NSW trainer Darryl Thomas is under no illusion as to the task facing rising star La Grand Quality in Saturday night’s Group 2 Ballarat Cup (450m) heats despite a record-breaking preparatory trial.
But La Grand Quality is used to defying the odds, having survived two serious car accidents to emerge as one of Australian greyhound racing’s most exciting prospects.
“He’s had a hard life, being through a couple of bad car accidents,” Thomas explained.
“He was in an accident with his owner Kellie Fogarty as a pup and then I took him up to Ipswich for the Vince Curry Maiden to start him off but I hit a semi-trailer and I don’t know how we survived.”
The winner of six of his ten starts, including six of his last seven, highlighted by a Maitland 450m track record (24.56s), La Grand Quality is TAB’s $2.30 favourite in the third of four Ballarat Cup heats.
“It’s a big, big step this week,” said Thomas, who hails from Sawyers Gully in the Hunter region of NSW.
“He’s a very fast dog but he’s going from park footy to first grade.
“It’s a massive test and he’s in a pretty hard heat. It looks like the hardest heat to me.
“He’s been able to dominate in NSW but these good Victorian dogs will want to dominate him. They won’t show him any mercy.
“Nothing against the dogs he’s been beating but his last win was in a four-dog field. He’s definitely got the motor but to become a good dog he has to race against the good dogs.”
Thomas has left nothing to chance as La Grand Prospect prepares for the toughest test of his brief career; lodging with Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Anthony Azzopardi and trialling his boom prospect twice at Ballarat.
“He had his first look at Ballarat in an official trial (see below) and actually broke the 390m record, running 21.55s (Arizona Dozer set the record of 21.638s in January 2013),” Thomas said.
“He had another look on Tuesday and went nice. He’s ready to go.
“I’m staying with Anthony (Azzopardi). I know Anthony really well from his time in NSW and it was Anthony who talked me into bringing La Grand Quality down for the Cup. Anthony’s been a great help.
“I was originally planning to go down to Tasmania for the Hobart Thousand but I took him down to trial before the Devonport Chase and he travelled terribly.
“So after that I decided to come to Ballarat because getting to Melbourne was much easier – one hour flight and then another hour to Anthony’s place – and he’s settled in really well.”
La Grand Quality has drawn box six for his debut in Group company, with Thomas having the utmost respect for his opposition, which includes the prolific Peter Galo (36 wins) and Jason Thompson’s classy NSW import Cee Jay’s Boy (23 wins).
“I’m happy with the box draw,” he said.
“I wanted six, seven or eight; just to give him a bit of room to move.
“I just want him to be left alone for the first 50 metres. He can be a bit tardy for the first 10-15 metres but then he goes. If the right dog turns up he’ll put them to the sword going through the bend.
“I am confident in the dog. I’m all about the dog – he’s the one doing it, not me.
“He might get flogged on Saturday but it won’t be through ability, it will be experience and tractability. It might take him two or three Cups to work it out but I think he’ll get there.”