Withers Decides On Melbourne Cup For Tommy

A RECORD post-to-post slip by champion sprinter Tommy Shelby has him primed for this Friday night's Group 1 Melbourne Cup heats.

David Brasch

13 November 2021

CHAMPION Tommy Shelby was today flown to Victoria to the Kel Greenough kennel in final preparation for Friday night’s heats of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup.

His part-owner and trainer, Steve Withers, had been faced with keeping the Fernando Bale-Serena Fly High dog in Perth to contest the local qualifying series for The Phoenix.

A  record post-to-post slip by Tommy Shelby last week gave Withers a host of options and some agonizing moments deciding which way to turn with the dog.

Tommy Shelby has not started since winning at Cannington on August 28 which took his record to 31 wins for $1.02m in prizemoney.

He was injured soon after and Withers took no chances, even sending him to Victoria for Kel Greenough to check him over.

Tommy Shelby’s comeback has included a Cannington post-to-post in which he ran a record 23.79. It eclipsed his own post-to-post record of 23.85.

“That tells you how good is has come back,” Wither said.

But it left Withers with a quandary … where to make the dog’s comeback.

“Obviously we would love to run him in The Phoenix,” he said. “Ultimately we decided on the Melbourne Cup option first with The Phoenix depending on how he goes on Friday night.”

The Melbourne Cup heats will be run on Friday night and Withers admits his dog is a couple of runs short of his peak.

“We will be looking for luck in the heats,” he said. “Sometimes it is not the fittest or fastest dog who wins a race.

“I will stay in Perth and make any plans for Tommy’s future after we see how he races on Friday night. If he happens to fail in the Cup heat, he will be flown home and then prepared for the Hobart 1000.”

The Phoenix will be run at The Meadows on December 18 with $750,000 to-the-winner.

The Hobart 1000, worth $75,000 to the winner, will be run on December 9 and 16.

Withers had lamented the border restrictions.

“Border restrictions are tougher now than they have ever been. If I took the dog to Melbourne myself on Friday, I would not be able to get home to Perth until the New Year,” he said.

“He has been sent to Kel a number of times and that was the plan we settled on.”

Fields for the Melbourne Cup heats are due out on Tuesday.

“I’m hoping the trip to Melbourne, which is almost nine hours leaving our property and getting settled in at Kel’s, will not worry him,” said Steve. “It has not done so in the past. He is never one to stress out.

“All our immediate plans depend on what happens on Friday night.

“In all honesty, we are having a throw at the stump from the outfield in the heats of the Cup, but that’s what we have to do.

“I think the Melbourne Club might look at qualifications for The Phoenix next year in an entirely different light.”

In the meantime, Tommy Shelby’s stud career continues to flourish.

Withers reports he has already served 50 bitches within the first six months of semen being available.

“It’s been a fantastic response and the number of really good race bitches and proven producers to be mated to him is overwhelming,” he said.

“We have put three of our own bitches to him, one a sister to Just Terms, another who was placed at Group 1 level, and another a daughter of Zelemar Fever.”

Tommy  Shelby’s career includes wins in the Australian Cup, Golden Easter Egg and Hobart 1000. He has been placed in the Vic Peters, Million Dollar Chase, Melbourne Cup, Gold Bullion and been a finalist in the Topgun and Temlee.

“Queenslanders have embraced him and the Hazelgrove family has mated three bitches to him recently, including their really good bitch Wise Misty,” added Steve.