Camilleri Sets Record Straight On Scratchings

A virus running rampant through parts of Victoria has led to the scratchings of Shima Breeze and Rajasthan from Saturday's race meeting at The Meadows.

Adam Dobbin

28 February 2020

A virus running rampant through parts of Victoria has led to the scratchings of Shima Breeze and Rajasthan from Saturday night’s Australian Cup card at The Meadows.

On Thursday, Lara couple Rob Camilleri and Deb Coleman elected to scratch their upcoming runners and place their kennels into lock down after a number of their greyhounds began showing effects of the virus.

“We had a couple in at Geelong on Tuesday that raced well below their best and the next day they were vomiting and had diarrhea … it’s a dreadful thing,” Camilleri said.

“Then at Warrnambool on Wednesday the same thing happened with a few running below expectations and vomiting after the race, that’s when the alarm bells started going.

“With more and more showing the same signs of illness Deb and I decided to lock down the kennels on Thursday morning and scratch our runners, their welfare comes before anything.”

With the virus spreading like wildfire, Camilleri also made the difficult decision to withdraw star duo Shima Breeze and Rajasthan from their respective feature race assignments at The Meadows this Saturday night.

“It’s not easy scratching dogs from races like that worth so much money but at the end of the day it’s just one race and the owners have been fantastic,” Camilleri added.

“If you start them and the virus takes hold you might not have them for three months, or even longer.

“I’ve never seen anything like this virus. It doesn’t give you any signs until the dog is put under stress in a trial or race. It sticks around for about 72 hours and goes from vomiting to diarrhea and then a day or so later the symptoms pass. I’ve been talking to other trainers dealing with it and they’ve told me the same thing.

“We had our vet here Thursday morning taking blood samples for us and an hour later GRV showed up to do their own tests which we welcomed. Deb and I want to get to the bottom of this virus as much as anyone.”

Sadly for Camilleri however, the chain of events over the past 72 hours has fuelled “unfounded” rumours in industry circles, with Camilleri quick to shoot down any speculation when speaking to the Recorder on Friday.

“I can assure everyone there’s no positive swabs or anything else that’s been thrown around – the rumours are totally unfounded … for some reason people just love to throw mud,” said Camilleri.

“One of the main reasons for locking the kennels down and taking the precautions we have is to protect other trainers from being exposed to the virus as well.

“We’ve been doing everything in line with GRV’s quarantine measures and can only hope everyone is doing the same.”

Saturday’s meeting at The Meadows promised to be a successful one for Camilleri, yet now he’ll be watching from home.

Shima Breeze – first reserve for Saturday night’s Group 1 Australian Cup Final – was quoted the $1.80 favourite to take out the $20,000 to-the-winner Australian Cup consolation prior to her withdrawal.

Rajasthan – winner of last year’s Group 1 Sandown Cup – was $6.50 in betting to annex the $100,000 to-the-winner the Group 1 Fanta Bale Super Stayers Final.

The pair are owned by leading SA owners Tim Aloisi and Matt Lehman, with Aloisi telling the Recorder he’s taken the scratchings in his stride, but like Camilleri, has been subject to hearing the rumours.

“The phone hasn’t stopped for 48 hours with people saying different things,” Aloisi said.

“Rumours like that are disappointing but at the end of the day Rob and Deb’s only concern has been the welfare of the greyhounds in their care and making sure all is okay with them.

“Having to scratch from Saturday night is disappointing but their welfare comes first.”

In recent times, Camilleri and Coleman have enjoyed immense success with their fast growing operation.

So far in 2020, Camilleri has had 104 runners for 35 winners at a winning strike-rate of 34 percent while Coleman boasts 28 winners from 80 starters at a strike-rate of 35 percent.

“We’ve been having a really good run with a top group of young dogs, a lot of them not even two yet,” Camilleri added.

“We’ll give the whole kennel until the end of next week to get over it all and just pray that’s the end of it.

“But I promise you won’t see us race again until we’re sure everything is back to normal.”