Margaret Bannerman is hoping her heart-wrenching decision to hand Reefton Treasure (pictured) – the best dog she’s ever had – to Anthony Azzopardi will pay off with a fairy tale Group 1 victory in Sunday’s AJS Corporation Silver Chief Final.
The tyranny of distance led to Bannerman, who’s based at tiny Reefton in the Riverina region of NSW, asking big race specialist Azzopardi to take over the reins with the Wheeler-bred powerhouse and she’s been rewarded with her first runner in a Group 1 event after 35 years in the sport.
“I’m over the moon. I’m so excited,” Margaret said.
“It was so hard to give Reefton Treasure to someone else because he’s the best dog I’ve ever had. I’ve had some good ones but he’s just a level above the others.WATCH: Reefton Treasure win his Semi Final of the Group 1 Silver Chief last Saturday night at The Meadows from box 1.
“I decided to send him to Anthony after he fell at Wentworth Park. I didn’t want to take him back there for a while and for me to take him down to Melbourne is at least a six-hour drive, which has got to take something out of the dog. So for the sake of the dog it was the right thing to do.
“It’s so funny because when I’m handling I never get nervous at all but sitting and waiting to watch him race I get so nervous!
“I got to know Anthony when a dog I trained called Felicity Lane was racing against Lilley Criminal. Anthony and I got to be good friends and I just love how he is with his dogs. His record speaks for itself, especially for someone so young, and he’s bonded so well with Reefton Treasure.
“Funnily enough, Saturday night will be the first time my husband Sean has seen Reefton Treasure race live so hopefully he’s a lucky charm! It won’t be easy but we know he always tries his best so we can never be disappointed.”
Azzopardi, who’s enjoyed incredible success since relocating from NSW to Victoria this time last year, didn’t have to be asked twice about finding a kennel for Reefton Treasure when Margaret came calling.
“Let me tell you I was in the car within five minutes going to pick him up!” Azzopardi laughed.
“I was rapt to get the dog. To Margaret’s credit she once told me if she ever got a fast dog and decided to give it to someone else she would give it to me and she kept her word.
Margaret is the nicest lady I’ve met in greyhound racing – she’s a great asset to our sport – and I would love to win the Silver Chief for her and the dog.
“Reefton Treasure’s never going to fly the lids so he’ll need some luck from box seven but they better look out because he’ll be coming! He’ll give it 110 per cent and they wouldn’t want him breathing down their necks because he’s so strong and he’s such a determined chaser.”
Margaret also paid tribute to Australia’s most successful breeders Paul and Jan Wheeler for their role in Reefton Treasure’s rise to sprinting stardom.
“I’ve been friends with Paul and Jan since I was 16,” Margaret explained.
“I trained Reefton Treasure’s mother Pindari Bale and Paul said I could have a pup out of her first litter. She only had a small litter so I said I would wait for her second litter and that’s how I got Reefton Treasure. Paul and Brendan reared him and broke him in. They’ve been fantastic and they’re so supportive.”