When Rajasthan stunned the greyhound racing world with a massive upset in the Group 1 Sandown Cup last May, leaving the great Tornado Tears in his wake, he returned a whopping $34.
But the versatile Victorian iron-dog won’t be slipping under anyone’s guard as he and red-hot trainer Rob Camilleri chase a second Group 1 trophy in Saturday night’s Rookie Rebel (600m) invitational at The Meadows.
An 81-start veteran, Rajasthan heads into the Rookie Rebel in career best form, having won five of his last six starts, highlighted by breaking the Bathurst 618m track record last Friday and the Maidment Memorial over 595m at Sandown Park last month.
“He’s gone from being a bit of a joke to one of the most consistent dogs going around,” said Rob Camilleri.
“People are taking notice of him now. They realise this dog can run a bit.
“He’s going so well. The older he’s got, the better he’s going.”
While Rajasthan’s greatest moment came in Australia’s most prestigious staying event, he’s hit a purple patch over middle distances since finishing unplaced in the Group 1 Bold Trease (715m) on Melbourne Cup night.
“Because of his age and the fact he can be a bit of a head-case we do different things with him and he’s found a niche on the corner starts,” Camilleri offered.
“He seems to have taken a liking to corner starts for some reason and his confidence is sky high at the moment. It’s showing in his attitude at home too. He’s a very happy dog and he’s racing like it.”
Rajasthan, the winner of three from four over The Meadows’ 600m course, is the $3.60 second elect from box three with TAB to prove he’s no one Group 1 wonder, shaded by last start Cranbourne Cup winner Often Imitated (box 2), the $3.50 favourite.
“He’s going to have to do everything right,” said Camilleri.
“He’s got to jump to show his best and if he finds the front he can run time.
“He ran 33.80s at Sandown a few starts ago, which is only a length and a half off the record. He seems to like The Meadows a bit better than Sandown too.
“He’s got the box manners to put himself right in the race. If he jumps he’s in it up to his ears and I wouldn’t swap him for anything else.”
Camilleri will also have a runner in the Group 1 Temlee (525m) on the opening night of the Australian Cup Carnival after first reserve Slingshot Hammer was elevated into the field on Tuesday following the unfortunate injury-enforced scratching of Western Envoy.
Runner-up in the Bathurst Cup last Friday, Slingshot Hammer has started 83 times, just two more times than Rajasthan, and he’s a $15 outsider in TAB’s Temlee market.
“We were really proud just to get an invitation,” said Camilleri.
“He was so unlucky in the Bathurst Cup – he should have won – but he’d have to step on Saturday night and be in the first couple going around the first corner, without any interference,
“Deb (Coleman, partner) and I have had a sensational start to the year and we’re over the moon to have dogs that can compete against the best dogs. It gives you a real adrenalin rush.”