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Coursing classic clean-sweep

Last Sunday’s coursing meeting at Benalla was the venue for some extraordinary racing and a unique double that could well have re-written the history books.

Trainers Jason Whybrow and his partner Nicole Lummas won the two main features of the day when littermates St. Mary’s Panda and Sambar Chief took out the Oaks and Derby respectively.

The result had life-affirming effects for the Wangaratta training couple.

Just 21 months old, both Mepunga Blazer x Snooky pups entered last weekend with five starts for two wins apiece, and they have taken to coursing like a duck to water, particularly Samba Chief, who has won three of the four events he has contested.

“There is not a lot of difference in preparing a greyhound for coursing as it is for its first race start up the Healesville straight,” Jason said.

“It is basically the same preparation, but heading into this coursing season, I was conscious that the dogs have to be super fit.”

Winning classic events either on the Victorian coursing circuit or at totalised racetrack is no easy task, but to win both the Derby and Oaks with two young greyhounds from the same litter is a remarkable achievement.

The rare feat would not have happened if it wasn’t for Nicole’s optimistic outlook during a pivotal point in the couple’s lives.

In 2018, Jason’s father, greyhound trainer Raymond Whybrow suffered a serious setback with his health, and wanted someone to take his greyhounds over so he could address his illness.

Initially, there was some reluctance from Jason, who had got out of the sport for a while after the closure of the Wangaratta track, where he was training from.

But, with Nicole’s eagerness to become more involved in greyhound racing, and the couple’s acknowledgement that Jason’s father, Raymond, needed a hand, greyhounds including Racecourse Road and Northern Moon were placed under the couple’s charge.

“I’m really glad Nicole bought Dad’s dogs home as it has turned out to be a great partnership, for many reasons,” Jason said.

“The experience has prompted me to think how wonderful it will be going forward to breed a greyhound litter to race ourselves.”

Nicole’s relatively new exposure to the sport was enhanced by an impressive amount of enthusiasm, and practicality as a mother.

“Being a mum to three children is great, but to be a mother to puppies, is also very rewarding, particularly watching the greyhounds that we have educated go out and win races,” she said.

“Last Sunday at Benalla was amazing. We had the two dogs as babies and knowing their breeders, Katrina Evans and Jimmy Holt, who have been long-time friends of Jason, made the day even more special.”

“The experience has prompted me to think how wonderful it will be going forward to breed a greyhound litter to race ourselves.”

The couple’s coursing ‘grand-slam’ even topped the success of Jason’s recent first time city runner, Paint Peeler (American Monster x Amlin Mystique), who delivered an incredible high for the trainer last October.

“I never thought I would have a city runner so to have Paint Peeler make the Group 3 Great Chase Grand Final last year was an incredible feeling,” Jason said.

“I didn’t think anything could top that, but taking out the Derby and the Oaks – and having our greyhound’s names as well as our own names being written into the racing records forever – was an extraordinary feeling.”

Sambar Chief and St. Marys Panda’s won’t turn two until September, and Jason said coursing has been a big part in their education.

“Sambar Chief was terrified of starting boxes, and that is why he has only had a few starts on the circle,” Jason explained.

“We thought that we would give the pair a go at coursing, and they have just blossomed.”

“Sambar Chief ran the fastest time of the day at Benalla (13.91sec) last Sunday, and we are definitely looking ahead to the Puppy Classic at Lang Lang and coursing them interstate.”

“We are also looking to trial the pair at Bendigo ahead of further coursing.”

“We will then head back for some circle racing, and hopefully after those experiences the two of them will be well schooled.”

Thankfully, Raymond’s health has improved, and last Sunday’s coursing classic ‘clean-sweep’ can be attributed in no small part to Nicole’s spirited dynamism to take on something new.

The coursing season resumes this Sunday at Longwood with the Longwood Cup and Bert Clark Memorial…

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Victoria Shaw
About Victoria Shaw - Australia's only female race caller and the only woman in the world to have broadcast four codes of racing in this country and overseas. Victoria has co-hosted international racing awards and hosted racing forums focusing on women's inclusion within international racing communities including Poland, Morocco, Spain & the United Arab Emirates. She has called races on the Victorian thoroughbred picnic circuit and at numerous greyhound tracks around the state as well as the 2020 Waterloo Cup. Victoria is fascinated by the incredible efforts of racing animals as well as the people that love and prepare them, no matter where they are in the world.
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