Feral Franky, greyhound racing’s current cult hero, is poised to kickstart the TAB Million Dollar Chase series with an appearance at the event’s opening round of heats in Gunnedah.
While most would have expected the Forbes-trained star to tackle the round scheduled for his ‘home’ track at Dubbo, trainer Jack Smith revealed after The Feral won again at Wentworth Park on Saturday night, that Gunnedah is being seriously contemplated.
The TAB Million Dollar Chase – which culminates with the world’s richest greyhound race on October 18 at Wentworth Park – will begin on August 31 when the Gunnedah track makes its debut as a host venue for the series.
This year the series has more focus on the regional qualifiers, with the first four in each regional final advancing to the Chase semi-finals at Headquarters on October 11.
While he has won in fast time at both Dubbo and Richmond, and is familiar with Bathurst and Bulli – all Million Dollar Chase venues - Smith wants to target the early events.
Smith explained on the weekend that he is looking at both the Bathurst qualifiers on September 2, and the Gunnedah heats two nights earlier.
“We are tossing up between Gunnedah and Bathurst because they are the first ones,” Smith said. “We want to get him through (to the semi-finals) as quick as we can.”
Smith confirmed that Feral Franky has not been to Gunnedah, but is expected to head there for a trial in coming weeks, adding that the 527m journey is appealing for his come-from-behind sprinter.
“He’s never seen Gunnedah, but he doesn’t seem to worry about any sort of track. He’ll do his best for sure,” Smith said.
“The 527m is very appealing because it looks a little bit harder of a run (than the Bathurst 520m).”
Another reason why Smith wants to qualify early for the semis is so his kennel star can fit another feature into his schedule.
The Speed Star match-racing series will be held at Sandown Park on September 15 - the same date as the Dubbo MDC qualifiers – and having performed so well in the last Speed Star back in May, finishing second overall to Flynn, Smith wants to take his dog for another crack at the $20,000 prizemoney. But before then he needs to head to Sandown and post a qualifying time in order to gain a start.
“We would like to qualify him for the Speed Star which is run between the (early) heats and the semis of the Million Dollar Chase,” Smith explained. “We’re just trying to think ahead and if it comes off, it comes off.
“We don’t want to over-tax him, but we don’t want to be soft either. You have to be race-fit to race those (level of) dogs.”
Feral Franky took his record to 29 starts for 16 wins and 11 placings with another thrilling success at Wentworth Park on Saturday night, beating Zipping Clive and Zipping Truvy.
Not only did the win improve his remarkable record in town to six successes and six placings from 12 starts, but the 29.63s is the fastest The Feral has been around Wentworth Park.
Smith was also asked why he decided not to contest last week’s heats and subsequent State final of the Crocmedia National Sprint Championships.
“You can’t go in all of them,” he said. “He had June and July where he was (racing) everywhere. He had done such a great job and we were happy, and the owners weren’t that keen to put him on a plane (to race in the Perth in the national final had he been successful in Sydney), and it would have been difficult for us to spend a week over there.
“So it was just a combination of everything. The plusses and the minuses were to let him do what we’ve done this week (race in the FFA at Wentworth Park), then the next couple of weeks, just keep him going but reasonably lightly, and hopefully by the time we get to the Million Dollar race, we’ll be - touch wood - in full swing.”