Dirk Wins Invercargill Group Race & Norm Breaks His Record

Checking into a Fijian resort on Tuesday afternoon cost Canterbury trainer Craig Roberts the opportunity from watching his greyhound Dirk Bale winning the Far South Challenge at Group 2 level in Invercargill.

Pictured: Dirk Bale (green) winning Tuesday’s Far South Challenge

“I had just completed our check in when I realized Dirk was racing. I brought up the TAB stream on my phone and all I saw was Bobby (Blackburn, handler) bringing Dirk back – apart from that I knew nothing about the race until you rang me,” commented Roberts.

Dirk Bale was the warm race favourite, leaping from the six trap after his solid 25.86s 457m heat win, the quickest of the three heats held two weeks ago. He came away nicely when the traps lifted although he was matched by two Dave and Jean Fahey trained contenders Grid Lock and To The Nail from the inside traps.

Rounding the big, sweeping Ascot Park bend it was Grid Lock who held the rail, with Dirk Bale sitting on his outer. Grid Lock held the advantage when turning in for the long run home and he dug in real deeply.

It was only over the last thirty odd metres that Dirk Bale’s greater strength told as he eased clear to secure his win by a length, clocking 25.85s. It was a real busy finish for the minors with just a nose separating Grid Lock over his kennel mate To The Nail. The local chasing star Southern Lights finished resolutely for his fourth placing for local conditioner Roy Hamilton, a further 1.25 lengths behind.

“That’s brilliant – I’m rapt for Dirk. He has been a competitive dog all season,” added Roberts. Back in March Dirk Bale won the $88,000 Auckland Cup.

Dirk Bale’s litter brothers Allen Ablett and Avenger Bale were also Group 1 winners during the season for Roberts and their owner Jan Wheeler with Allen Ablett being the first ever Group 1 victor for his super sire dad Fernando Bale when he won the early December raced Spion Rose Cup (Dirk Bale was second to him).

It was a huge season for the three Fernando Bale and Langi Bale litter brothers as combined they raced on 104 occasions, winning 52 of them and after adding in a further 25 minor placings they won $297,262 in stake earnings.

Dirk Bale himself contributed $114,416 to that tally, being the result of his 18 wins and six minor placings from his 35 races.

Dirk Bale Allen Ablett Avenger Bale
Dirk Bale with his handler Bobby Blackburn following his Far South Challenge win; Dirk Bale litter brothers Allen Ablett and Avenger Bale (right) also won Group races during the 2017/18 racing season

Norm Breaks His Own 390m Track record

Earlier during Tuesday’s Ascot Park meeting the John McInerney prepared ageless phenomenon Wheelchair Norm won his 97th career race. It was an astounding effort as the five and a half year old chaser also broke his own Ascot Park 390m track record when he clocked 22.06s. It was back in April 2017 when set his previous record at 22.08s.

McInerney restricts Wheelchair Norm racing activities to the two southern most located tracks on Tuesday afternoons which is a program that Norm thrives on. His 97 wins has come from 196 races (44 minor placings) and his stake earnings currently sits at $174,129. It looks like it will be a while before Wheelchair Norm’s collar and lead is hung up, judging by his current strong sprinting form.

Wheelchair Norm Wheelchair Norm
Wheelchair Norm delivering his Tuesday 390m track record breaking 22.06s win and back at the podium with his handler Micky Seque (pics Dave Robbie)

By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 1/08/2018 2:59:11 PM

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