Tricky act to identify Magic Maiden talent
NSW’s most talented juveniles — most unraced — are being groomed for Wednesday week’s heats of the Ladbrokes Magic Maiden, greyhound racing’s equivalent of thoroughbreds’ Golden Slipper.
Heats over 520m at Wentworth Park are on March 14 with semifinals a week later and the $25,000to-the-winner final on March 31.
Early favourite is Ritza Millie, a daughter of her trainer Mark Gatt’s former champion Ritza Hattie — who earned more than $240,000 after winning the Group 2 Woy Woy Poultry Gold Cup at Gosford and Sandown Laurels along with the Group 3 Nowra Puppy Classic and The Ambrosoli at Wentworth Park.
Ritza Millie made her first public appearance on February 20, leading throughout to win a Wentworth Park trial in the top-grade time of 30.09. She led all the way again to take out a similar trial at Wentworth Park last Wednesday in 30.10.
“We had expected her to improve on Wednesday so that was a bit disappointing, but she still won the trial and showed good early dash,’’ Gatt’s brother and kennel foreman Daniel Gatt said.
Wednesday’s other Wentworth Park trial winner was Taken King, from the powerful Jodie Lord kennels. Taken King came from second early to beat his kennelmate Tornado Alley by just over three lengths in 30.15.
Winlock Huddy, another of Lord’s Magic Maiden hopefuls, was an unlucky second, beaten seven lengths, behind Ritza Millie.
“My three youngsters are exciting prospects,’’ Lord said. “When they went round at Wentworth Park last week they were having their first tests over 520m so they will improve for sure.’’
Western districts trainer Dennis Barnes, rarely without a strong candidate in major maiden events, will have four unraced but talented puppies in the Magic Maiden heats.
Barnes will nominate Nangar Jill, who defeated kennelmates Nangar Kash and Nangar Jack in a sizzling 25.65 performance trial over 450m at Bathurst late last month. He will also enter Nangar Gift, who led throughout in a 450m Bathurst trial on February 19 in a slick 25.83.
“I have had several placegetters in previous Magic Maidens but have not won it so this is a race I would dearly love to land,’’ Barnes said.
“Only question mark over my quartet is whether they will run a strong 520m but I am fairly certain the extra 70m over their Bathurst hit-outs won’t be a problem.’’
Brad Canty, among NSW’s most successful owners, will be represented by Steelcity Boxing and the unraced Mouse Runner in the Magic Maiden series.
“Mouse Runner clocked a very quick 24.99 in a 450m performance trial at Maitland on February 24 and his trainer, Darryl Thomas, has a big opinion of him,’’ Canty said.
“His kennelmate Steelcity Boxing was never out of trouble when seventh as $1.80 favourite at his race debut at Wentworth Park on January 10 but he is flying in trials.
“Darryl has been saving Steelcity Boxing for the Magic Maiden heats.’’
Steve Sing, who trains two greyhounds from his Kogarah backyard while juggling work as an electricity supplier, is setting Let’s Be Serious for the Magic Maiden.
Let’s Be Serious won a trial at Wentworth Park on February 20 in a nippy 30.25 before finishing third in Ritza Millie’s trial last week.
“I trained Black Affair, the mother of Let’s Be Serious, to win races at Wenty Park, but none were as important as the Magic Maiden,’’ Sing said.
Shooters Hill came from a long last to win his first Wentworth Park trial in a smart 30.17 last month but trainer Kerry Drynan was unsure whether to enter her youngster.
“Shooters Hill has ability but might be too slow early for a race like the Magic Maiden,’’ she said.
Blitzing Lass on her way to winning the 2017 Magic Maiden at Wentworth Park.