September (and October) has been especially kind to passionate Richmond supporter Kevin Ward in recent years, with his beloved Tigers landing three of the past four premierships, ending decades of disappointment.
Richmond won’t be defending their title on Saturday week; however Ward, who trains a cut-price team at Mount Moriac, is hoping Yellow And Black – the greyhound variety – will be making plenty of noise in the Grassroots Regional Championship Sprint final, which will be held at Ballarat next Wednesday.
You don’t get any more ‘grassroots’ in greyhound racing than ‘giveaways’.
Ward has qualified two Grassroots Sprint semi-finalists and remarkably both – Yellow and Black, which will line up in the Western semi (450m) at Warrnambool on Thursday, and Mr. Blurton, which will contest the Eastern qualifier (460m) at Warragul on Friday – were ‘freebies’.
As are both Ward’s contenders in the Warrnambool Distance heat (650m), littermates Joey Mac and Premier Slice.
“I’ve got about 20 dogs in work and I reckon 16 of them would be giveaways,” Ward said.
“But I’ve got some ripper dogs!
“I got Mr. Blurton’s whole litter for free when they were 14 months old.
‘As well as Mr. Blurton (8 from 56), the litter also includes Tiger Time (15 from 47) and Tiger’s Twenty (9 from 61). I was actually offered $100,000 for Tiger Time a while back.
“They came from John Galea and I also got Yellow And Black off John. He just wasn’t up to what John wanted, which is city class, but he’s a 450m dog that goes pretty well!
“I reckon the Grassroots concept is great. The dogs have got to be genuine 275+ ranking dogs and it gives them the opportunity to race for reasonable money. I was lucky enough to have about half a dozen dogs that were eligible.”
Last October, Ward and Yellow And Black enjoyed a freakish streak, where the son of My Bro Fabio was victorious on every day Richmond won a finals match, culminating in their Grand Final victory over Geelong.
But then things went a little awry, much like Richmond’s 2021 season.
“Yellow And Black won at Horsham about half an hour before last year’s Grand Final but after that he hardly won all year,” Ward said.
WATCH: Yellow And Black (5) continues his purple patch of form when careering away with his heat of the Grassroots Regional Championships series at Warrnambool on September 6.
“He had a hock issue and a few other problems but I got him right and he went bang, winning four out of his last six.
“He won his Grassroots heat at Warrnambool and then because it was 10 days before the semi-final and I like to run them every four or five days, I took him to Sale along with Mr. Blurton and a few other dogs.
“He got buried on the rail but it’s been six days between runs and he’s ready to go on Thursday. He should be some sort of chance too!”
Yellow And Black (Box 6) is one of the key contenders in Thursday’s Western Sprint semi-final (Race 5 at 7.10pm), having won four from six over Warrnambool’s 450m course, including two from two from the ‘green’.
Mr. Blurton has also drawn Box 6 for his Warragul debut in Friday’s Eastern Sprint run-off.
“Yellow And Black just needs a bit of room in the first 50 yards and if he gets to the front he’ll be hard to catch,” Ward said.
“Mr. Blurton is also going really well. He hasn’t been to Warragul before but he hadn’t been to Sale before he won there either. If he can possie up close enough he’ll be coming at them at the finish.
“I really don’t know what Joey Mac (Box 1) and Premier Slice (Box 5) will do in the Distance heat.
“They were both placed over 450m at Warrnambool on Monday. I actually trained the trifecta in the race with Rower’s Rule winning, but I didn’t take the trifecta of course!
“When Joey Mac was racing at Mount Gambier he looked like he wanted 600m or even further, running a few seconds over 600m.
“If either of them can run a place and get through to the final I’d be happy.”
Ward is enjoying a fantastic run at Warrnambool, currently sitting atop the 2021 Trainer of the Year award with 36 victories.
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