Hometown star Neo Cleo claimed a deserved feature race breakthrough with a popular local victory in the Group 1 Gold 98.3 FM Sale Cup (650m) on Boxing Day.
Trained, owned and bred by Wendy Neocleous at Hazelwood North, Neo Cleo had twice finished runner-up at Group level, in the Hume Cup and McKenna Memorial, beaten less than a length on both occasions, while she also ran sixth in the Sir John Dillon Memorial.
A daughter of Cosmic Rumble and Ruby Ha Ha, Neo Cleo had won her previous three starts over Sale’s 650m course, winning heat and final of the Sale Distance Championship and then setting the pace in the Cup heats when clocking 36.87sec.
Drawn in box six, Neo Cleo started an easing $2.70 favourite, ahead of Dyna Chancer at $4.50, with Neo Cleo’s litter brother and kennelmate, Blackjack Neo, on the third line of betting at $5.80 from box one.
Neo Cleo came out running and led Black Impala ($6.80), her Hume Cup conqueror, on the first turn.
She broke clear down the back and kept going strongly in the home straight to defeat the fast-finishing Dyna Chancer by 2.50 lengths in 37.19sec, with Myrniong Corner ($7.80) finishing third.
“I am so, so happy with what she has been able to achieve,” said a delighted Wendy Neocleous.
“She has finally done it – got a Group 1 – and we couldn’t be happier. We are absolutely rapt.
“We are very emotional about this win and we can’t thank the Sale Greyhound Racing Club enough for what they are able to put together. It is a great night to be a part of.
“She has a big support system with her family and connections, who I know are stoked.”
Neo Cleo has now won 26 of her 54 starts and while it was the slowest of her four straight victories at Sale, it was by far the most lucrative, with the $75,000 winner’s purse taking her earnings to within touching distance of $250,000.
“She is absolutely perfect,” Wendy Neocleous said.
“She is a pretty calm greyhound at home. The only naughty thing she does is pull her mat out because she prefers to sit outside in the sun.
“We aren’t sure what is next for our little girl. There is another local country cup coming up but we haven’t made a decision yet.”
Other feature action on Sale Cup night saw Fully Loaded, trained by Neville Wakefield, claim the $15,000 winner’s purse in the Gippsland Carnival Sprint Final (440m), his 30th win from 55 starts.
Seona Thompson’s $1.70 favourite Azkaban won the Sale Motor Group Summer Cup Final (520m), while Anthony Azzopardi’s Whiskey Riot, which also started at $1.70, secured his third win from four starts in the Dunkleys Machinery Rising Stars Final (440m), with both races worth $10,000 to-the-winner.
This article was compiled by Gerard Guthrie and Molly Haines. Photos by Clint Anderson.