Fernando To ‘Phil' Giant Sandgroper Shoes

GIANT-KILLING Victorian sprinter Fernando Phil will step into a massive void when he represents Sportsbet in the $600,000 The Sandgroper later this month.

GIANT-KILLING Victorian sprinter Fernando Phil will step into a massive void when he represents Sportsbet in the $600,000 The Sandgroper in Perth later this month.

Michelle Mallia's recent Group 2 Horsham Cup hero and G1 Australian Cup and G2 Shepparton Cup finalist will become the first greyhound not named Wow She's Fast chosen by Sportsbet for a slot event.

The now heavily pregnant Wow She's Fast (see accompanying scan) has famously flown Sportsbet's flag in all three editions of The Phoenix, winning twice, as well as last year's inaugural Sandgroper, where she ran seventh.

To be held at Cannington on Thursday, April 18, the $300,000 to-the-winner Sandgroper (520m), the opening leg of the tri-code Western Trilogy series, is WA's richest greyhound race.

"It's a real honour and it's a golden opportunity for the dog too," said an excited Michelle Mallia.

"You're only talking about eight dogs from across the whole country, but Fernando Phil has really stepped it up and put himself up there.

"They (Sportsbet) started talking to us about the Sandgroper just before the Australian Cup and then he showed what he can do through that series – running 29.64sec in his semi-final.

Michelle Mallia and Fernando Phil are Perth bound for The Sandgroper Picture: Clint Anderson

"Drawing the pink in the final brought him undone, unfortunately.

"To tell you the truth, my original answer was I had to think about it.

"I was just a bit hesitant because he's a very sensitive dog and the travelling side of things might affect him.

"Also, the Geelong Cup Final is on the night after the Sandgroper (April 19) and I would love to win my local Cup, but the offer was too good to refuse."

Fernando Phil, named in honour of Michelle Mallia's late father-in-law Phil Magri, has elevated himself into the country's elite bracket of sprinters with a flying start to 2024.

The January '22 son of Fernando Bale and Zoom Out, also bred by Mallia, scorched into the spotlight when upstaging Sandgroper favourite Explicit in an Australian Cup semi-final.

Fernando Phil clocked 29.64sec, posting a low-flying 5.00sec early.

He then proved to be Explicit's nemesis again when coming off the reserves' bench to claim the Horsham Cup last month.

The Jason Thompson-trained Explicit, winner of the G1 Temlee and G2 Shepparton Cup, currently sits atop Sandgroper betting at $2.70, with Fernando Phil $8.

"Explicit is an unbelievable dog; we'd all love to have one like him in our shed," Mallia said.

"There's going to be a lot of pace in the race, but early speed-wise Fernando Phil can match it with them. 

"I think whoever leads will probably win – it seems to be that sort of track – and I'm just hoping we can draw one to four."

While Fernando Phil will be entering unfamiliar territory, so too will Mallia, who last campaigned in WA almost two decades ago, with stayer Slick Galore in 2006.

In pup: Wow She's Fast's scan showing “at least seven” pups to Bella Infrared

"It's been a while!" the multiple G1-winning Avalon trainer laughed.

"I've only been to Perth twice. I'm flying over on Wednesday morning and I'll trial him at Cannington on Thursday and then we'll come back home Friday."

Wow She's Fast wasn't able to deliver Sportsbet what would've been a fairy tale Phoenix ‘three-peat' at her final start, bowing out with a gallant fourth to Schillaci.

Greyhound racing's record stakes-winner has been mated with US sire Bella Infrared, with scans taken earlier this week confirming the champion daughter of My Bro Fabio is carrying at least seven pups.

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