Plenty of big names targeting Townsville Cup
By MIKE HILL
HE might have been given the ‘Magic Man’ tag, but Harold Hovi is still hoping a bit of magic will rub off on to his strong trio of runners heading into September’s $60,000 Group 3 Townsville Cup (498m).
Hovi goes into the rich series with two of the hottest young sprinters to hit North Queensland in recent times – brothers Excuse Me Jack and Redemption Day – and the kennel also has another runner, On A High, in top form.
On A High had a four-race winning streak going last month over the Cup distance with a slick 28.42s his best.
But the trainer based at Gumlu, between Bowen and Ayr, knows his trio will need all the luck they can get to qualify for the $40,000-to-the-winner final as a host of talented sprinters head north.
Steve Kavanagh has sent smart chaser Louis Rumble up from northern NSW in the hope of gaining Group glory.
Louis Rumble had to play second fiddle to Jungle Deuce in the G3 New Sensation (520m) at Wentworth Park in April and was unplaced to same sprinter in the G2 Flying Amy Classic (520m) at Albion Park in June.
Kavanagh, based at Pottsville, is hoping it’s third time lucky for the Fernando Bale-Joyce Rumble black sprinter.
He has an impressive 50 per cent winning strike rate with 16 wins and 10 minor placings from 32 starts and has amassed just over $73,000.
Louis Rumble and litter brother Sleek Rumble have joined the kennels of leading Townsville trainer Brad Belford for their tilt at the Cup (heats Friday, September 3; final Friday September 10).
The powerful Jodie Lord kennels could also be sending smart NSW duo Winlock On Top (80: 24-26-15; $137,426) and Ritza Donald (64: 19-16-9; $83,980) to Belford.
“I’ve been told there’s a good chance they will be coming,” said Belford, who’s still undecided about his own Cup runners.
Smart sprinter Still Tough is Belford’s logical candidate.
“But he has to show me a bit more in coming weeks,” the trainer said.
And about Kavanagh’s pair, Belford said although Louis Rumble was the better credentialed sprinter, there wasn’t a lot between the two.
“Steve said in trials only a couple of lengths separated them,” he said.
Meanwhile Hovi, who only ever has a small team in work, was originally given the ‘Magic Man’ tag by Townsville race caller Joe Dyer because of his ability to produce a winner.
It’s a skill he continues to hone and his record speaks for itself. Last month his winning strike rate stood at an amazing 55 per cent.
He has rugged up just seven dogs so far this year for 26 wins from 47 starts.
Hovi knows his talented young sprinting pair, members of the very smart My Redeemer-Fancy Dancer litter, lack experience – they have only been racing four to five months – but already their records are outstanding.
Excuse Me Jack has won 10 of his 12 starts and Redemption Day has six wins from seven outings and both are joint holders of the Townsville 380m track record of 21.42s with Tipsy Four.
Redemption Day hasn’t raced since his sensational 10-length win over 498m – his first go over the Cup distance – clocking a super slick 28.42s in early August.
However, he suffered a setback when he was gashed under the shoulder by a rival runner in the catching pen after the race.
“It was in a bad spot and they couldn’t stitch it,” Hovi said. “I’ve been working on him 24 hours a day since.
“He hasn’t missed much work and I’m happy with his progress, but he may not have another run before the series.
No Townsville-trained greyhound has won the Cup since it gained Group status just over a decade ago, but Hovi is hoping to change that this year.
“I’m extremely happy with my dogs and it would be good to win it for the club,” he said.
“I’m putting no pressure on myself. I’m treating it like any other race and I’ll just ride my luck.”
Townsville’s super sprinter Stratford has been warming up for the Cup racing in the Brisbane region for the past month under the care of Peter O’Reilly.
Owner-trainer Rhonda Essery said Stratford had suffered a bit of a virus and she had decided to send him south for a change of scenery and a bit of a freshen up.
Stratford has dominated racing in Townsville since winning the Country Cup earlier in the year and currently leads the club’s Greyhound of the Year award.
Essery, whose dream this year was to win the Cup with Stratford, said she was pleased with the dog’s progress.
“I’m happy the way he’s been going with Peter and he’ll certainly be back for the Cup,” she said.
Belford said a large contingent of Brisbane sprinters were expected for the Cup.
“Brett Hazelgrove is already here with a team headed by My Movie Star, Gerard Bowe has It’s A Rush, Peter O’Reilly is coming possibly with Flying Jet and Bailey, Tom Tzouvelis is certain to have a couple of runners, including Mitchell Street, and I’m expecting John Catton to make the trip,” he said.
“There’s been whispers that even dogs from Sydney and Melbourne may be coming.”
Group winning trainer Tony Brett, based at Grandchester west of Brisbane, had planned a Townsville mission for Rockhampton Cup winner Orchestrate.
However, the speedy sprinter injured an offside pin at Albion Park late last month in one of his final hit-outs before heading north and was stood down from racing for 28 days.
Brett was also informed that Orchestrate had to complete a stewards veterinary trial before racing again.
Meanwhile, committee member Steve Essery said the club was hoping for an eight-heat Cup series.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had eight,” he said. “We’re expecting at least six heats and we’d love eight.
“There are a lot of dogs up here at the moment.
“We had a 12-race meeting last Friday – that’s the most races we’ve ever had on a Friday and a lot of dogs still missed out on getting a run.”