Matt Clark is crossing his fingers – and everything else – he’ll be on the road to Sydney on Saturday with his superstar sprinter Catch The Thief chasing Group 1 glory in the heats of the Ladbrokes Vic Peters Classic.
Brilliant winner of his last seven starts, Catch The Thief is TAB’s $1.55 favourite for the opening heat of the time-honoured Vic Peters and also heads the all-in market at $3.50.
However the dire COVID-19 situation in Victoria has Gippsland trainer Matt Clark keeping a very close eye on the border situation with NSW.
“They’re just trying to stop me from watching this dog win a feature race,” Clark offered ruefully.
“I couldn’t go to Perth with him for the Derby. I won a Group 2 and wasn’t there to celebrate, which was just gut-wrenching.
“The last time I’ve taken him to the track was for a heat and final at Shepparton in April.
“Now I’ve done the hard yards, taking him up to Sydney to trial and he went super, but I’ve been on the phone to Steve Noyce (NSW GBOTA General Manager) every day this week.
“We’re not in a COVID hotspot – we’re three hours from Melbourne – so I’m really hoping we’ll be able to get up there.”
Catch The Thief is once again headlining an interstate feature after taking all before him in an undefeated five-race Western Australian campaign, highlighted by victories in the Group 2 WA Derby and Listed Winter Cup.
“The dog is flying. He’s really matured into a nice dog,” said Clark.
“When he went over to Perth I sent him to Steve Shinners, who I’ve known since we were kids. Steve said he’ll come over a boy and go home a man.”
Catch The Thief, which has won 13 of his 20 starts and 10 of his last 12, has drawn box two for the first of three heats of the Vic Peters, with Clark buoyed by a near-record Wentworth Park trial last Tuesday.
“He ran 17.66s down the back, which I was told was the record, but Fernando Bale actually holds the record at 17.55s,” said Clark.
“The dog has taken a shine to the track to do what he did. After a ten-hour trip he was entitled to be a bit flat.
“I’ve waited about 30 years to get back up to Wentworth Park. I’m 47 and I went up there when I was 14-years-old with Dave Fasoli and a bitch called Out And About. It might have even been for a heat of this very race.
“I remember I found a wallet with $10 in it and no identification and I said to Dave that I’m putting the $10 on your bitch and she won at 25/1. That was a lot of money back then!”
Catch The Thief’s talented litter brother Playlist is also heading to Sydney as a travelling companion and the winner of eight from 18 is a $10 chance from box six in the second heat, where WA star Tommy Shelby, which was beaten by Catch The Thief in the Derby and Winter Cup Finals, is $3 favourite.
“Actually, Playlist was always the better dog when they were pre-training and he’s run 29.84s at The Meadows himself,” said Clark.
“But Catch The Thief just breaks their hearts with his middle section.
“I do give Playlist a good each-way chance but I’m only really going up for one dog and Playlist is a free throw at the stumps.
“I’m a realist and I’m well aware that when you win seven in a row you’re getting closer to your next defeat. Catch The Thief only turned two three or four weeks ago so he’s entitled to make a mistake and I won’t be disappointed if he loses.”