Victorian star Up Hill Jill claimed a thoroughly deserved and overdue Group 1 breakthrough on one of Australian greyhound racing’s greatest stages, with a brilliant all-the-way victory in the Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun at The Meadows.
After winning the Group 2 Sandown Laurels last December, the ultra-consistent speedster has been a regular in feature events throughout 2017, but frustratingly for trainer Dave Geall and owner/breeder wife Rose a second Group title has proven elusive.
Prior to exiting box seven in the star-studded Topgun, the Gealls’ home-bred daughter of Premier Fantasy and Where’s Demonica had contested seven Group events this year, agonisingly finishing runner-up on six occasions.
She ran second in three Group 1 events, (in order), the National Futurity, Sapphire Crown and Peter Mosman Classic, while she also found one better in the Richmond Oaks, Warrnambool Classic and Bob Payne Spring Sprint, all at Group 2 level.
Up Hill Jill’s other Group appearance came when sixth in the Golden Easter Egg.
But all that disappointment was forgotten on Saturday when she overcame a testing outside draw to produce a flawless front-running exhibition against the best sprinters in the land.
“It has been a frustrating run and I was starting to think she’d never win a Group 1,” said a jubilant Geall, celebrating Group 1 glory for the first time.
“I certainly didn’t think she could win tonight. Not from box 7 against the best dogs in Australia, but she has and it is a huge thrill.”
Up Hill Jill was a $13 outsider in the Topgun, with Seona Thompson’s Aston Dee Bee the $3.70 favourite from box two, shading Anthony Azzopardi’s duo, Melbourne Cup hero Ando’s Mac and Adelaide Cup victor Raw Ability, both at $3.90.
Up Hill Jill flew out, crossing rails runner Ando’s Mac with a 4.97sec first split, before skipping clear in the back straight.
After turning for home with a commanding lead, Up Hill Jill defeated Aston Dee Bee by 3.43 lengths in 29.89sec, with Temlee and Silver Chief winner Lightning Frank in third place, once again producing in elite company at The Meadows.
Up Hill Jill has now won 27 of her 50 starts, with the $150,000 winner’s purse taking her earnings past $400,000.
“We will most likely race her in the Silver Bullet next and then aim for the Melbourne Cup,” Rose Geall offered.
“Because she’s a front-runner she doesn’t get knocked around much so her confidence is always up. We’ve got no plans to retire her any time soon because she loves racing so much.”
It was the second year running the Thompson kennel and prominent owner/breeder Ray Borda have finished second in the Topgun, with Aston Bolero beaten by Dundee Osprey last year.
*This article was compiled by Gerard Guthrie and Andrew Copley.