Tony Hart’s talented team set for Derby Day

Master Porthos (pictured with Dylan Voyce) is a leading contender in Thursday’s $50,000 Group 1 New Zealand Derby at Cambridge. Photo credit: Yvette Bodiam.


Canterbury trainer Tony Hart had a day to remember at Cambridge last Thursday, when his greyhounds took out four Group race heats, including two heats of the Group 1 Mike Stent Decorators Limited New Zealand Derby.

“It was unbelievable!” said Hart. “I’m really, really happy with how the day went. We’d planned this meeting a couple of months ago, and we got the results on Thursday. We are rapt to be in the finals now.”

He was quick to pay credit to the team around him.

“Our staff are absolutely awesome, Dylan Voyce and Tayla Duley. They put in a lot of hard yards and we’re really, really lucky.”

Hart’s winning run commenced in Race 3, when Master Porthos dominated from start to finish in his New Zealand Derby heat. The Jose Arthur-owned greyhound began quickly off Box 2, and careered away to score by 8.5 lengths over Hint Of Mint, who was previously unbeaten in New Zealand. Master Porthos clocked 25.29, which was the fastest time of the day.

“I thought Master Porthos would win his heat, and I think Box 8 will suit him in the final,” said Hart bullishly.

In the final New Zealand Derby heat, Opawa Superstar was sent out the $1.20 favourite, but it was $11 shot Diego Jem who caused an upset, once again for the Hart-Arthur combination.

The son of Fabregas and Jemima Tee only began fairly off Box 6, but he quickly got into his work and found the early lead. In the end, he scored by over five lengths in 25.40, with Opawa Superstar finishing in second for Jean and Dave Fahey. The Faheys trained the first New Zealand Derby heat winner earlier on the programme, with Opawa Wayne proving too good.

It was Diego Jem’s first attempt racing further than 390m, and his impressive performance came as a surprise to his trainer.

“I was surprised at how good he ran the 457m out,” said Hart. “We were amazed when he went past Opawa Superstar!

“He has always shown heaps. Two or three months ago, he had a wee tear in his monkey muscle, but we got that right. We’ve been working him up and he’s been trialling really good. This dog could be anything.

“Speed-wise, I can’t split my two dogs in the race. But Diego Jem has drawn in Box 1, and the 3 dog (Mad World) runs out, so he should get heaps of room early. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

Hart also has Violet Lu in the $20,000 Group 2 Angus Wright Memorial Sprint, following her 21.12 heat win over Zipping Derek. She’s drawn Box 4 in the final, between Typhoon Tim (3) and Nevada Phil (5).

“She should improve for the run. If she pings out and leads, it will take a bit to run her down – it’s just a case of her doing it on the day.”

Hart will also be represented by two runners in the $20,000 Group 2 Lois Henley Memorial Trophy. Charlotte Lu won her heat impressively in 25.42, while Victoria Lu finished second behind Freedom League in her heat.

“It was a massive run by Charlotte Lu on Thursday – it was her first race back for a few months,” Hart explained. “She should improve this week, and she can ping and go early. If she’s leading, I can’t see anything running her down.

“I did think that Victoria Lu was a bit unlucky in her heat; she just clipped off the heels of Freedom League.”

Hart admits that for sentimental reasons, he’ll be cheering for Victoria Lu on the day.

She’s owned by Faye Lockhart and the Estate of Ray Adcock.

“I’d love Victoria to win for Faye and Ray. We train our dogs Ray’s way, no other way – we’ve followed on from his legacy. This place is all about Ray at the end of the day.

“Ray and I were great mates for about 35 years. He came here every Wednesday night for dinner and we’d talk about dogs for hours.”


By Liz Whelan

Posted on 11 April 2022

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