After a string of seven unplaced starts in a row on the circle, Popowski entered the coursing arena for the first time at the National Coursing Association’s Catch on to Coursing meeting on 15 April.
And it’s fair to say the experience proved stunning with Popowski returning to the circle to record consecutive wins at Traralgon (best of night) and Warragul.
Trainer Peter Craig, President of the National Coursing Association, provides an insight into how it all unfolded in this Q&A.
Q. How did Popowski fare at the Catch on to Coursing event?
Peter Craig: Popowski and her brother Macalister Ike won both their heats and finals at Longwood (on 15 April). My wife told me how much they both had enjoyed the coursing after catching them as she couldn’t get them away from the catching pen. I had to give her a hand dragging them back to the car!
Q. How was Popowski able to turn around her form?
PC: It is a confidence issue with her and getting two runs after the lure with little or no interference made all the difference. And following on from that she drew the red on the circle (Traralgon) for the first time in five months. She can begin but is wary of dogs running out at her after some unfortunate race incidents, so the change in confidence was the difference.
Q. How often do these sorts of form turnarounds occur as a result of greyhounds going coursing?
PC: They are fairly common throughout the coursing season, with the coursing form students keen to invest when a dog turns around recent poor track form with a winning performance on the coursing field and then heads back to the track. Old time coursing trainers used to set an out of form track dog that had success on the coursing field for many a sting (with bookmakers) when they took them back to the track.
Q. There was a period of eight days between the Catch on to Coursing event and Popowski’s Traralgon win. Is that the ideal amount of time before returning to the circle after going coursing?
PC: I can recall being told after I had some coursing success many years ago to keep my dog on the lead for nine days and then produce him back on the track and see him run a PB. The days on the lead would allow the dog to get over the strains of three courses in the day and bring him to a peak for his target track performance – oh the fun of the sting!
Q. A drop in form aside, what are some other reasons trainers take their greyhounds coursing?
PC: Trainers take their dogs coursing for a number of reasons, not least of all being there are no middle boxes to be drawn, so the main benefit to many dogs is the lack of interference and the regaining of confidence. I like to take pups for two reasons, firstly for the fact they can race in their puppy class for the entire season and don’t get upgraded after a win to then struggle against experience dogs, and secondly I find if they get three runs in a day, it takes them to a higher fitness level, one that they don’t get with just one trial or race per day. This can also assist older dogs reaching peak fitness. Female greyhounds also can benefit from the fact we mostly race maidens against their own sex, so they don’t get knocked over by a dog who could be 10 kilograms bigger.