In a perfect world, prolific sprinter Dream Wizard would have been heading to Tasmania later this week, chasing Group 1 glory in the Hobart Thousand heats.
However, that wasn’t possible due to border restrictions that prevented trainer Sean Lithgow or wife Melanie accompanying their three-time G2 finalist and coursing star to the Apple Isle.
The Devon Meadows-based Lithgows identified the Victorian Straight Track Championship series as ‘Plan B’ and their decision paid off on Sunday afternoon at Healesville when Dream Wizard claimed a thrilling victory in the final.
Less than one length separated the first four across the line, with Dream Wizard and runner-up Ha Ha Magoo, trained by Des Douch, earning the right to represent the Big V in the National Grand Final at Capalaba in Queensland on Sunday, December 19.
“The Hobart Thousand was the race we’d sort of set him for but we weren’t allowed to go over with him,” Sean Lithgow explained.
“We tried everything – we spoke to the Tasmanian Government – but the only option was to send him to another trainer, but given his history we weren’t willing to risk not being there with him.
“He’s had post exercise distress syndrome, which means he can have seizures in the pen. It was more common when he was a young dog, but we understand the issue and always catch him after his races because of it.”
WATCH: Dream Wizard (2) prevailed in a blanket finish to the Victorian Straight Track Championship final (350m) at Healesville on Sunday, with less than one length separating the first four placegetters. (Audio unavailable)
Heading into Sunday’s $5000 to-the-winner Victorian Straight Track final, Dream Wizard, a son of Walk Hard and Gotham Queen, had only won one of seven starts at Healesville, but he’d finished second four times, including in his Straight Track heat and to superstar Tiggerlong Tonk in a G2 Healesville Cup heat in September.
In a desperately tight blanket finish, Dream Wizard ($5.40) edged out Ha Ha Magoo ($13.80), favourite Sambar Chief ($3.10) and Smart As Jack ($8.90) in 19.28sec, his 28th win from 70 starts.
“He got his head down on the line – it was a big thrill,” Lithgow said.
“I thought he was one of the best dogs in the field but the dog drawn in Box 1 (Trickity Click) is a wide runner and with us in Box 2 I thought we could’ve got into trouble. But Dream Wizard jumped and ‘the one’ missed it.
“He had a bit of a bump with the five (Ha Ha Magoo) but other than that he got a clear run and as soon as he gets to the rail he’s a different dog.
“He had some time off about two months ago, he was just sore in a few different areas, and when he ran 25.10sec at Shepparton before the Straight Track heats we knew he was back to his best.”
The Lithgows will now consider the logistics involved in flying the flag for Victoria in the National Grand Final later this month, where Dream Wizard will clash with representatives from home state Queensland, NSW and South Australia.
“We’re definitely looking at it; we’ll find out more details this week but with border closures we don’t want to have to quarantine or anything like that,” Lithgow offered.
“With his background in coursing, he’s used to chasing a drag lure, so hopefully Capalaba, which we see as being a bit like Benalla, will be right up his alley.”
The first National Straight Track Championship was held at Healesville in 2019 with local star Peter Galo victorious, with COVID preventing the race being held in 2020, while NSW is a welcome addition to the series after Richmond joined the straight track ranks earlier this year.