A “last minute decision” to nominate litter brothers Always A Thrill and Fire Hose for the $74,335 Group 2 C.K.H. Painting Shepparton Cup (450m) could pay a handsome reward for veteran Sale trainer Chris Tilley on Saturday night.
Tilley, 76, celebrated a memorable ‘family’ heat double on Monday with Fire Hose and Always A Thrill, which both had the advantage of box one, clocking 25.12sec and 25.15sec, respectively.
“It was terrific they both won, but the hard part was kneeling down for two photos!” Tilley laughed.
“But if they’re giving me $47,000 on Saturday night, I’ll kneel down for as long as they want me to! I’ll worry about getting up afterwards.”
“There’s not much between them. Always A Thrill is quicker early, and Fire Hose is a bit stronger.”
Always A Thrill and Fire Hose are August 2020 siblings by Aussie Infrared out of Okawa In Black, whose mother Magic Potion was a litter sister to Fabregas, bred and raced by Tilley and his family.
The Shepparton Cup will be the brothers’ second successive feature race appearance, after both qualified for the G3 Temora Cup Final.
Fire Hose ran fourth and Always A Thrill fifth to NSW champion She’s A Pearl at Temora, with another Shepparton Cup finalist in Salad Dodger finishing second.
The aptly-named Always A Thrill ($3) was the first of Tilley’s heat winners, claiming his second win from three visits to Shepparton with an all-the-way victory over Australian Cup finalist Indy Fido.
Fire Hose ($3.60) then made a winning Shepparton debut with a strong finishing 2.25 length victory over series favourite, Australian Cup victor Fernando Mick ($2.30F).
WATCH: FIRE HOSE (B1) completed a G2 Shepparton Cup heat double for Chris Tilley when taking advantage of box one in a strong-finishing 25.12sec victory over favourite FERNANDO MICK (B5).
“It was a last minute decision to go to Shepparton; I’ve just been taking them through their grades before they head to the city,” Tilley said.
“It’s just a thrill to have two in the race.
“There’s a lot of fast dogs in the final, so it’s a lottery. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Shepparton Cup or an Australian Cup, it depends which one gets the breaks. Having two in the race, I’ve only got six to beat!
“There’s not much between them. Always A Thrill is quicker early, and the blue dog (Fire Hose) is a bit stronger and more reliable.”
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Tilley’s duo were the ‘slowest’ of the four heat winners, and after drawing alongside each other in boxes two (Always A Thrill) and three (Fire Hose), they’re $15 and $13 chances respectively with Sportsbet.
“Naturally, they’ve drawn next to each other!” Tilley offered ruefully.
“They’ll probably take each other out. Kennelmates just seem to find each other; you see it time and time again.”
While Tilley says little separates Always A Thrill and Fire Hose on ability – his opinion backed up by their heat times – it’s a very different story away from the racetrack.
“They’re like chalk and cheese!” Tilley said.
“Always A Thrill is a nutjob; he’s terrified of his own shadow. He hides behind you, while Fire Hose wants to belt you and jump on your head.
“Fire Hose likes to body slam you and rough you up. He’s a big dog (37 kilograms) and he nearly hospitalised me at Warragul a few weeks ago. He pushed me into a brick wall, and I couldn’t move for three days!”
Victory in the Cup would hand Tilley his greatest success since relocating from NSW 15 years ago.