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Kayla’s Great plans for Big Jo

Teenager Kayla Cottrell couldn’t have asked for a better start to her training career and she’s set to take a huge step towards a fairy tale feature victory at Cranbourne on Wednesday night.

Just six months after gaining her trainer’s license, the 18-year-old is shooting for Group glory in the heats of the TAB Great Chase with kennel newcomer Big Jo.

Cottrell, daughter of successful trainers and educators Dave Knocker and Janet Cottrell, started training in her own right in April and she’s enjoying a wonderful strike rate with her two dogs; surprise packet Big Jo and Rockstar Ohlmus.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping with the dogs and I got my trainers license in April when I turned 18,” said Kayla.

“I branched out and spent 18 months with Mick Price (thoroughbred trainer) at Caulfield as a strapper and came back home last June.

“Rockstar Ohlmus was the first greyhound I’ve trained myself and Big Jo is the second.

“Rockstar Ohlmus was sent down from NSW by Chris Nutt for some more education and Chris decided to leave him here. He won his maiden at Warragul and ran third there at his only other start.”

Likewise, a change of scenery has worked wonders with Big Jo, which is unbeaten in three starts for Cottrell and will take aim at four straight in the heats of the Group 3 Great Chase at her home track of Cranbourne on Wednesday night.

After winning two of her first 18 starts, Big Jo, a daughter of Fernando Bale that ironically tips the scales at only 27 kilograms, has gone bang.

She’s scored twice at Cranbourne, clocking 30.08s and a scorching 29.74s, and then posted a best of meeting 29.85s at The Meadows.

“Alan Hunter, who owns Big Jo and was training her, asked me to help with his dogs at The Meadows one day and I told him I loved the bitch (Big Jo). Everything stemmed from there,” Kayla explained.

“Alan was at home one day and he asked if I’d like to have a go with Big Jo, which was really exciting because we’d been watching her race and knew she had a heap of ability. It was just a matter of harnessing it and getting her to show her true ability.

“She hasn’t really surprised us because she was only a length off the track record over 385m at Shepparton at the first trial we gave her.

“You could see the ability she has when she was only beaten a length and a half by Last Hurrah in a GR8 Eight at Sandown before I got her.

“With natural improvement I’m not sure how far she can go but we think she’ll run 600m for sure and she could even be a front-running stayer.”

Big Jo has drawn box three in the second of two Great Chase heats being held at Cranbourne on Wednesday night, race 7 to jump at 8.49pm.

Big Jo’s rapid rise is timely with a huge impending void in the Cottrell kennel, with middle distance star Perfect Marshall, winner of the Group 1 Rookie Rebel in February, on the verge of retirement.

“His career is drawing to a close but the Hume Cup is only three or four weeks away so we’d like to have another crack at that and then he can head off to stud,” Dave Knocker said.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from some of the most successful breeders in the country. It was pointed out to me that he offers the same genes as Fernando Bale; he’s by a US sire (Kinloch Brae) and his dam-line includes Primo Uno, Awesome Assassin and Head Honcho.

“He’s never let us down. He’s a Group 1 winner, he’s very well-bred, a terrific kennel dog and you can travel anywhere with him.

“He’s been a great chaser since day one and hopefully he throws that into his pups. If you look at his form he’s had 54 starts for 21 wins and only missed a top four finish four times.

“His service fee will be $1100, which I think is very reasonable. If you can’t pay an $1100 service fee and sell a pup for $1000 then you shouldn’t be in the game!”

Photo: Perfect Marshall and Kayla Cottrell after the Group 1 Rookie Rebel.

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About Gerard Guthrie - One of Australia's leading greyhound racing journalists since 2000 with the Greyhound Recorder and now with Greyhound Racing Victoria. Part-owner 2013 Group 1 Paws Of Thunder winner Sheikha. (The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of GRV)
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