• Thursday, 05 May, 2022,
  • by Peter Quilty

Picture perfect ‘prayer’

Trainer Gavin Clifton and his cousin, David McKenzie, are ‘praying for a miracle’ with Photo Man in the TAB Million Dollar Chase (520m) – Race 9, 9.50pm – at Wentworth Park in Sydney on Saturday night.

Both part-own Victoria’s ‘great white hope’ in the final – which as the title suggests – carries a staggering $1,000,000 first prize.

Based at Tynong North, in West Gippsland, the Clifton-McKenzie partnership is also hoping Photo Man – $19 on TAB fixed odds – can become the first Victorian to win the MDC since its inception in 2018.

However, they face a ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ – Australia’s new sprint queen and NSW sprint sensation She’s A Pearl ($1.40F), which is chasing her 12th successive win (and 15 of past 16).

Last month’s G1 Golden Easter Egg winner, She’s A Pearl semaphored a stunning 29.30sec (Best) MDC heat win – over 10 lengths quicker than Photo Man’s 29.96sec heat victory.

She’s A Pearl (Box 4) will spiral into second with ($1,353,010), just behind the immortal Fanta Bale ($1,365,175), on Australia’s top prizemoney earners list if successful in the MDC.

Mind you, Photo Man (Box 3) also becomes an ‘instant millionaire’ if he wins.

“She looks the standout… We’re probably running for second if you want the truth,” was Clifton’s succinct assessment.

“When you look up at the clock and see 29.30sec, you know she’s a superstar. But you’re still running for $100,000 for second.”

“I’m just hoping he can come out a bit quicker from the inside and receives some luck around the first turn.

“She looks the standout… We’re probably running for second if you want the truth.”

“You’ve got to be up near the lead at Wentworth Park or your ‘hung out to dry’… But reality says we can’t beat her.

“However, the number one priority is that he pulls up safe.”

Clifton, 54, combines greyhound training with a full-time job as a sonographer (ultrasound technician). He’s been with Monash Health for 33 years.

“My boss said, ‘you can have the week off’. But I said no, I’ll go insane; I won’t be able to relax.

“Anyway, I wanted to get him back home and follow the same routine.”

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Clifton says Photo Man has “come a long way” since securing a Restricted Win final on G1 Melbourne Cup night (November 26 last year).

“After that win, I took him to Sydney to trial in preparation for the National Derby.

“Unfortunately, he strained some ligaments behind his hock and had to have around six weeks off.”

Clifton added Photo Man is “looking a million dollars (no pun intended) at the moment”.

“It’s a huge thrill to make this final and I must thank John Westerlo and the late John Daffy. I’ve learned a hell of a lot from them in terms of conditioning and fitness.

“And this is the biggest buzz since getting married to my wife, Deborah, in 1999, along with the birth of my daughter, Ruby, in 2005 and son, James, in 2008.

“I also work in with my cousin, Dave, and I couldn’t do it without him. It’s also like a marriage, as we have our points of difference and start the next day afresh.

“Making the MDC final is payback for all the hard work and hours that have been put in. All week, it’s made it easier to get up at 5.30am. (Clifton travels from his Nilma North residence to Tynong North every morning to exercise a 12-dog racing team before heading off to work.)

“I hope all Victorian greyhound racing participants are barracking for us.”

Clifton fondly recalls the day he arrived, ‘just down the road’, at breeder Gerrie Sneyders and Pearl Terry’s greyhound property to collect a repaired muzzle.

A ‘happy snap’ of Photo Man winning on G1 Melbourne Cup night at Sandown Park.

“I noticed a 16-week-old litter (Dec ’19 Aston Dee Bee x Amlin Mystique) which were in beautiful condition, and I said I love that pup with the ‘Roman nose’. I talked Pearl into selling him (Photo Man) and a female pup (Catch A Pearl).

“Gerrie is the course photographer at Warragul, so that’s where Photo Man gets his racing name. His kennel name is “Gerrie” and Catch A Pearl’s is “Pearl”.

“Gerrie’s good for advice and we catch up for a coffee a couple of times a week.”

Pawnote: Victorians feature prominently on the MDC program. Hank The Hustler G3 Gold Cup (720m) – Winner: $50,000; McKeon Bale G3 Ladies Bracelet (520m) – Winner: $25,000; Quinlan Bale – Bob Payne Sprint (520m) – Winner: $25,000; Zippy Tesla & Plaintiff MDC Consolation (520m) – Winner: $25,000; – Natteo Bale, Lovaz Bale & Kai Bale  MDC Maiden final (520m) – Winner: $15,000.

Peter QuiltyPeter Quilty

Peter Quilty

Peter Quilty has more than three decades of experience as assistant editor of Victorian Greyhound Weekly. He was editor of GRV monthly magazine The Adviser (2001-09) and owner/publisher of Australian Greyhound Monthly. He also served on the selection panel for the inaugural GRV ‘Hall of Fame’ inductees and for several years was an adjudicator on the Victorian GOTY. He’s also published greyhound racing yearbooks and wrote the ‘Bold Trease’ video script.

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