12 December, 2023

Box draw give Phoenix its wings for 2023

The crucial box draw for the $1.65m The Phoenix (525m) was conducted live from the Metropolis Functions & Events Centre in Southbank on Sunday morning during a special SKY 2 presentation.

A ‘pick-a-box’ draw for the world’s richest, and only, greyhound ‘slot race’ – to be held at The Meadows on Saturday night – provides connections with a ’90-second countdown clock’ to select their boxes in order from first to last name drawn out. And – like the Phoenix in Greek mythology – the unique box draw format once again gave the innovative $1,000,000 to-the-winner race ‘wings’.

The “massive winners” from the box draw were the first two names out of the ‘barrel’ – the least experienced runner in the field, Pass The Buck (Tabcorp), and middle distance ‘magician’ Hector Fawley (Total Container Solutions).

A delighted Anthony Azzopardi, trainer of Pass The Buck, duly selected Box 1.

“He does go a little bit to the right, but box one was the one,” Azzopardi said.

“He’s pretty inexperienced still, but he certainly has the talent. I just hope he has the heart to go with it.

“It’s huge… To be partnered with TAB is pretty special.”

Next up to the stage was Shane O’Hehir, from Total Container Solutions, who was representing Hector Fawley’s trainer Lisa Cockerell and her husband, Ian. As expected, O’Hehir opted for Box 2.

“Rapt, really good,” O’Hehir said. “That was our plan (looking for a dog that could come over the top of them). ‘Hector’ is coming, don’t worry about that!

“It’s awesome, it’s a dream come true to be in The Phoenix.”

Shane and Ian gave each other a ‘sign of peace’ to signify Box 2. “Box two, guaranteed, done,” O’Hehir added.

The third dog drawn out was Alpha Zulu (Good Blokes Society) for champion trainer Jason Thompson. An ecstatic Shaun Wallis, from Good Blokes Society, simply said: “Happy to come out pretty early and make the choice pretty easy. Number three is one of my favourite numbers. We’ll take that.

“We got introduced to ‘Team Thompson’ early on and wanted to align ourselves with him. We wanted to be involved in this experience of The Phoenix for a while, this is not just a one-year project.

“I think out of that box, he’ll give it a mighty shake.”

Fourth ‘cab off the rank’ was Postman Pat (Greyhounds HQ), another Jason Thompson runner. His son, Luke, selected Box 4.

“The plan was to go for the lowest draw possible,” said Luke. “Hopefully both Alpha Zulu and Postman Pat give a good show.

“It’s just a matter of what they do at box rise and if they both get it right, they can run the splits to put themselves in the race.”

The ‘box numbers in sequence’ continued when Jihad Talgi, a popular trainer who also runs a pizza shop, selected Box 5 for Schillaci (Ladbrokes).

When asked if Schillaci could overcome the ‘yellow’ draw, Talgi replied: “He can if he jumps. It’s a great field. We would have loved box one, but it’s not to be.” Schillaci’s kennel name is “Jaxson” and Talgi advised “it’s named after this son of mine” who was standing beside him.

“When he (Schillaci) was three months old, my son said to me, ‘can we name him Jaxson’.”

Young Jaxson had one word to say when asked if Schillaci had lived up to his expectations: “Definitely.”

Mick Zammit, co-trainer of Queensland star Jay Is Jay (Racing Queensland) broke the box number sequence by choosing Box 8.

“At least he knows where he’s going. That’s one good thing,” Zammit said as Jay Is Jay was placed from Box 8 in the Group 1 Sportsbet Topgun at The Meadows in November.

“We were hoping if we could get one, two or three, we’d take box eight.”

So, that left the last two boxes available (6 and 7) for ‘Team Greenough’ (Kel and Jackie) with Australia’s sprint queen Wow She’s Fast (Sportsbet) and Big Energy (RSN). Big Energy was the first of his dynamc duo drawn and Kel chose Box 7.

“What’s the odds of getting second last and last picks,” a somewhat deflated Greenough said.

“He’s in good form and just needs to get a clear run. It’ll be harder from out there; we’ll deal with what we’ve got. Hopefully it works out.

“It’s going to be a tough race. It’s a great race and we’re all looking forward to it.”

Last drawn, but certainly not least, was Wow She’s Fast – the world prizemoney record holder ($2,391,995) – who is chasing an unfathomable The Phoenix three-peat, having won the first two editions of the race (2021 & 2022).

Naturally, given the fall of the box draw, she’ll occupy Box 6 – ironically, the same as she had in last year’s amazing triumph. Shannon Tremellen, from Sportsbet, was quick on the draw about the megastar’s chances: “We wouldn’t rule her out. Can’t discount her from anywhere.

“They (Sportsbet colleagues) have been pestering me (for tickets) for a long time. There are a few disappointed people at Sportsbet that won’t be in the marquee.”

Article by GRVs Peter Quilty. 📷 Clint Anderson