Effervescent young trainer Jess Hopkins is hopeful Sunday afternoon’s lucrative Kings v Queens Final (350m) at Healesville will be a stepping stone to country cups glory later in 2020 for her talented sprinter Eye Catcher.
The innovative Kings v Queens series finale will feature the first four placegetters from last weekend’s respective Kings and Queens of Healesville finals, where South Australian import Eye Catcher finished a close second to Last Hurrah in the male division.
Back from a brief let-up after falling in a Ballarat Cup heat in early December, Eye Catcher won his heat of the Kings event in 19.39s and was then beaten less than a length by Geelong Cup finalist Last Hurrah in the final.
“He bruised his scapula when he fell in the Ballarat Cup heat,” 29-year-old Jess Hopkins explained.
“He’d only had one hand-slip going into the heats of the Kings and he’s getting better with each run. Hopefully he should improve again on Sunday.
“I’m hoping he can turn into a Healesville Cup dog but he’s got to improve three or four lengths. He’s not two and a half yet so he’s still a baby and a bit immature.
“I think he’s probably better suited around a circle but he hasn’t been up to Healesville that much and he hasn’t trialled there much between his races there either.”
Last Hurrah, trained by Brett Nye, clocked 19.19s in winning the Kings Final, while the Queens decider went to Aston Meilleur, prepared by David Condon, in 19.26s.
WATCH: Last Hurrah (B2) and Eye Catcher (B3) in the Kings of Healesville Final.
Hopkins wasn’t overly impressed when Eye Catcher was allocated box eight for the $5000 to-the-winner Kings v Queens showdown, which will jump at 12.41pm, and rates last week’s nemesis Last Hurrah (box 2) as clearly the testing material.
“Box eight isn’t ideal,” Hopkins offered ruefully.
“But Sparkle Motion has drawn the seven and she likes the rails and is probably quicker than Eye Catcher early so that might help him.
“I’d like to swap boxes with Last Hurrah. He’s definitely the one to beat; we’ll need him to get caught up in traffic.”
Jess and the Wild Boar Syndicate, curiously named after a brand of bourbon, are enjoying a dream ride with Eye Catcher and his litter brother Corbett, which won the Group 3 Brian Johnstone in Adelaide in November.
The well-related Fabregas – Spicy Peppa siblings were purchased off successful SA breeders Cameron and Yvonne Butcher, with their mother being a half-sister to 2016 National Sprint hero Worm Burner.
“We paid $4000 each for them,” Hopkins said.
“Eye Catcher has only missed a place twice at country tracks – he ran fourth both times – but unfortunately he can’t quite see the 500m out.
“There are 14 members in the Wild Boar Syndicate; it’s basically a lot of mates and family and I don’t think there’s been a race where someone from the syndicate hasn’t been there. I think Wild Boar t-shirts are in the works too!
“I’ve been around greyhounds for all of my 29 years! My nan and pa won the Topgun with Wylie Boy (1996) and that got me hooked, so I blame them!”