14 December, 2023

Can ‘Hector’ conjure a miracle?

The ‘Minister for Magic’ Hector Fawley – named after a Harry Potter character – will have to produce all of his ‘wizardry’ to claim the $1.65m The Phoenix (525m) – Race 10, 9.50pm – at The Meadows on Saturday night.

In fact, he’ll need to be quicker than a ‘Quaffle’! Better known as a middle-distance ‘magician’ rather than sprinter, Hector Fawley is chasing a mind-boggling $1,000,000 first prize. His Buckley-based trainer, Lisa Cockerell, says the million-dollar purse is “just surreal”. And she adds contesting the race is “a bit humbling”.

“To be ‘picked up’ as one of the eight runners in the race, from all the greyhounds in Australia, is really something special. It’s amazing!”

Now in its third year, The Phoenix is the world’s richest, and only, greyhound ‘slot race’.Hector Fawley was a barnstorming second in a heat of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup at Sandown Park on December 2. The incredible display was enough for slot holder Total Container Solutions to select him as their Phoenix hopeful. Shane O’Hehir, representing TCS, selected Box 2 for Hector Fawley during a unique ‘pick-a-box’ format televised live on Sky 2 on Sunday. “Hector’ is coming, don’t worry about that!” he exclaimed.

However, Cockerell has adopted a more reticent approach.

“I’m really excited to have box two. I would never say we can win, or we can beat this dog or that dog.

“But I think he’s more than capable of running a super, super race. Regardless, I can’t be prouder of him.”

Following his favourable box draw, Hector Fawley ($4.80) was installed on the third line of Sportsbet’s wide open Phoenix market – behind Alpha Zulu ($4.40) and Pass The Buck ($4.50).

“Third favourite in The Phoenix, it’s beyond imagination,” Cockerell uttered. “I find it really hard to believe that our dog is rated with these dogs.

“We’re just a little family unit that hasn’t got anywhere near the records of the Thompsons and the Greenoughs of the sport. I can’t believe we’re in their company and not just making up the numbers.

“And we’ve made some wonderful friends as a result of Total Container Solutions selecting our dog.”

Cockerell says, “box two brings him right into it”. “It gives him a chance of taking the shortest route to the finish. He’s never been able to draw inside box four at The Meadows.”

And she adds: “To come over the top of them, he needs to begin. We know he won’t lead, although he doesn’t necessarily have to do that to win.

“But we also know he’ll put himself into the race. At the halfway mark, he’d need to be within a length of the leader given the calibre of the field.”

In terms of sprinting, there’s a school of thought Sandown Park suits his whirlwind finishing burst better than The Meadows. However, Cockerell went on the front foot to debunk that point of view.

“I don’t think it matters, simply because he’s such a tenacious chaser.”

Hector Fawley boasts a distinguished middle-distance record – G1 Hume Cup (1st), G3 Racecallers Showdown (1st) and Listed Pink Diamond Champion Distance (2nd). But there’s no disputing he can seriously sprint – G3 Shootout (2nd) and G3 Easter Gift (3rd). He’s also won three times over 515m at Sandown Park – 29.25sec & 29.33sec (twice). And he finished second (beaten 1.1L) to Postman Pat – one of his Phoenix rivals – in a sizzling 29.15sec at SP on September 7. He’s also raced over 525m at The Meadows on six occasions for one win, one second and one third. In all, Hector Fawley has registered 17 wins (with eight seconds and three thirds) from 43 starts and $249,795 in prizemoney. Cockerell says Hector Fawley has been responsible for “our best month in the sport”.

“To go to the Hume Cup and win it, finish runner-up in the Shootout and just miss out on making the Melbourne Cup, and then get an opportunity to contest The Phoenix. What more can you say?”

Well, a Phoenix victory might just paint a million words!

Article Courtesy of Peter Quilty, GRV.  📷 Clint Anderson