Classic tale of rags to riches


Meet the ragtag bunch of greyhounds whose combined value once stood at less than $15,000, but one will pocket five times that amount for connections after 30 seconds of work tonight.

As proof that rags-to-riches tales still exist amid racing's often brutal storylines, one lucky pup will scoop $75,000 in the Group 2 Dapto Puppy Classic (520 metres) final.

So out of favour were some of the eight finalists when they went through last year's Dapto Puppy Auction, they could only muster an aggregate worth $14,900.

The previous year's sales-topping pup fetched more than that amount alone.

And maybe no trainer is now more relieved at the pedestrian pace at which lots were sold than Corrimal's James McFarlane, who felt compelled to buy back his finalist Gold Hunter for a lazy $1000.

"We put our whole litter in [the auction] and we were a bit upset as it was probably the worst year for buying," McFarlane said. "We bought him back and a sister ... the others we let go."

Now the fast-finishing Gold Hunter is a rough chance of making 75 times his purchase price in one of the feature events on Dapto's calendar.

Think that's a smart return on an investment?

Then there's Bega hobby trainer William Richards, who only has a couple of dogs in work.

Like McFarlane, Richards had a price on a pup he put through the auction, but wasn't satisfied with the bidding crawl and bought him back for $700.

That greyhound, Spring Creek Kev, is the most inexpensive chaser to qualify for the final.

A triumph for Gold Hunter or Spring Creek Kev would certainly be the biggest in the careers of their respective trainers, but only if they can upset sensational semi-final winner Exhibitionist.

McFarlane juggles his work at BlueScope with training a small team with owner Jack Sepple, who he met while the latter was driving trucks.

They teamed up on the bookies stand at Moss Vale dogs before branching out to own pups together and now train them.

They couldn't have envisaged Gold Hunter would make the final of a Group 2 event after taking 11 starts to snap his maiden status, coincidentally in a heat of the Puppy Classic series.

"As Paul Ambrosoli said when he won his first race, if they don't win in their first three or four races they're usually moved onto other trainers," McFarlane said.

"This would be by far the biggest race [we will have won] and being a local [would make it sweeter].

"There's a bit of a following [at work].

"The guys there always ask how the dogs are going and there's a few mad punters that always want the free tips."

Richards hasn't handed out too many of those, but knows his charge Spring Creek Kev was a forlorn shot of making the final after Exhibitionist shot away in a semi-final last week.

"He was 200-1 at the catching pen and wasn't a hope of running a drum," he said.

"The favourite got a clean run and was gone, but once he got out he got going.

"There's got to be a mix-up on that first turn and if they get into trouble he could be camped behind them and get the run [in the final]."

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