So far in the GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase Regional Finals, we have had ‘upset night’ at Bathurst, ‘favourite’s night’ at Lismore, and on Thursday night at Maitland, it was ‘ladies’ night’.
Big Black and She’s Gifted, both trained by women, finished one and two in the Maitland final, and both will now advance to the semi-finals of the $1.8 million series to be run at Wentworth Park on October 12. The winners of the eight semi-finals that night will progress to the $1 million to the winner grand final at the same venue eight nights later on October 20.
The Maitland decider looked on paper as potentially the best regional final to date, but when Big Black flew the lids, and got the lead, it was going to be very difficult for any of his rivals to get around him.
Impossible as it turned out, with Donna Campbell’s dog racing away for a 24.85s win. Victorian She’s Gifted, trained by Deb Coleman, ran into second out of the back and held that place to the finish to grab her berth in the semis. Darren Russell’s Yeah Okay was third, with his kennelmate, the well fancied Precious Sal - who beat Big Black in last week’s heat - not having a lot of luck from the five box and never in calculations.
While he has some great form over 500m, notably narrowly missed the final of this year’s Golden Easter Egg at Wentworth Park, then winning the consolation of that event, the Group 3 Ambrosoli, Campbell explained her reason for targeting Maitland was because of the shorter, 450m trip.
“He split the webbing (on his foot) at Wentworth Park back in April and was off the scene for quite a while,” she explained. “He’s also had a tendon problem with his shoulder for quite a while now, and he limps off the track after he race.
“He’s a very good 500m dog but he’s just been fresh and that’s why he jumped so well. We gave him a trial at Dapto and he went 16.8s and then we gave him a trial at Bulli and he went 22.39s … they are just good sprint times.
“That’s why we came to Maitland because although he’s a 500m dog, Maitland had the shortest distance basically, and then when he came up with the one box … you cannot get that dog off the fence, he’s on that fence and that’s it, so it was ideal.
“He’s just a good dog. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dog that gives you everything like he does. And the three guys who own him are just the best. They give me free reign on where to place him and not all owners are like that.
“With this series, we just thought we may as well take a bite at it early, and now as it’s turned out that we’ve got almost a month now to get him perfect for the semi-finals.”
The series also headed to Dubbo on Thursday with one heat conducted and it was Ray Smith’s talented sprinter Little Digger storming home to win in 29.60s and maintain his unbeaten record of five wins from five starts at the Central West track.
Second went to Cliff Keeping with Bogan Villa finishing third.
The box draw for the final was conducted after the race, with Little Digger drawing box eight.
3- Nangar Ace
4- Cliff Keeping
6- Lexie Keeping
7- Bogan Villa
8- Little Digger