Opawa Susan provides Faheys with another Oaks win

Opawa Susan was too good in the Rose & Thistle New Zealand Oaks on Friday night. Photo credit: Dave Robbie.

Dave and Jean Fahey nine, Opawa Racing six – that’s the scorecard of New Zealand Oaks victories for the lethal racing partnership following Opawa Susan’s strong Addington Raceway win in the $50,000 Group 1 feature last Friday.

The 2024 edition of the Rose & Thistle New Zealand Oaks saw Opawa Susan hopping away cleanly from the eight-trap, taking up a forward early position when heading into the first turn.

Meanwhile, it was the Riley Evans-prepared pair of Goldstar Remi and Goldstar Mila who set a torrid pace when racing down the back straight, while they were stalked by Opawa Susan.

Opawa Susan ranged up on the home turn, from where she extended strongly during the run home to land her Group 1 victory after 30.27 seconds of hard out chasing.

Producing a whirlwind finish was the Garry Cleeve-prepared Tess, who after settling in an early rear group position, flew home late to miss the win by three-quarters of a length.

Goldstar Mila gamely stuck to her task when holding down third, another 1.75 lengths behind.

“I thought Opawa Susan showed a lot of guts in the way she ran right around the outside of the field.

“It’s pleasing to win the New Zealand Oaks again, especially with it being a Group 1 race on our home track,” said Dave Fahey about the 63rd Group 1 winner and the 125th Group winner that the couple have now mentored.

He also informs us that Opawa Susan very nearly didn’t make the NZ Oaks series.

“I nearly turned her out, as she wasn’t going that good and I couldn’t pinpoint the issue she had.

“She only had a couple of hand slips, plus a 295m trial going into the series, so it was great to see her bounce back like that. We’ll take her up to Hatrick for the New Zealand Futurity,” said Fahey, where Opawa Susan will look to add to the $55,846 in stakes she has won, the result of 10 wins and five minor placings from her 26 races.

It was also another successful evening of premier racing for the Faheys, along with Opawa Racing. Together, they enjoyed success with three other Opawa-named greyhounds, including the strong win that the star greyhound Opawa Superstar secured in the $10,000 Springston Hotel Sprint feature Final when he cut out his 295m dash in 17.12.

“Yes, it was a great night, especially for Robin (Wales). Big thanks to Robin and Opawa Racing, plus all of our staff. We couldn’t enjoy success like that without them,” advised Fahey, who also mentored Opawa Archer to win the 520m C3 Protocol Bar & Restaurant Stakes Feature in 30.06, while also presenting Opawa Kyle to stylishly take out the 520m C5 Rakia Vets Ltd Stakes Feature in a tidy 29.97 for Opawa Racing.

Opawa Susan, who is a daughter of Fabregas and Our Anna, was bred, reared and is raced by Opawa Racing, who is headed by Robin Wales. The racing partnership previously consisted of Wales, along with his late mates and racing partners Graham Campbell and Ron Todd.

“I knew Opawa Susan was good early on, so that’s the reason why I named her after Graham’s partner Susan,” said Wales.

“Yes, it was a good night for us. It’s really good, especially when you breed and rear and then race them – that’s what makes it even more special.

“I thought that Opawa Schofer was our best chance, but she was slow early, then I looked for Opawa Katrina who was in early traffic. I picked up Susan when she was going down the back and realised she could win, as I know she’s strong.

“It has worked out alright over the years with the Faheys with their expertise!” said Wales.

A hallmark about the breeding that Wales and Opawa Racing undertakes is strength in the progeny bred. And that now places Wales in a dilemma, as he has indicated that he wants to cut back his breeding operation. He explains as he takes us back along Opawa Susan’s line.

“Opawa Susan is out of Token Kay and she was out of Perfect Token. Perfect Token was the best purchase I’ve made and all our recent success has stemmed from her. I have a number of bitches here from that line who should be bred from.”

And maintaining that line will be a recipe for the continual success that Opawa Racing, along with Dave and Jean Fahey, enjoys as they continue their successful assault on Group 1 races!


2024 Kingston Cup

Chief Dribble was an impressive winner of the Group 2 Kingston Cup. Photo credit: Dave Robbie.

Chief Dribble came away flying from the six-trap and that effectively won the $20,000 Group 2 732m staying race that recognises the massive input that the Kingston family, headed by the GRNZ Hall of Fame member Gordon, has injected into both Canterbury and New Zealand greyhound racing.

It was game, set and match right from when the 732m traps lifted for the Matt Roberts-prepared Chief Dribble, who effortlessly cruised to his strong 43.32 victory.

Brother Dan Roberts applied the finishing touches to the five-length runner-up Opawa Corban, who maintained a solid gallop throughout.

Opawa Gina pressed on stoutly to secure her third placing for Dave and Jean Fahey, a further 2.5 lengths behind.

“Yes, it was a hugely successful night of racing for us. I guess I haven’t enjoyed a night like that since I won the Wanganui Cup and Wanganui Stayers. It makes the long hard slog all worthwhile,” advised Roberts, who also presented the promising Let Him Cook to win the O’Shea’s Public House C4 Feature over 520m in 30.10.

“Chief Dribble looked pretty good in the way he ran through the line, and I’m really pleased with that. He has pulled up as good as gold. We will now keep him ticking over until the Silver Collar,” suggested Roberts.

Chief Dribble is owned by Mandy Haines, whose daughter Molly and her partner James “Sheep” Shaw made the trip across the Tasman for the event.

“Both of them were absolutely over the moon with the result,” added Roberts.

And Roberts revealed some potential exciting plans ahead for Chief Dribble.

“After the Silver Collar, we’ll take a look at the New Zealand Nationals Distance Final. The Australian Distance Final is in Adelaide and we would be keen to have a crack at that race with him.”

Winning the Kingston Cup with Chief Dribble, who has now won 11 of his 37 races and with his 11 minor placings now sees his stake earning sitting at $49,378, meant a lot for Matt Roberts.

“The Kingston family did a power amount of work for the industry. They steered the industry to where we are today. Dad (Craig) tells me that Gordon did a massive lot of work, which we are all truly grateful for today,” reflected Roberts.


2024 Trevor Wilkes Memorial Cup

Claws In Zorro was victorious in Friday night’s Trevor Wilkes Memorial Cup. Photo credit: Dave Robbie.

Trevor Wilkes certainly would have enjoyed calling Claws In Zorro home in the $15,000 520m race that recognises the massive service he contributed during his 43-year commentating career.

Trainer Matt Roberts has had the ultra-consistent Claws In Zorro racing super against top class opposition for a long time, and the recent Invercargill Cup winner was rewarded with another feature race victory.

The outcome of the Trevor Wilkes Memorial Cup was decided during the early rush for positions, with Claws In Zorro making a quick start to lead his rivals into the first turn, while the warm Lisa Cole-prepared race favourite He’s All Go checked off hind paws. He’s All Go veered sharply out wide, losing all winning chance in doing so.

Claws In Zorro was in freewheeling mode down the back straight, and he reached the judge in 29.99 while holding a 1.75 length margin over the strong finishing Who’s Jealous for his trainer Garry Cleeve. He’s All Go boldly recovered to claim third placing, a further 3.25 lengths behind.

“The key for Claws In Zorro was picking the jump and then crossing He’s All Go, from where he was able to pinch a break on the field when running fast sectionals down to the back mark – that was where the race was won.

“It is a big honour to win Trevor’s memorial race. He was a huge influence on Canterbury racing. I grew up listening to Trevor’s commentaries. He was such a nice guy,” explained Roberts about the 2022 inducted member of the GRNZ Hall of Fame.  

“I’m not sure if Claws In Zorro will contest a Waterloo Cup heat, as he has never been up at Manukau. He will definitely go back to Hatrick for the New Zealand Futurity,” added Roberts. AT Hatrick, the Pete Clausen-owned Claws In Zorro will get the opportunity to add to his growing pool of $87,896 in stake earnings, which has been compiled by 16 wins and 10 second placings from his 35 races.

And, upon the completion of his Restricted Age season, an Australian campaign is still being considered for him.

“Yes, we are still thinking about taking him over there, especially if he keeps on jumping like he did last Friday,” said Roberts.

Now Trevor Wilkes certainly would have approved of those plans!


By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 14 May 2024

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