With the Group Two East Maitland Bowling Club Maitland Cup series a matter of weeks away, local trainer Darryl Thomas is hopeful of having another finalist with the successful return of talented chaser Fernando Hunter to the Maitland circuit last Monday night.

Having his first start since November, the son of Fernando Bale and Mrs. Mouse stepped poorly from box three, however was fortunate to gain a rails run and hooked to the outside of the two leaders to shoot away in the home straight. The Brenton Avdulla owned chaser saluted by two and a half lengths in a best of the night 25.09.

“He hurt his hock when we took him to Melbourne and he’s had some time off to get it right,” said Thomas.

“He’s a very fast animal, he just had bad manners and showed them on Monday when he jumped.”

“He’s good enough to go in the Maitland Cup series, but he will need to get those manners right to have any chance because they’re always such speedy dogs in that race.”

Thomas also commenced his newly formed partnership with renowned owner Ray Borda in style, with Aston Concorde’s brilliant debut from box eight over the 450m. The son of Borda’s sire Aston Dee Bee and Fantastic Skye despite exuding a high galloping action, still manage to post an impressive time of 25.16.

“He’s still got lots to learn and is very green at the moment.”

“I haven’t really had a dog that throws their head in the air like that, but I’ve been told it’s because he’s trying so hard.”

“That was his first go at 450m, but he had a good preparation coming into the race and has already been schooled around Wentworth Park, so he definitely has potential.”

“Ray rang me and asked if I was interested in taking this dog for him and said he likes to place certain dogs with certain trainers where he thinks they’ll go well.”

“It was a massive compliment to have someone like Ray offer me a dog to train for him and I’m grateful to be given the opportunity.”

While Thomas’ greyhounds may be listed in the race book under his name, he credits his mum Darrellene as the backbone of his Sawyer’s Gully kennel operations.

“My mum is an absolute legend.”

“Her and dad were successful trainers back in the day and I wouldn’t be where I am without her.”

“I’m definitely going to get some dogs put into her name because she deserves the credit for them.”

Off the track, Thomas’ retired chaser La Grand Quality has commenced stud duties, with his former caretaker hopeful of producing some handy pups.

“He is such a beautiful dog and I haven’t had one like him, he’s just special.”

“He was all business on race day, but the gentlest dog and very smart.”

It’s understandable why Thomas has a particular affinity with La Grand Quality, given they experienced a serious car accident together in 2019, while travelling to Ipswich for the Vince Curry Memorial Maiden.

“I don’t know how we weren’t both killed. Unfortunately, I fell asleep at the wheel and hit a parked truck.”

Fortunately, the son of El Grand Senor and All Quality escaped pretty much unscathed and went on to win twelve of his eighteen career starts, with injuries sadly ending his career prematurely. The fawn flash won the 2020 Group Two Warragul Cup and is living a life of luxury with owner Kellie Fogarty at her property.

The upcoming Maitland Cup promises to host some of the state’s most impressive one turn specialists, with the likes of Impress Lleyton (24.98), Robbie Rotten (25.03), Impress Troy (25.03), Sonic Nismo (25.03) and Finefeuiaki (25.04) all likely contenders.


Photo: Johnathan Carroll.