Trained by David Phillips, Butterfly Bling caused the upset of the night last Thursday night when the unheralded stayer came from last to defeat two of the series favourites at the amazing price of $40.10.
“I thought she could run fourth,” said Phillips.
“A bloke from work had $50 each way and I thought he was a nutcase.”
“I thought the two favourites (Sweet It Is and Rocky Bale) were a certain quinella and was hoping with a little bit of luck we could run fourth.
“It wasn’t until about half way down the straight I thought I had it won. After they crossed the line I remember saying ‘I just won the race’ – I still can’t believe it.”
The path to the Sandown Cup was an unusual one for the Endeavour Hills based mentor. Having formerly worked at the old Olympic Park greyhound track and spending time with several leading trainers in the 1980s, Phillips hung up the lead in the early 1990s as family and work commitments made it impossible to dedicate time to training greyhounds.
While always wanting to get back into the sport he loves, it wasn’t until he befriended young greyhound racing fan Nick Beltran more than 20 years later that he decided to get back into the game.
“I manage the sports bar at the Lunico Hotel in Clayton where Nick was a regular. I got to know him after a while and he wanted to get a dog for me to train. I actually had no intention of training a greyhound but Nick bought the kennels and equipment so I decided I’d better get my trainer’s license again.
On the lookout for something to have a bit of fun with on the track and to breed from on retirement, Phillips and Beltran approached breeder, trainer and good friend John Westerlo.
“I’ve known John for over 30 years and we asked about another of his greyhounds, Lollypop Bling who is a sister to Warragul Cup winner Walk Hard, but he wanted too much for her!” said Phillips with a laugh.
“But he did offer another from the litter, Butterfly Bling, so Nick bought her for $5000 plus a pup from her first litter.”
Not only did Butterfly Bling – or ‘Amy’ as she is otherwise known – have the breeding the pair was looking for, she was also the challenge Phillips craved.
“When we got her she was just so timid.
“She wouldn’t come out of her kennel for two months and showed no real interest in racing. I decided I was going to train her differently, really go one on one with the greyhound and hopefully bring her out of her shell.”
During the process, Amy has truly become part of the family.
“She’s a darling, just a beautiful dog. When you spend so much time with them you become very attached to them, they’re like one of the kids.
“She has the run of the house and comes and goes as she pleases. Everyone who meets her loves her.”
She’s also become a very good race dog, having been placed in seven of nine starts since resuming from a break.
“It’s been amazing, she’s so confident now. She still walks out of the boxes and wants to weave her way through the field. And that’s OK – if that’s what she wants to do we can’t change that. But she is very strong, so when she resumed I circled all of the staying races for her and hasn’t even considered the Sandown Cup, but she was going so well I thought we may as well put her in.”
And so, after entering the RSN Sandown Cup heats with four wins from 43 career starts and $18,000 in prize money, Butterfly Bling will now line up in the world’s richest race for stayers, carrying a $175,000 winner’s cheque.
“She’s the outsider of the field, but she can’t read a tote board!
“It’s just a thrill to be a part of it. This will probably be her last race – she’s done so well and I’m proud of her regardless of whether she wins or runs last.”
And you can be sure that regardless of where she finishes, she will still have the run of the Phillips household.Click here for a summary of last week’s RSN Sandown Cup heats.