David Burnett is taking aim at what would be emotion-charged back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Maturity Classic (525m) on Saturday night at The Meadows.
Last year Burnett won the Maturity with ill-fated champion Simon Told Helen, the last and arguably finest of the reigning Australian Greyhound of the Year’s four G1 successes.
Simon Told Helen started $1.90 favourite, leaving superstars Hard Style Rico, Tiggerlong Tonk and Christo Bale in his wake, while on Saturday the astute Little River trainer finds himself on the other end of the spectrum with outsider Envy To Burn, a $34 roughie with TAB.
“That was a super field last year,” said Burnett proudly.
“It was a great group of dogs but it isn’t the same quality this year, which opens things up.
“With Simon Told Helen you always knew what you were going to get. He gave you everything. He was a Buddy Franklin not a stock standard footballer!
“He’d won the Silver Chief in January so to win both age classics at The Meadows was a credit to the dog. There was a lot of pressure, which is probably why I was a bit emotional.”
Reflecting on Simon Told Helen’s Maturity triumph, Burnett revealed he came “very close” to walking away from greyhound racing due to his disappointment at the way the once-in-a-lifetime sprinter’s career concluded.
“After how things finished with the dog and what happened to him I wasn’t sure if I could start again,” Burnett said candidly.
“I’d achieved everything I wanted to and I didn’t have anything left to prove to myself.
“I’ve been training dogs for 20 years and didn’t know if I had the desire to start from scratch again and push through but then this dog (Envy To Burn) comes along and you’re back here again.”
The emergence of Envy To Burn, which has won eight from 20, reignited Burnett’s passion for the sport but he then hit another hurdle in the G2 WA Derby final in May when the son of US-born Irish sire Superior Product fell heavily.
Envy To Burn returned to 500m for the first time since the Derby mishap in last Saturday’s Maturity heats, where he started at $12 but led throughout in 30.02sec, defeating Drako Bale and NSW sensation Jungle Deuce to open his Meadows account at his fourth attempt.
“It surprised a lot of people but not me,” Burnett said.
“He’s run in the 25.60s twice at Geelong and we took him over to Perth and he made the Derby final but he had a bad fall and it knocked him around a bit.
“I probably could have given him a bit longer to get over it but a couple of good runs at Horsham blew him out and topped him off for this series and thank goodness he was back to his best last Saturday.”
After drawing box seven for Saturday’s $100,000 to-the-winner final, Envy To Burn is the outsider of the field but Burnett hasn’t given up on his title defence.
“He’d had a bit of a downer after Perth so the last four or five runs don’t really count,” Burnett offered.
“If he can find a length, that gets him down to 29.94sec and that’ll be competitive if he can get to the front.
“He needs to find that length early to get across and put himself in a position to give himself a chance.
“I think the ‘six’ (Handsome Rhino) is the dog to beat. He ran 5.02sec and 29.85sec last week so if he repeats that he’s going to lead. We might get a cart across with him but if he leads you can’t run him down.”