In reality, it was the heat which served only as a practice for next week’s Regional Final, but Queensland trainer Tom Tzouvelis would have been delighted with the hitout of his dog Cooper Dooper in the Lismore heat of the TAB Million Dollar Chase on Tuesday.
With only nine dogs nominated for the Lismore event which was attributed to the difficulty for Queenslanders to cross the border and then return home into quarantine, all eight runners in the heat advanced to next Tuesday’s Regional Final, where the first three across the line will qualify for the semi-finals of the world’s richest greyhound race at Wentworth Park on October 9.
And while they couldn’t be there with their dogs, it was a pair of Queenslanders who would quinella the heat, upsetting the odds-on favourite, local star All Hands Off.
Tony Brett’s Hammer Down showed blistering speed to lead from box five, with All Hands Off and his litter sister Tribal Magic straight into second and third. Copper Dooper was checked soon after jumping as he tried to head to the rail from box three, but would soon move through the field to be fifth - again receiving a check - on the first turn.
When Hammer Down opened up a handy lead up the back, he looked very hard to run down, especially when All Hands Off was checked by his sister.
But Cooper Dooper knuckled down to the job and rattling home was able to charge at such a rate he had a length to spare on the line from his fellow Queenslander, with All Hands Off running on for third in a time of 29.93s.
“He’s a good dog Cooper. He’s racing in a good patch of form at the moment,” said Tzouvelis. “He’s very strong and Tony’s dog that led, he’s the sort of dog that will develop fitness with each run he has over 500m, so I knew we weren’t out of it even though we were back where we were. He’s had a few races like that where he has come from well back.
“He got my hopes up when he jumped, then he got that bump that put him off balance. I thought for a second he was going to make life easy and be possied up well.
“He had to work a bit but that’s his first run there (at Lismore) out of the 500m boxes. When he was a young pup Brad Northfield trialled him a couple of times over the 420m for me, so he had been to the track before over the short trip, but never over the 500m, so it was a bit of learning experience for both of us, but he did well.
“Peter Simpson is looking after him for the series for us, and I spoke to Peter after the race and he said he came through the run well and seemed well within himself.”
While today’s result was effectively irrelevant, Tzouvelis said the race was still significant and important to his dog.
Cooper Dooper has drawn the rails for next Tuesday’s final, and will come out alongside All Hands Off. Hammer Down will again use his brilliant speed but will have to cross the field from box eight at the start.
“He’s had a look at the track now, and he’s drawn the one in the final,” Tzouvelis said.
“The dog in the two (All Hands Off) is the one to beat. She is all class, she is a very good bitch. Looking at it, I think it would be a matter of the eight (Hammer Down) looking the leader in the race to me, and he’ll get a bit stronger and be better for today’s run. I think it depends on whether All Hands Off or Cooper possie up better. I know Cooper came from behind All Hand Off today but she did get a check in the back straight as Cooper was making his run.
“I think which ever one is in front of the other down the back straight will be the one to beat. I don’t know if either of them would run the other one down.
“He’s got the right draw and hopefully all goes well, and we get through to the semis.”
A year ago Tzouvelis qualified Brandi Alexander for the TAB Million Dollar Chase semi-finals through the Casino series, but she had no luck when she came to Sydney looking to reach the final.
Interesting runner in next week’s final is Evelyn Harris’ Bad Neighbour. A year ago she finished second to Smooth Act in the Lismore final earning a place in the semi-finals and will be looking to repeat that at start number 126 next Tuesday.