The $50,000 Country Cups bonus has been a carrot that some of the sport’s best have chased since it was introduced in 2011.
The Country Cups bonus of $50,000 is awarded to the first greyhound to win three Country Cups in a calendar year.
The legendary El Grand Señor was the first to win the prize as he blitzed around Victorian tracks in 2011 and made greyhound racing look easy for trainer Carolyn Jones.
Both greyhounds went into the final Country Cup of the year (over the sprint distance) with two titles to their name and both were out to secure the bonus at Ballarat.
In a battle that ‘turned out to be everything we hoped it would be’ – as said by Rob Testa in the race call – Ronan Izmir just beat Paw Licking after the two jostled for the lead the whole way around the course to claim the bonus.
WATCH: Ronan Izmir and Paw Licking in the ‘Battle of Ballarat’
This year, all eyes will be on Luca Neveelk with his quest to win the fabled Country Cups bonus.
In 2014, Luca Neveelk won the Geelong Cup (460m) and the Ballarat Cup (450m) while he fell short in the Bendigo Cup (425m) final as a youngster.
Now, the matured race dog is one of the stars of the sport and his Cups campaign kicks off in earnest in the Group 2 Lion Quality Products Warragul Cup final on Friday night.
Speaking with RSN’s Shane Anderson, trainer Gerry Kleeven said that his champion will be targeted and two more short-course Country Cups following Friday night’s final.
“We’ll target the Shepparton and Warrnambool Cups,” Kleeven said on Tuesday
“I’ll keep him for those type of races I think, he’s just a very strong sprinter so we’ll set him for that hopefully.”
Last week, Steven Clarke’s Big Ticket tested Luca Neveelk all the way to line but it was the son of Talk’s Cheap and It’s A Neveelk’s determination rather than his preparation that got him through.
“He was so brave Big Ticket is a very good dog.
“I had to scratch him from the Cranbourne Cup because he had the kennel cough. I did absolutely nothing with him for three weeks. I just couldn’t do anything with him.
“I would just let him out into his run which is about 50 meters and he walked up and did a little bit of a gallop and that was it.
“He’s got such a big heart. He was gone when Big Ticket came up beside him and got a half length in front of him and Luca said ‘damn this, you’re not going to beat me!’”
Kleeven said his camp hopes the greyhound will improve on his run the week before but wouldn’t guarantee that would be the case.
If Luca Neveelk wins the Warragul Cup on Friday night all eyes will be on the ensuing Country Cup finals as Luca Neveelk tries to claim the $50,000 Country Cups bonus.
LISTEN: Shane Anderson talks with Gerry Kleeven
WATCH: Luca Neveelk wins the 2014 Geelong Cup
WATCH: Luca Neveelk wins the 2014 Ballarat Cup