They have their eyes on Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final where the All Blacks play Ireland, and a firm focus on Saturday’s National Election, but before all that, many New Zealanders will be glued to their televisions on Friday night to see if their Postman can deliver.
For the first time since its inception in 2018, New Zealand has a representative in the Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase (MDC) Grand Final.
After six weeks of qualifying events around 17 regional venues and Sydney’s Wentworth Park, the $1 million to the winner Final will be run at the Glebe venue on Friday night at 8.27pm, and the New Zealander Postman Pat heads the betting markets.
Owned in Christchurch by Jose Arthur, and formerly trained at nearby Rakaia by Anthony Hart, earlier this year Postman Pat was sent to Victorian trainer Jason Thompson to campaign in Australia after winning 10 of his first 14 starts.
He won 11 of his first 15 starts on this side of the Tasman for Thompson before being sent to Sydney trainer Peter Lagogiane in preparation for the Million Dollar Chase.
Lagogiane, who with his wife Jodie won the inaugural MDC in 2018 with Mystic Riot, and then won it again in 2020 with Handsome Prince, admitted his pleasant surprise at the interest he has received from New Zealand since last Friday night’s semi-final win by Postman Pat.
“It’s incredible the interest I have had from New Zealand this week,” Lagogiane said. “I’ve done quite a few media interviews, and each time I’ve been told there is huge interest in how Postman Pat will go in the Million Dollar Chase Final.
“Someone said he’s bigger than the All Blacks in New Zealand this week. I’m not sure about that, but it’s great that greyhound racing and our big race the Million Dollar Chase is getting some fantastic exposure and coverage across in New Zealand.
“He’s only been with us for a few weeks but he’s a beautiful dog with a great temperament and gee he can run, and hopefully we will see the Postman deliver on Friday night.”
Greyhound Racing New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Edward Rennell said there was a genuine buzz, both within and outside the sport this week in the lead-up to Postman Pat’s appearance in the MDC Final.
“Historically we haven’t had too many greyhounds compete at the highest level in Australia, and the success of Postman Pat in reaching the Brisbane Cup final earlier this year, and now the Million Dollar Chase Final, has given local participants a bit of a buzz and it’s certainly added a lot of interest in the race from our perspective,” he said.
“The success and journey of Postman Pat highlights to people there is a potential pathway there which at times our people are nervous or apprehensive about, and wonder whether any of our dogs would be competitive over there in Australia.
“What Postman Pat has highlighted is clearly they can be and hopefully he has been able to now lay a platform for others to follow.”
Queensland will also have their first ever MDC finalist with second favourite Jay Is Jay who has box two - one inside Postman Pat - in the final.
Trained by Selena and Mick Zammit, Jay Is Jay was also an impressive semi-final winner last Friday clocking the fastest time of the night of 29.45s.
Victoria will be represented by Tinker Norm for trainer Craig Burns and Yachi Bale for Mark Delbridge. Yachi Bale will be chasing his own history looking to become the first dog to win the Melbourne Cup-MDC double, having taken out the Victorian feature last November.
The other half of the field is made up of four NSW greyhounds, Cumbria Kid for Nowra trainer Steve Fitch, One Hot Bandit for the State’s premier trainers Andy and Jodie Lord, the well-named Has Ability for long-time participant Stuart Hazlett, and Jack Smith’s Bella Una - the first greyhound owned by Forbes’ school teacher Michael Sheather.
“The 2023 Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase Final represents the best of the best, competing at our best facility for the best prize on offer to greyhounds anywhere in the world,” Greyhound Racing NSW Chief Executive Officer Rob Macaulay said.
“In less than 30 seconds, one greyhound out of this amazing field will join an elite group as the winner of the richest greyhound race in the world.
“These eight finalists have emerged from an enthralling series at regional venues. From Wagga to Grafton, from Newcastle to Broken Hill and everywhere in between, greyhounds have competed across this state to get here.
“The Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase series is about much more than just the world’s richest greyhound race. It is a celebration of the breed, of our people, greyhound fans and supporters.”
The Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase will be run at 8.27pm and the entire race meeting will be streamed live on thedogs.com.au, and through the Daily Telegraph and Ladbrokes sites.