It seems only bad luck can prevent Robert Camilleri winning the rich Group 3 Nowra Puppy Classic (520m) for the second time in four years on Saturday afternoon, with odds-on favourite Rio Bhodi.
Camilleri won the Classic with $17 outsider Zipping Leroy in 2019, and also finished a close third in last year’s final with Overflow Lisa, targeting the event due to partner Deb Coleman’s long association with Nowra, prior to relocating to Victoria.
“It means a lot to Deb, because she worked at Nowra for twenty-odd years and her children grew up at the track,” Camilleri explained.
“It’s a family tradition and we’ve gone up there three times now with dogs that have been good enough to make the final.
“Zipping Leroy won it and then last year Overflow Lisa gave Bandit Ned 10 or 12 lengths down the back and ran him to a length.”
It was a triumphant return to the South Coast venue for Deb Coleman on Easter Sunday when Rio Bhodi was a scintillating heat winner, clocking 29.48sec, less than three lengths outside NSW star Wow’s course record of 29.28sec.
Underlining the merit of Rio Bhodi’s performance, none of the other three heat winners – all locals – broke 30 seconds.
A January ’20 son of Bernardo and Zipping Tatum, Rio Bhodi was backing-up after running an unlucky sixth in the Launching Pad Runway at Sandown Park last Thursday night and without the benefit of a trial at Nowra.
“The dog that ran second to Rio Bhodi (Sombrero) was the only other one to break 30!” quipped Camilleri.
“He pulled up great after his run at Sandown, so we didn’t have any issues at all backing him up, especially when he drew inside. He got a clear run, which is the key with him, because he’s still very green.
“He always seems to improve second look at a track too, so hopefully that trend continues.”
Despite moving from Box 2 to 5 for Saturday’s $40,000 to-the-winner final, which is Race 3 at 5.49pm, Rio Bhodi dominates TAB’s market at $1.55.
Click HERE for TAB’s latest Nowra Puppy Classic Final market
“He’s drawn the middle this time, so it won’t be easy, but if he gets an ounce of luck getting around the first corner, he’ll be hard to hold out.”
The winner of six of his 13 starts, Rio Bhodi was purchased by Camilleri and Coleman earlier this year after running close seconds at his first two starts, when trained by champion mentor Jason Thompson.
“This and the Launching Pad were the races we had in mind when we bought him,” Camilleri offered.
“We took a bit of a punt buying him, but nobody is going to give us a top class dog, so each year we try to buy a better dog for ourselves, so we can hopefully compete in the bigger races. It just gives us a huge adrenalin rush.
“We’ve only had Rio Bhodi for a couple of months, but he’s already won more than half what we paid for him and if he’s able to win on Saturday, we’ll be way ahead on him, with a nice young dog to race into the future.
“We bought him off John Boreland and I think we were a bit lucky because when we put the offer in, John was getting married and needed the money. So, it was like it was meant to be and it’s worked out well for everyone.
“He’s one of those dogs that is going to take 25 to 30 runs to work out what he’s doing. He is still very raw and immature in his head but he’s improving with every run.”
RIO BHODI winning a heat of the Launching Pad Runway at Sandown in 29.63sec on April 7.