Michael Ryan has only bred four litters but on Friday night he’ll find himself in esteemed company when homebred speedster Smart As Jack faces some of the biggest names in the sport in the inaugural Pink Diamond Champion Sprinter final (500m) at Bendigo.
Michael, 32, and his dad Darren, who hail from Boronia, bred and race Smart As Jack, which is trained by Adele Powell, through their ‘Ryino Racing’ syndicate.
The son of Moreira and Rose Magic is very talented in his own right.
He has the excellent strike rate of 17 from 40 and importantly excels at Bendigo, the venue for the showcase Pink Diamond finals night, winning three from four over 500m.
But Smart As Jack, which has drawn box four, finds himself up against the crème de la crème of the Victorian – and indeed Australian sprinting ranks – in particular the three superstars drawn underneath him; Shima Shine (1), Aston Rupee (2) and Catch The Thief (3).
“He was only eligible for the good series,” Michael said ruefully.
“He’s a bit out of his depth but it’s an honour to have a dog good enough to race against dogs like Shima Shine and Aston Rupee.
“You dream of racing for this sort of prizemoney in a race like this. I think it’s an unbelievable concept.”
“One thing in his favour is that there’s only one other dog in the field that’s raced over 500m at Bendigo. Apart from Catch The Thief he’s the only one that’s been out of those boxes in an actual race and the start is on that bend so you never know.
“He loves the joint so hopefully he can run an honest race and give it a good crack. It would be awesome if he could run a place.”
Smart As Jack is tackling G1 opposition and the astronomical Pink Diamond prizemoney matches the quality of the field, with a winner’s purse of $75,000.
Michael and his dad are also eyeing a very attractive $11,250 breeder’s bonus for the winner, with GRV introducing the Pink Diamond concept largely as an incentive to reward breeders.
“You dream of racing for this sort of prizemoney in a race like this,” he said.
“Obviously the top dogs are racing for big money too but it didn’t matter what class of dog you had, there was a race for them. I think it’s an unbelievable concept.”
While describing himself as a relative newcomer to greyhound racing, Michael doesn’t do things by half-measures.
Aside from his racing and breeding passion, on Sunday afternoon he was working in the catching pen at Healesville, where his brother Jack holds the position of track manager.
WATCH: Smart As Jack (4) runs second to Tinker Craig (8) in a Pink Diamond Champion Sprinter Heat at Shepparton last Friday.
“I haven’t really been in greyhounds that long – probably only from when I was 20-odd,” Michael explained.
“Dad had dogs back in his day and then I was working as a roof plumber at Paul Westerveld’s Meticulous Lodge one day and that got me interested. I got a dog and everything went from there.
“We really only breed one litter each year; we’ve only got one broodbitch.
“Smart As Jack is from Rose Magic’s first litter and she’s had a second litter, by Zipping Garth, that’s about to hit the track.
“Smart As Jack has been unbelievable. He’s won 17 races; he won the Easter Cup at Bendigo and was favourite in the (G3) Northern Districts Cup at Shepparton but got a severe check.
“There was another dog in his litter that was much better, called Kullaroo. Early days he was a lot quicker – it was scary – but unfortunately we lost him with a serious injury.
“I had to train Kullaroo because he was an escape artist. You couldn’t build a fence high enough that he wouldn’t jump over it. He was a beautiful dog too.”
Race 8 – $120,750 CHAMPION SPRINTER FINAL (500m), 9.28pm
Prize money: $75,000 (1st); $20,000 (2nd); $10,000 (3rd)
Breeder bonus: $11,250 (1st); $3,000 (2nd); $1,500 (3rd)
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