The Bell Rang Powerfully at Manukau

“For me, this win is bigger than either the Sandown Cup or the Australian National Distance winners I trained,” commented Victorian conditioner Gerry O’Keeffe following the effortless victory he mentored his charge Ring The Bell to in Sunday’s $80,000 Plasterboard Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar.

Pic: Ring The Bell’s co-owners brothers Glenn Pask (left) and Grant Pask (right) flanking race handler Mark Smith and trainer Gerry O’Keeffe

That’s a huge statement because O’Keeffe prepared Ring The Bell to win that Australian National Distance title, plus his litter sister Bell’s Are Ringing to win the world’s richest staying race, the A$250,000 Sandown Cup.

“I set a plan for Ring The Bell after he won in Adelaide (Aussie National Distance) to aim him towards the Silver Collar. I was aware of the race and the prestigious nature of it. I also wanted to try Ring The Bell over the extreme 779m race distance. I had the full support of his owners (Four Frothys Syndicate) to go ahead with the plan.

“It was six months in the planning, therefore, to pull it off made Sunday’s win so immensely satisfying. I am so proud of Disco (kennel name). I thought if I could get him down to around the 46.20s mark (he won his heat in 46.31s), then yes he could win the race,” advised O’Keeffe.

He was spot on as Ring The Bell completed his Sunday 779m assignment in 46.22s, demolishing his Kiwi-trained rivals by an emphatic 11.75 length margin. Yes, there was some early anxiety for O’Keeffe as he explains. “My first thoughts when I saw Shandell leading for the first 100 yards, was how are we going to get past her? I really respect her proven record as stayer, especially in this race”

The Arch Lawrence trained Shandell was contesting her third Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar final after winning it in 2015, then running second to her litter sister Teemaria last year. The 46.52s heat winner led the field away from the 779m traps.

It was to be a short lift race lead as Ring The Bell stalked Shandell into the home straight for the first occasion and he had assumed control of the race with a lap of the Manukau track left to complete. It was all over as a contest from that point with only the minor placings having to be decided.

Shandell was really gallant in bravely leading the vain chase after the pacemaker and she held strongly for her deserved runner-up’s prize and with it, she claimed the $1,000 Breeders’ prize for being the first NZ bred greyhound to finish in the Group 1 event. She held a comfortable four-length margin over the balance of the field.

The third possie on the post-race podium was snatched late by the strong finishing Know Jinx. It was a massive effort by the Gary Cleeve trained stayer to achieve her placing as she was severely checked when approaching the final turn. It was a remarkable recovery by her.

We have to also acknowledge the performances delivered by the two Maiden graded stayers in this field. Electric Lotto was only cut out of third over the final few bounds. Her trainers Greg Hore and Peter Fergusson have every right to feel very proud of her achievement. The Matt Roberts trained Cawbourne Kai finished nearly in line with her. Both of these stayers will be sighted in forthcoming feature staying events based on their gutsy efforts in the great race.

We have to leave the last words to the victorious trainer. “I’m extremely impressed with your greyhound racing over here. It is every professionally run not only on the track but also off it. The hospitality I was extended during my visit was absolutely fantastic. I wish to congratulate all other trainers in the Silver Collar – they were so very sporting and generous in their congratulations. They did New Zealand greyhound racing proud.

“I have to sincerely thank Thayne Green who went out of his way to accommodate myself and Ring The Bell, while Mark and John Smith made sure everything went smoothly for me throughout the trip. Yes, winning the Silver Collar is my career highlight,” added O’Keeffe.

Ring The Bell has already flown to Christchurch where he will be mentored by leading conditioner Ray Adcock towards the Group 1 NZ Stayers Cup at Addington (732m heats June 22). Bring it on!

Ring The Bell  

Shandell Know Jinx

Ring The Bell following his Plasterboard Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar victory flanked by (from left) trainer Gerry O’Keeffe, co-owner Glenn Pask, handler Mark Smith, co-owner Grant Pask and Plasterboard sponsors Roy and Karen Thomson; the gallant runner-up Shandell with Arch Lawrence and the brave third place getter Know Jinx with Gary Cleeve

Karen Thomson and John Roberts Gloria Lawrence and Roy Thomson Misfits

Silver Collar day saw birthday’s being celebrated by Karen Thomson and Auckland Chairman John Roberts (here’s a trivia question – what’s the combined age of the pair?)! The Auckland Club adopted their usual policy of presenting the trainers of all Silver Collar finalists with a special collar and lead set – Gloria Lawrence accepted hers on behalf of Augello from sponsor Roy Thomson; the Silver Collar day on course Last Man Standing promotion was easily won by the “Misfits” team seen here (from left) Graeme Calverley, Rupert Fairbrother, Greg Kerr and Danny Laing

By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 13/06/2017 11:36:10 AM

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