Wright, a fencing contractor,trains a small team of six greyhounds at Allansford, just five minutes from Warrnambool. He watched on in disbelief as Lightning Frank stormed home to snare the $100,000 first prize, much to the delight of his legion of owners, the Hashtag Syndicate, who celebrated long into the night.
Mathew and father Kevin first got involved in greyhound racing 25 years ago when Mathew was just 14 years of age, with Lightning Frank lifting the pair to new heights. “He’s the best greyhound we’ve ever had by panels,” Wright said after Lightning Frank came from behind to win in 29.97sec.
“We had a greyhound called Off Tap (won 43 from 75), who was an absolute flying machine, but she was a short courser.”
Despite Lightning Frank posting a brilliant 29.66sec (best) in his semi-final win – his 12th victory from 21 starts – Wright entered the $145,000 Silver Chief final with little confidence.
“Being drawn in box five I wasn’t very confident because the six dog (Lorenzo Blue) tries to cut in (to the rail). I really expected ($2.50 Fav) Thirty Talks to win from box one, and had he not got injured he would’ve won,” Wright said.
Thirty Talks, the highly decorated Queenslander and $2.40 favourite, entered the Silver Chief with a prize money bank balance of almost $300,000, more than all seven other Silver Chief finalists combined. He flew from traps and was clear around the bend but then dropped a muscle and Lightning Frank swooped to lead.
“The Hashtag Syndicate is made up of three lads and their dads, and they all just love going to the races to watch their dogs race. Lightning Frank is about the fourth or fifth greyhound they’ve owned after buying him as a young pup, and I’m really happy for them.”
Lightning Frank has turned out to be everything Wright had hoped for, and he is hopeful his star will gain a run in next month’s invitation-only Group 1 Temlee (525m) at The Meadows. In the meantime, however, he has a $100,000 first prize to think about.
“Half the prize money goes to the owners, while part of my share will go towards buying dad a new ride-on mower, because I accidentally ran his one into a tree a few weeks ago,” he said.
Wright said he was delighted to be able to continue the flourish of Group 1 wins by hobby trainers over the past 12 months in Victoria.
“It’s been a great year or so for hobby trainers like myself. Twelve months ago Andy Stewart won the Silver Chief (with Midwinter), while Dustin Drew, who like me is from down Warrnambool way won the Maturity with Kilty Express, and Dundee Osprey has won three Group 1s,” he said.
Gerry O’Keeffe and Matthew Lanigan are other Victorian trainers to have won their first races at Group 1 level in the past 12 months, providing plenty of hope to others.
“There’s thousands of trainers like me,” Wright said. “We’re just battlers waiting for that one really good dog to come along and it’s such a good feeling when it happens.”