Tommy's Phoenix Hopes Getting Slimmer By The Day

STEVE Withers concedes the prospects of Tommy Shelby having a farewell in The Phoenix at The Meadows in December is getting slimmer by the day.

Adam Dobbin

23 October 2021

STEVE Withers concedes the prospects of Tommy Shelby having a farewell to racing in the inaugural The TAB Phoenix (525m) at The Meadows in December is getting slimmer by the day.

During the past two years the superstar son of Fernando Bale has been the flagbearer for greyhound racing in the west winning three group 1s, 31 of his 47 starts, and over $1m in prize money.

But as it stands the greyhound better known as the “people’s dog” is no closer to a guaranteed start in the lucrative The Phoenix which would be the champion sprinter’s goodbye to racing.

“Everything I’ve been doing in terms of his preparation and return to racing has been aimed at The Phoenix but at the moment it looks like we might be at home watching,” Withers said.

“He hasn’t raced since August and perhaps that’s one of the reasons the phone hasn’t rung yet and I’d be lying if I said it’s not slightly disappointing.

“And that’s not being disrespectful to any of the slot holders or the greyhounds being discussed. I’d just have hoped given what he’s achieved he’d be there.”

Despite no greyhounds having been officially announced as certain starters for The Phoenix, Wither concedes the chances of gaining a straight out invitation are waning.

That means for the million dollar earner to book a place in the race he’ll likely need to progress through The Dogs WA Road To The Phoenix qualifier at Cannington.

 

The gruelling three-week series will see eight dog races in week one before four dog clashes in week two leading into a two-dog match race to decide which WA greyhound earns the coveted The Phoenix slot.

“If that’s the road we have to take it will rule us out of the Melbourne Cup with the dates overlapping,” Withers said.

“And even then given the open nature of the qualifying conditions, getting through the first round especially of that series won’t be straightforward.

“The way things are progressing we could be in Hobart defending his Group 1 Hobart Thousand title when The Phoenix is on.

“We’ll just have to see where the cards fall.”

Withers expects Tommy Shelby to be up working over 450 metres in around a fortnight and hopes by then to have a clearer picture as to what the next few months look like.

“He won’t be right for the Topgun so we’ve ruled that out,” Withers said.

“How I prepare him from here really depends on what happens with The Phoenix.

“If he had a slot secured I’ve got no doubt I could have him at the top of his game going into the race with probably two race starts under his belt to get rid of the ring rust.

“He’s proven on three occasions he can produce his best off a break. He’s an ultimate professional and I know what he needs to get to that stage as well.

“It seems like he’s been the forgotten dog out of all this but if he gets an opportunity he won’t let anyone down.

“But whatever happens I can’t see him racing on into next year.”