A former roofer who not only helped but squabbled with former workmates over greyhounds has his best chance of breaking his Group race hoodoo in the Bulli Gold Cup (472m) on Wednesday night.
Bringelly-based Mark Wilcox was introduced to the sport through colleagues almost 35 years ago and is still searching for the elusive winner in stakes company.
He had Group 1-winning trainer Dean Swain as an apprentice and respected mentor Stan Beckingham as another workmate, too, before retiring recently.
"A lot of help went in and there were a lot of arguments as well," Wilcox joked. "I've been in a few and run a lot of placings, but I haven't won a Group race. I've won country races like Goulburn cups, but that Group 1 would be nice to win. I'd take any Group race, that's for sure."
And he'll have two chances in the $25,000-to-the-winner Group 3 final at Slacky Flat courtesy of Highly Respected (box three) and Knocka's Return (eight).
But much like a State of Origin side, NSW's seven locally-based pups are expected to have a torrid time fending off an interstate rival, this time Victorian Walk Hard (five). The Nicole McRae-trained speedster romped home in his heat to be the fastest qualifier.
"If he gets away that will most probably be good night," Wilcox conceded. "Having box five there's a lot of speed around him and he might get held up, but he looks like he can do it from both ends.
"There's a lot of pace in the middle there so if [Knocka's Return] can hang out there and be running about fourth that will do me and hopefully he can come over the top of them in the straight."
Mark Gatt's iron dog Gradence (two) has a chance of repeating history from earlier this year, having been drafted into the field on Tuesday following Silent Effective's scratching. Gradence won Bulli's other big feature, the Gold Plate, after gaining a run as a reserve in January.
The Bulli Greyhound Racing Club will throw open the gates to all patrons on Wednesday night and have set up multiple televisions on course for State of Origin. The cup has been brought forward to 7.25pm - well before Origin kick-off - with the first race to jump at 6.02pm.
"There will be free children's face painting and balloon sculpting on course and the club has made sure there will be plenty of vantage points to watch the Origin," Bulli's Darren Hull said.