Life’s lessons learned in racing have moulded Robert Camilleri as a man – and a greyhound trainer.
He’s received many pearls of wisdom from luminaries in his chosen sport and profession. And, surprisingly, the thoroughbred and harness codes.
“My father, Ricky, was a jockey and he loved all racing animals,” Camilleri said. “He actually was Malta’s leading hoop for many years, and was invited to ride for the Queen.”
Camilleri added that, as a teenager, the family couldn’t afford to buy a racehorse, so they “got the next best thing” – a greyhound.
“Later, I ran a refrigerated meat business with a mate, and was introduced to legendary harness trainer Don Dove,” Camilleri said. “His champion, Markovina, had leg problems and so he swam him it all the time.”
Subsequently, Camilleri and his partner Deborah Coleman – who also has an equine racing background – have heeded all this advice and have applied different training techniques from all three codes.
And it’s that legacy that sees Camilleri as a successful greyhound trainer in his own right. He’s trained stars such as She’s Gifted and Rajasthan, and on Saturday night lines up with a dual chance in the Group 2 Warragul Toyota Cup (460m).
“You never stop learning in this caper, and it’s a buzz getting the best out of a greyhound,” Camilleri said. “My old man taught me a lot, and it’s all this knowledge that has proved so invaluable.”
Camilleri has Awesome Catch (Box 3) and Slingshot Hammer (Box 4) engaged in the $47,000-to-the-winner event. The pair is quoted at $10 and $26 respectively on the TAB Fixed Odds market.
“Slingshot Hammer has the superior pace, but both are very strong to the line,” Camilleri said. “But if ‘Hammer’ gets a clear run early, he’ll be in it up to his ears… He can rattle off brilliant times.”
A winner of 32 races from 77 starts, Slingshot Hammer is an ‘unsung hero’ of the sport who is making his 10th group race appearance – including three at G1 level. He won the 2018 G3 Cranbourne Classic.
“Slingshot Hammer is just a professional and has given us so many thrills,” Camilleri said.”
Awesome Catch hasn’t the ‘black type’ experience of his kennelmate, but he’s notched 13 wins from 35 starts – including last year’s G3 Gawler Gold Cup.
“Box rise is going to make the race; we’ll have some answers in the first 10-20 metres,” Camilleri added. “But if Whiskey Riot leads, it’s basically all over… He’s the class dog in the race.”
WATCH: Slingshot Hammer (2) clocks a stunning 29.63sec (Best) at his most recent win – at The Meadows – which was marginally quicker than fastest G1 Silver Chief heat qualifier Hard Style Rico.