It’s not often a greyhound boasting 23 wins from 39 starts would slip under the radar but that could well be the case with provincial star Bills Back (pictured in blue rug) in Sunday night’s star-studded heats of the Group 2 Southern Cross Ten Bendigo Cup (425m).
The Bendigo Cup spotlight will be firmly focused on Australia’s number one sprinter Fernando Bale, while the support cast includes multiple Group winners Dyna Villa, Lamia Bale, Luca Neveelk and Ronray Spirit.
However, while Bills Back, which is trained by veteran Cliff Smith at Wonwondah, near Horsham, might not have the same profile – yet, anyway – he looms as a dark horse, with his imposing resume including five wins from six visits to Bendigo.
“He’s got a good record at Bendigo but I’ve never seen heats as strong as these,” Cliff Smith said.
“There’s three or four good chances in every heat and our heat is no harder or weaker than the others but I don’t worry about the opposition. My dog is a hundred per cent trier and he’ll give them a bit of curry for a while.
“His early splits are brilliant. He’s had 23 wins and on 21 occasions his first split has been the best of the night and on 20 occasions he’s run the best of the night.
“I’ve got a 400m straight track with 100m markers. I ride a three-wheeler bike up the straight going around 80 kilometres an hour and if Bills Back beats me to a marker I know he’s going alright. Yesterday he beat me to the first three pegs and I said to my wife ‘Put him in the kennel, he’s ready to fly!’
“His early splits are brilliant. He’s had 23 wins and on 21 occasions his first split has been the best of the night and on 20 occasions he’s run the best of the night.”
“As a pup he broke a metacarpal and he races in bandages because of his metacarpals. I’ve taken him to The Meadows four times and he’s led every time but the two turns are just too much for him and he can’t walk for a week afterwards so I’ll keep him on one-bend now because it’s easier for him.”
Smith, who’s held a trainers’ license for 41 years but cut back his numbers several years ago due to ill health, tested Bills Back in elite company for the first time in last month’s Warrnambool Cup and he gave a great sight when running fifth to Ronray Spirit (Replay).
“He won his heat at Warrnambool and then led Ronray Spirit in the final. They were a bit too good for him on the night but he certainly wasn’t disgraced.”
Bills Back got his name due to an uncanny resemblance to another son of Premier Fantasy formerly trained by Smith called Premier Bill.
“I was the fourth trainer to get Premier Bill and he hadn’t won a race when I got him – he hadn’t even run a place – but he clicked with me and won ten pretty quickly and then he was sold to Western Australia for big money,” Smith explained.
“This dog reminded me of Premier Bill in every way – same colour, same looks and same temperament – and I said if I ever get him to the track I’m going to call him Bills Back.”
Bills Back has drawn box three in the third of eight cut-throat Bendigo Cup heats, with Fernando Bale to exit box one in heat six.
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