When Royal Intention burst onto the scene in January, winning his first four starts, including a scorching 29.40sec at Sandown Park, the Group 1 TRFM Sale Cup contender seemed to have the greyhound racing world at his feet.
However, trainer Diane O’Neill’s hopes and aspirations then had to be put on hold indefinitely when the son of super sire Barcia Bale, bred by Diane and her husband Todd, suffered a heavy fall at his fifth start.
“Early on he was showing real potential,” Pearcedale-based Diane O’Neill said.
“As a pup he had some phenomenal runs, but after winning his first four starts he had a massive fall and broke his scapula, He was off for five months and I wasn’t sure if he would get back to the early promise he’d shown.”
Royal Intention wasn’t seen in action again until July, and while his early results after returning to the track were mixed, the step up to middle distances has seen him making up for lost time, reeling off four straight wins heading into Sunday night’s Sale Cup heats.
With the imposing record of 11 victories from his 19 starts, including six of his last nine, Royal Intention tuned up for his first test in Group company by winning heat and final of the Sale Distance Championship over the 650m Cup course.
He led all-the-way in a slick 37.22sec in last Sunday’s $10,000 to-the-winner decider, with class performers Brueghelino and Where Art Thou among the vanquished.
“We had a plan for the Sale Cup, so it’s nice to see him doing everything right at the right time,” Diane offered.
“He’s drawn box one in his heat, which I hope will suit him, if he jumps. They’re all good dogs, but you expect that in a race like this.
“We bred him and reared him and we do it as a family, so it would be a huge thrill to see him make a Group 1 final. I train with my husband Todd, who’s on the board at Sandown, and we’ve been training for about ten years.
“Todd saw Royal Intention’s mother Uno Lesson advertised for sale and bought her. We only had a couple of starts with her, but Todd always had the idea to breed with her and this is her first litter, so we’ve got lucky!
“It’s a very strong litter and after the Sale Cup series, we’re planning to step Royal Intention up to 700 and hopefully he can be a good stayer. We also have his sister, Shae’s Intention, in the Sale Cup heats. She’ll be trying, but her heat is pretty hard and she’s drawn box eight.”
The O’Neills are no strangers to Group success, having raced Strong Intention, which won the Group 2 McKenna Memorial at Sandown in 2013 and was also runner-up in the Group 2 Rookie Rebel and Group 2 Cranbourne Cup.
“We started training Strong Intention and then he went to Jamie Ennis,” Diane explained.
“Strong Intention wasn’t the fastest dog, but he gave it his all every time he raced. He had so much heart and determination.”