Peter Simpson wasn’t expecting to be at Wentworth Park tonight. Despite his best efforts and those of his dogs, he couldn’t manage to snare a qualifying spot in the GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase semi-finals.
But instead of sitting on the lounge at his Stratheden home near Casino watching TV, Simpson will head to Wentworth Park – as he puts it – two wins away from winning $1 million.
In the Regional Final at Lismore last month, Simpson’s dog Jonesy finished on the heels of Snug and Raven Izmir. Unfortunately only the first two advanced to the Chase semis, and with that Simpson realised his Million Dollar hopes were gone.
Or so he thought, before his phone rang last Sunday morning.
“Darren Russell rang me last Sunday morning,” Simpson explained. “He had the decency to ring me to say that his bitch Snug had hurt herself in a trial at Capalaba. He called to say I could be going into the semi-finals.”
Under Million Dollar Chase rules, if a semi-finalist from the Regional Finals is ineligible to take its place at Wentworth Park for the semis, then the third placegetter gets a start. With Snug having injured a back muscle, it paved the way for Jonesy to get a start.
“Darren is a great trainer and a good friend of mine and I really felt sorry for him when he rang me. And you have to also feel for the owners and the dog. Aside from that, you don’t like to see any dog get hurt.”
Jonesy continued racing after the Lismore series and won back-to-back middle distances races at Casino. He also trialled recently at Casino over a shorter trip and “he went great ... the best he’s ever gone.”
Amazingly having not been in the fields a week ago, Jonesy is now the sole representative of the Lismore regional series, after Raven Izmir was scratched from these semi-finals on Thursday.
“Put it this way, I’m one of those guys who thinks that things happen for a reason,” Simpson said. “I don’t know what the reason is, but I hope it’s a million dollar reason.
“We’re in there now, and I just hope the best ones on the night go through to the final.
“The reality is that somebody is two wins away from picking up $1 million … I can’t believe it.
“Two years ago we were done. The industry was dead and buried, now we’re chasing a million dollar race … it’s just unbelievable.
“Tony Mestrov and his team, those who have done this, it’s just unbelievable and I take my hat off to them.
“I’ve been in the dogs all my life - 60 years - and if you had have come up and said to me 30 years ago you would be racing for $1 million - the winner takes a million – I’d say mate, what are on?”
There’s that old adage: you’ve got to be in it, to win it. A week ago, Peter and Jonesy weren’t even in it. Now they have a one in eight chance to reach the Million Dollar Chase Grand Final, and from there, a one in eight chance of becoming a millionaire.
“Who would have thought that? Not me.”