Paws Of Thunder

Brothers In Paws: Whitfield, Wow & Ad Astra In G1 Heats

By Michael Cowley
They are the hottest litter in the country, between the four of them amassing 39 wins and 18 placings from just 66 starts, and almost $300,000 in prizemoney, and on Saturday night they make an assault on the Group 1 Ladbrokes Paws Of Thunder.

The progeny of Fernando Bale and Miss All Class are overflowing with talent, with Xerri finishing second in the TAB Million Dollar Chase last October, Wow breaking the Gosford track record and winning that club’s Gold Cup to add to the Goulburn Cup victory last year, and Ad Astra and Whitfield chalking up wins with monotonous regularity.

Xerri will be missing on Saturday as he prepares to return from a spell in next month’s Group 2 Bulli Gold Cup, and in preparation he trialled impressively at Maitland on Tuesday morning, but the other trio will all be chasing a spot in their first group 1 final on January 23, in separate heats of the Paws Of Thunder.

Wow - the number one dog in the State with Flying Ricciardo currently sidelined – has drawn box 7 in heat two and clashes with the likes of NSW Sprint champion Ritza Coen (box 1), Ebby Infrared (box 8) Sanctify (box 2) and Fire On Ice (box 5).

Ad Astra has drawn heat three and will jump from box 2 and must face reigning Australian Greyhound Of The Year Simon Told Helen - looking to open his Wentworth Park account - who has come up with box 8.

Whitfield is in the opening of the four heats and again has had little luck with the draw coming up with box 6 inside the speedy Vicki’s Queen, and while his trainer Darryl Thomas concedes his dog is up against it, he also knows the untapped ability Whitfield possess.

“It is an amazing litter, and Karina (Britton, trainer of Wow and Ad Astra) is doing a cracking job too and she probably needs to start taking a bit more credit for the effort she is doing,” Thomas said.

“But, in my opinion is Whitfield can turn the clock right down if he ever gets it right and be as quick as Wow or Xerri or even better. I think he’s the best of mine, he definitely beats Xerri every time I put them two out, he’s just got bad manners, not because he a bad dog, he just hasn’t got it right yet.

“You can’t make mistakes particularly in this company, and he’s making plenty. He’s had 14 starts for 9 wins but he’s got there on his ability, and now he needs ability and to do everything right and he’s not doing that at the moment 

“We’re hoping he’s going to get it right at the right time but at the moment he’s not and you can’t make mistakes in these races or they will just punish you.

“I think it’s a maturity thing for sure, and he is getting better. He’s gone from not being able to see him in the boxes, to the last two he’s actually down properly, he’s just nudging them. When he had the pink (two runs back at Wentworth Park) he smashed into the lid a millisecond before the opened. If he caught it at the right time he could have lobbed two in front and run 29.4s. It’s not out of his reach. 

“But if you don’t get the start right he’s wasting his breath. Look you never know things can happen and we might get through to the final with a bit of luck and draw an inside box in the final, but you need to be honest with yourself too. I know he’s a fast dog … but so are the other seven.”

Christmas Gift winner and Gosford Gold Cup runner-up Incapacitated has drawn nicely in box one and should settle just off the speed, while Victorian trainer Jason Thompson has Aston Silk in box 3.

The final heat looks wide open with a number of chances including the in-form Poppy Jack (box 5) who has won his past five in a row, Peter Lagogiane has Ava Wine (box 8), the brother of MDC winner Handsome Prince racing in great form, JODIE Lord’s Winlock On Top (box 2) who ran the best of the night a 29.68s in beating Ad Astra last week, and Michelle Sultana’s Unison (box 1) - a winner of four of five at Wenty, and a 29.72s performance -  who tuned up for the heats with a blistering 26.01s win at Bulli on Tuesday night.