park, Slingshot Hammer led throughout to win his heat of the Bob Payne in 29.64s, the equal fastest of the four heat winners, matching the time of Ambrosoli winner Jamella Jet.
“It was one of those weekends where everything just went right,” Camilleri said. “He’s got the motor this dog, we have just been working mainly on his box manners trying to get him out a bit better, and we had a bit of luck there. He can run time when he’s on the bunny like he showed (at Wentworth Park on Saturday).
“Don’t get me wrong he’s no superstar, but he’s very honest and he chases hard and he puts himself in the race and he’s given us a huge thrill.
“This is the whole family, that’s the way we train, we all work together and the thrill these dogs are giving us, you can’t put a price on it, and you have to really enjoy the good times when they are there.
“We haven’t got superstars in our kennels and we’ll travel anywhere we think the dogs can win. We don’t mind travelling, we split the workload up between us and we just work together.”
Slingshot Hammer has come up with the four box in next Saturday’s Group 3 final, but Camilleri knows there is little between the eight finalists.
“If you look at their times, I think he ran the quickest first two sectionals, but overall, the slowest overall to the fastest is only about three and half lengths.
“Luck will play a very big part in the final. I think if you ran this race five times over, you would come up with five different winners.
“We’re just happy to be there and whatever happens, happens.”