DESPITE thinking Melissa’s Pride had won outright the Group 3 Summer Cup (720m) at Wentworth Park on Saturday night, her Hunter Valley trainer Michelle Shambler says she was stoked to have dead-heated the feature with Victorian greyhound Ring The Bell.
After a slick beginning from box six, Melissa’s Pride carved across the field to take the early lead before a late challenge from Ring The Bell saw the two greyhounds hit the line locked together.
In the end the judge couldn’t split the pair, which recorded 42.88 en route to winning the $25,000 feature.
“It was really good,” Shambler told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“I knew she would lead early, but whether or not she could hold on was another question.
“Over from the other side of the track we thought she had got there and a lot of the other trainers and catchers were congratulating me thinking she had won.
“We were a bit shocked when it came up as a dead heat, but coming equal first was still great and better than running second or third.”
The victory gave Melissa’s Pride her eighth career win at start 26, with her career earnings now in excess of $50,000.
A regally-bred daughter of Magic Sprite and triple group 1-winner Cindeen Shelby, Shambler says she expects to see the black bitch racing competitively at the top level over the next 12 months.
“Once I started stepping her up she always showed signs that she was going to be racing at the top level but I never wanted to rush her,” she said.
“She has only just turned two years old so I have just taken my time with her and I am mainly trying to prepare her for next year.
“She had a go down at Sandown and she travelled the long distance in the car to get her used to it.
“I would be surprised if she doesn’t match it against the best of them within the next year, the closer she gets to three years old is when we will see her in her prime.”
Saturday's event was the first group race win for Shambler, who has been training greyhounds for close to four decades, after learning the training ropes from her mother, Margaret Lake.
“I have made four group finals – three distance group finals and the Black Top – but I have never won one so it was a big thrill.”
It was also especially exciting for Melissa’s Pride’s owner, Lenny Morgan, who has purchased three greyhounds out of Cindeen Shelby, all of which Shambler has trained.
“Originally the late John Sweet was going to train for Lenny, they were always good mates and I never had a lot to do with Lenny at that stage,” Shambler said.
“When he got sick with cancer Lenny and I became friends and he was helping me with my dogs.
“Unfortunately John passed away and after that Lenny decided to ask me to train his dogs.
“We have had three dogs together now – Melissa’s Memory, Melissa’s Boy and now Melissa’s Pride.
“All of Lenny’s dogs are named after his daughter Melissa who passed away so they are very special to him and to me.
“Obviously it was very hard for Lenny, but in order to honour her memory he decided to buy a pup out of Cindeen Shelby who was Melissa’s favourite greyhound.
“In our hearts Melissa’s Memory (winner of 14 races) is always going to be our favourite, but Lenny will be the first to tell you Melissa’s Pride is his best dog.
“Lenny has only missed one of her races – that was at Sandown – so he was there last night and he was over the moon.”
Melissa’s Pride will now target the Listed Newcastle Cup (715m) which will be run and won at The Gardens this Friday.