Stage set at Manukau for SENZ Duke of Edinburgh Silver Collar Sunday

Pictured: Grande Vue Ace is aiming for another Group 1 victory on Sunday. Photo credit: Auckland Greyhound Racing Club.

True blue staying performances were registered by both heat winners in Sunday’s pair of enthralling SENZ Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar heats.

Both heats delivered spectacular races and this Sunday’s $80,000 final at the Manukau Stadium over the marathon 779m distance promises to be an absolute cracker.

After all, the previous 52 editions of the race for the right to fleetingly right to wear the Duke’s solid silver collar have been action-packed races, and this year’s final will add another chapter to the engrossing history of the great race.

Speaking about the history of this Group 1 race, we go back to the 1970 Royal Tour of New Zealand to establish how the Silver Collar originated.

During that tour, the late Prince Phillip was gifted a greyhound by the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club. On his return to England, the Duke, who himself raced greyhounds which included the 1968 English Derby winner Camira Flash, commissioned the royal engravers, Bravingtons in London, to craft the solid silver collar in recognition of the greyhound offered to him.

She raced under the appropriate name Royal Commission, and she went onto win the 1972 Silver Collar, after finishing second in 1971 and then third in the 1973 finals. Prince Phillip forwarded all of the stake money won by Royal Commission to the New Zealand arm of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Anyway, back to this Sunday.

Firstly, the heat sectional times were remarkably similar. The first 318m split in both heats were completed in 18.76. The 527m sectionals were run in 30.52 (first heat) and 30.54. The run home times told the story, with the second heat winner Grande Vue Ace returning 16.08, while Orson Blonde brought it home in 16.30.

Grande Vue Ace ($2.80 & $1.30 – NZ TAB Fixed) is an amazing stayer, as is evidenced by her being the current New Zealand Stayers Cup and Wanganui Distance title holder at Group 1 level, while she also won the 779m Auckland Stayers Cup in January.

Her conditioner Bob Pringle travelled north from his Geraldine base to load away his pride and joy into the eight trap for her return to Manukau. She timed her run to the line to absolute perfection, getting up in the final few bounds to clock a tidy 46.62.

Pringle has remained in the north, and he says that he has given his little girl a relaxing week heading into the decider.

“I took her out to Kariotahi Beach, where she galloped very nicely. She thrives on the change of environment, freshening her up. She has responded brilliantly from her heat, where she got bounced around by different dogs,” explained Pringle.

Pringle has called on assistance in preparing the daughter of Dyna Dave and Replica Casino for this assignment, as he recovers from a broken leg.

“My partner Raewyn has been fantastic while I have been sitting on the couch. Without her, I wouldn’t be up here for this great race. There are so many other people I need to thank, including members of the Geraldine community and the help we have received from the Geraldine Golf Club, who have embraced Grande Vue Ace right from the start.

“I’ll hobble around to the boxes again, and if the little girl wins the Silver Collar, I’ll be dedicating the win to all of those people. To me, to breed, train and own a Silver Collar winner is the ultimate,” enthused Pringle. 

Orson Blonde was the other SENZ Duke of Edinburgh Silver Collar heat winner. Photo credit: Auckland Greyhound Racing Club.

Arch Lawrence is a renowned mentor of staying greyhounds, and the Cambridge based trainer is seeking to train his fourth Silver Collar winner. Orson Blonde ($7.50 & $2.15) was sublime in the manner that she delivered her 46.62 heat win.

Orson Blonde is looking to replicate her mother Shandell2, who won the 2015 Silver Collar final. In her heat, she settled in the rear group after copping an early check from where she bided her time during the early rush for positions.

She had three greyhounds behind her with a lap of the track to run. Down the back straight she eased her way forward, from where she raced into contention rounding the final turn. A nifty “sidestep” saw in her in clear racing air when straightening up for the run home, from where she strongly extended to secure her heat victory in 46.82 seconds.

“As Orson Blonde has got older, she has got stronger and she is now showing more potential. Previously, she was a very shy, nervous dog and she has now grown out of being like that.

“She has flown under the radar for quite a while and I thought her heat run was phenomenal, now running as good as my previous stayers. She was forced to change her racing lines and it was quite fantastic how she did that.

“Training four Silver Collar winners will be unreal and yes, Orson Blonde is capable of winning it. It just depends on what type of run she gets. She’s all ready to go on Sunday,” confirmed Lawrence.

Dave and Jean Fahey have prepared two previous Silver Collar winners and they will be represented by Opawa Gina ($7 & $1.95) in the decider. Last year’s Silver Collar finalist (5th) was gallant in her heat, setting up the pace, and it took the strength owned by Grande Vue Ace to gun her down late, when she yielded by a three-quarter length margin. She will race from trap-four.

“She has definitely picked up a gear lately. She needs to jump and get onto rail and hopefully set up the pace, which will be ideal for her. I’m confident the old girl can back up on Sunday and she’s a box of birds after her heat,” advised Dave Fahey.

Chief Dribble ($2.60 & $1.26) stylishly handled his Manukau track debut assignment and he maintained a solid run through the line when securing his 1.25 length second to Orson Blonde. He is likely to have benefited from that outing, and the Matt Roberts-trained stayer can make a statement in the final.

“I couldn’t be happier with him. It’s incredible how well he’s done after his race and the trip. He was all at sea in his heat after getting the jump wrong and then being the meat in the sandwich. Even after all that, he still remained handy to the pace.

“I feel that his draw (5) isn’t that bad with the way the field is drawn around him. There’s so many different elements to the race. If he begins with them, then yes ,he can outpace them. I couldn’t be happier with him and I wouldn’t change my charge for any of the other dogs,” suggested Roberts.

Local trainer Rob Roper is totally rapt to have qualified two stayers, both of them former Australian stayers, sourced for him by the 2017 Silver Collar winning trainer (Ring The Bell) Gerry O’Keeffe.

Boom Lateral ($12 & $3) was making his New Zealand race debut in his heat and it was a solid effort he produced when winding up a 3.25 length fourth to Orson Blonde. He will be sighted wearing the red racing vest, from where he has placed in seven of his eight races from the ace. 

“I wold love to see him holding up the rail and leading – that would be the ideal scenario. If he can do that, then I don’t think anything else can get around him. Look at the 318m split times (both 18.76).

“Gerry tells me he has never been passed in a race in Aussie. It was a mighty heat effort by him, considering we had some issues going into it. He was coming on again at the line,” advised Roper.

Kennelmate Trenzalore ($14 & $3) has been a competitive stayer over the last year, and he won a Cambridge Group 2 747m final. His racing style is to take a sit along the rail, where he should be positioned from trap-two and then patiently wait for gaps to open, which he readily takes.  

“I believe the key will be on how it unfolds for Trenzalore going into the first turn. He should get a gorgeous early run. He has come on really nicely after his recent races. It’s going to be a great race and I can’t wait for it,” suggested Roper about his stayer.

Garry Cleeve is a regular attendee in Silver Collar finals, with his obvious highlight being preparing the outstanding stayer Know Keeper to win the 2022 Silver Collar final.

“Crafty” returns to Manukau with a pair of his home bred stayers Know Defence ($12 & $2.70) and Know Valour ($21 & $4.20), being half-brothers out of Classy Witch, who incidentally has a repeat mating of eight-week old pups to Mepunga Blazer.

Know Defence raced on the pace in his heat and maintained a solid gallop when winding up in third 3.25 lengths behind Orson Blonde.

His trainer informs us, “I like to think that there’s some improvement there. A lot of little factors, like now having experience on the track should contribute to improvement. I don’t mind his draw (7) and I can see him pushing forward early, hopefully settling and racing handy to the pace, racing in clear air.”  

Know Valour, who will be wearing the pink racing vest, is another stayer returning from last year’s final and he generally settles back during the early rush from where he is sighted doing his best work at the business end of his races. He finished stoutly for his 5.5 length heat fourth to Grande Vue Ace.

“He was just a length behind Chief Dribble on the clock, so that gives us some hope. He’ll be slow out and drop down to the rail, which means it’s likely to be hard work for him. If he’s handy to the pace turning for home, I’ll be screaming,” said Cleeve.

The reserves are 9 Know Hurry ($19 & $3.90) – Garry Cleeve and 10 Blake ($21 & $4.20) – Dave and Jean Fahey.

It will be a gripping 46-something seconds of action-packed chasing action from the time the elite field of canine stayers are released from the Manukau 779m traps at 3:36pm for the 53rd running of the SENZ Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar.


By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 07 June 2024

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