Raymond Smith-trained Little Digger wins Million Dollar Chase heat at Dubbo

“Inside boxes. He likes the inside.”

Raymond Smith was left to rue those words just 10 minutes after uttering them at Dawson Park on Thursday night.

The leading Forbes trainer was speaking after red-hot favourite Little Digger took out the night’s only Million Dollar Chase qualifier.

Smith’s stayer, one of the genuine contenders for the entire rich series, is far from the fastest starter so the trainer was keen to see him draw the inside for next Friday night’s regional final, also to be held at the Dubbo track.

But at the post-race box draw, Little Digger’s name was the last to come out and he was left with box eight.

And while Little Digger now faces a mighty challenge to advance to the semi-finals at Wentworth Park, he showed enough on Thursday night to be far from ruled out of the race.

Also, with only the one heat being held at Dubbo all those who raced on Thursday night automatically go through to next week’s final and Smith’s star has now proved he’s got their measure.

Going from box five in Thursday’s 516m heat, Little Digger ($1.70) got away relatively well and sat third behind Bogan Villa ($40.90) and Cliff Keeping ($13.60) heading into the first bend.

Charmaine Roberts’ Cliff Keeping took control down the back straight, and along with Bogan Villa, Little Digger, and Nangar Ace ($6.30), began to move clear of the chasing pack.

Cliff Keeping led into the straight but Little Digger had the rails run and hammered home to win by one-and-a-quarter-lengths from Roberts’ hope while Bogan Villa was third.

“I don’t know about confident because he was boxed up but we just hoped he got a clear run and stayed out of trouble,” Smith said post-race.

“I thought he’d run but they were really rolling along.

“We’re a long way off (the final) yet because there’s a lot of good dogs but he’s up there. He’s not as quick as some of the other dogs early so he relies on getting a good spot and being left alone.”

While he didn’t get his wish for the regional final, Smith had nothing but praise for the Million Dollar Chase.

A new initiative by Greyhound Racing New South Wales this year, the final will be held at Wentworth Park on October 20 with $1 million going to the winner.

“It’s a great concept and the kick-a-long we need after all the trouble we had, it’s really good,” he said, referring to the ban on racing and the eventual reversal of that decision.

Looking ahead to next Friday’s regional final, Swiss Maestro won’t race after an injury in the heat and box six will be left empty. Midnight Starlet drew box one, with Private Nanger to go from box two.

Roberts’ pair, Cliff Keeping and Lexie Keeping, will go from boxes four and six respectively.