Launching Pad A Time To Remember For Clark

TWELVE months after his greatest training triumph in the Launching Pad, group 1 winning mentor Matt Clark still can’t wipe the smile from his face.

Mick Floyd

28 March 2022

TWELVE months after his greatest training triumph, Matt Clark still can’t wipe the smile from his face.

Clark’s Launching Pad victory with Kuro Kismet was the crowning achievement of a lifetime spent in and around greyhound racing.

The $150,000 winner’s cheque was nice, but it was the work that went into getting there that gave Clark such satisfaction.

It required careful planning, dedication, and an ounce or two of luck.

And it almost didn’t happen at all.

KURO KISMET AT STUD

Clark’s Launching Pad journey actually began in 2020. Catch The Thief had burst onto the scene and was the pre-emptive favourite for the slot race series following consecutive best of night victories at Sandown Park.

Then the world changed.

“That was the year Covid hit and I thought that’s just cruel. Nothing would have beaten him and then all of a sudden, the carpet is pulled from under you,” said Clark.

“I’ve been in the game a long time but did think for a fleeting moment that was the one and only chance to win a race like that. And 12 months later I won the it.”

Fast forward eight months, and Kuro Kismet arrived in Clark’s Briagalong kennel with a potential staying career on the cards. But in his first start for his new trainer, Clark realised ‘Sox’ had a bit of work to do.

“His first start at Sandown for me he was a certainty beaten, he was going to pass them down the back and he ran into the dog in front. I said to (owner) Mel Mayle ‘this dog needs to learn how to race.’

“I took him to Sydney to give him a look before the Derby and that was the making of him. He missed the start about five lengths having never seen the joint and ran second. It was a massive run.

“He came back and won two in a row at Sandown, and all of a sudden he started beginning and racing better. We’d bought the Launching Pad ticket, and I said to Mel this dog is good enough to win the Launching Pad going on his times, but it was still a long way out.”

The Launching Pad is open to greyhounds with 1-6 wins and no more than 30 starts presenting a challenge for many preparing for the series, a challenge Clark soon understood all too well.

“We thought given his form he can just run placings at Sandown every week leading into the Launching Pad.

“Well he won, in best of the night, and he had maxed out his wins four weeks out from the series.

“To hang onto the dog for four weeks, it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my training career. We went to Sandown four weeks in a row, every Wednesday, and I remember rocking up and he’d go 29.20s every week.

“People said to us we were wasting out time because Aston Rupee was on the scene by then and all anyone was talking about was Aston Rupee. We did contemplate whether we should go or not, but we decided to go on.”

When the fields for the heats were released the disappointment was palpable. Not only had he drawn poorly, he drew against Aston Rupee.

“We waited four weeks and came up with box five in the heat! I said to Mel it’s just not meant to be.

“But I reckon that was his best win ever that night. He won by five cantering in 29.18 and beat Aston Rupee, so it really set him up. But he still didn’t have the support of the tipsters.

“When he came out and won the final, that silenced everyone.”

The win, and the preparations that went into it, gave Clark renewed confidence in his ability to compete in feature races wherever they may be. And to do it at a venue that he considers his ‘home’ track and in the presence of family and friends made it more special.

“That was my best night at the dogs ever. Still to this day, it was my best night ever. That gave me confidence from then on to take on any race in Australia, you just have to be in it to win it.

“My mum was in hospital in Traralgon so couldn’t be there but she would have gone if she could, dad worked at Sandown for years and he went that night and doesn’t go often. My sister was there and she never goes, to be able to share that moment with them was special.

“I remember sitting up in the grandstand that night and thinking ‘wow’, just to be here is fantastic. We could have run last I would have been just as happy.

“After the race I walked off the track and stood in front of the grandstand and before I knew it the meeting was over, they turned the lights out. I never moved for three or four races. It was just unbelievable.

“To have a plan come off like that, you just can’t describe that feeling.”

Now retired, Kuro Kismet is available at stud and Clark is certain he will be a success if given the right opportunities. But even if he doesn’t, Sox will still have a place on the couch.

“He was the ultimate race dog. This dog just won from impossible positions and if he didn’t win, he had a red-hot crack.

“If he doesn’t get them I don’t really care, he’s got a home for life here.”

The heats of the 2022 Launching Pad will be run at Sandown Park on Thursday.