BENDIGO greyhound trainers say they have not been this well-represented on a major feature race night in years.
While the surprise appearance of the Lee Moore-trained Orlando in the Group 1 Australian Cup has dominated talk in local greyhound circles this week, three of the regions other trainers are preparing to be part of a huge night of Group racing on Saturday at The Meadows.
Toolleen's Daniel Pell will be best represented with four runners, while Mark Morrissey and Aaron Debattista will have one apiece.
Plenty of interest centres on the clash between the Pell-trained Love The City and Morrissey's Paddy' Marvel in the $25,000 to the winner Group 3 Country Championship Final (525m).
Pell is looking forward to see what his rising two-year-old Love The City can do as a follow up to her smart heat win at Shepparton on Monday.
"She's only a little thing - she's only 24kgs up against some big boys," said Pell, who has trained 11 winners this season.
"She will have it to do it the hard way, but she's all heart.
"She will only turn two on March 1. She was part of a huge litter, there was 15 of them.
"They are only starting out and maybe at this point Red Reactor is the best of them.
"I did have a brother who was looking good, but he broke a hock. He hasn't raced, but he might be back."
A promising start to Love The City's career has included three wins and four placings from 10 starts, with one win and two placings from three starts at The Meadows.
While Flight Risk is in by far the easiest race of all four of his hopes, Pell nominated him as arguably his best chance on the night, slightly ahead of Red Reactor in the Group 3 Vic Bred Maiden Final (525m).
The dog Pell considers to be the biggest danger in the Country Championship is Paddy's Marvel, trained at Junortoun by Morrissey.
"I think, from box one, he's the leader, but if I can be sitting close to him, I'm a chance to run over the top of him," he said.
A track record-breaker at Shepparton last March, Paddy's Marvel has returned from a mid-2021 hock injury to post eight wins in his last 12 starts, including his last seven in a row.
Morrissey said the only query was the distance.
"He's got a lot of pace early, but he will have to lead to have any chance," he said.
"It's his first time over 525m, so he's stepping up a bit in distance, which will be a little bit of a test for him.
"I would think it's a little bit of an unknown.
"He'll certainly put himself in the race, it's just a matter of whether he's strong enough to hold on.
"Hopefully he can stay out of trouble and use that early speed."
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A step-up to Group 3 level will be Paddy's Marvel's biggest test to date.
He has answered most challenges along the way in his 36-start career, notching up 22 wins and nine placings.
The just-turned three-year-old has never before raced at The Meadows.
The lone hope for Debattista on Saturday is Manila Dusk in the Vic Bred G5 Final.
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