IF at first you don’t succeed …

Unleash Collinda has certainly kept trying to win a country cup during its career, and the Jason Thompson-trained dog was finally rewarded on Friday night, winning the Sportsbet Traralgon Cup Final.

The win broke a country cup jinx for Unleash Collinda, who was running in his sixth final.

He was the unfortunate bridesmaid on three previous occasions: Last year’s Shepparton Cup, the 2023 Ballarat Cup and 2023 Healsville Cup.

There was no denying Unleash Collinda last Friday night however.

Taking strong form into the decider, with a time of 24.68 in the Traralgon Cup Heat, the soon-to-be four-year-old put in a near repeat performance on the big stage.

Jumping from Box 8, Unleash Collinda ended up running the 450 metre distance in 24.70, defeating Tasmanian Ducati Roy by just over a length, with Got Attitude, also trained by Thompson, further behind in third.

Pearcedale-based Thompson is quickly becoming King of Gippsland Cups, having now won the first two country cups for 2024. He also won the Warragul Cup when Tim Zoo saluted.

Not to be outdone, Friday’s victory was Thompson’s second Traralgon Cup in three years, following Typhoon Sammy in 2022.

The win had a connection a little bit closer to the Latrobe Valley, with Unleash Collinda bred and owned by Boisdale’s Steph Tyler.

Not far from Boisdale, Briagolong trainer Matt Clark had Black Viper in the Traralgon Cup.

The local dog ran well to finish sixth in a quality field.

Clark was realistic about his chances heading in, telling The Greyhound Recorder it was an effort just to reach a race of this calibre.

“I don’t think he’s a country cups dog and to be honest, I had my doubts about running him in the heats. But Dave (Peckham) wanted to give him his chance, so I respected the owner’s wishes,” he said a few days before the Cup.

“I’m a realist and it’s a hell of a lot harder race this week – we can’t win.

“It is a perfect draw for him. He’ll just stay out there, but his best hope would be to sneak a place.

“It’s a free throw at the stumps. There’s no pressure on us at all.”

Unleash Collinda stormed to the line around the J-Curve track, putting the afterburners on Pass The Buck who jumped well from Box 6.

The winner justified its $2.80 favouritism, as did Thompson’s other runner, Got Attitude, who was the second-priced favourite at $4.60.

Speaking on behalf of the Awesome Lodge kennel, trainer Holly Thompson (Jason’s daughter) said there was a few nervous moments.

“As soon we saw the six (No 6 Pass The Buck) come out it was a bit of a worry, but with Got Attitude standing right beside him I knew it was going to be a tough match-up. As soon as he was able to pass that dog I knew he was going to back off the six, all I was looking at was ‘where’s Unleash Collinda?’ and he was right in between them, was able to shoot through and able to get the win,” she said.

“He’s been in a lot of country cups and just hasn’t been able to crack one, so it was great to have the owner’s here, the Tyler family who live close by in Boisdale to come and watch him win a race and get a nice big trophy.”

The Traralgon Greyhound Racing Club welcomed a good crowd for its marquee meeting considering Australia Day fell on a Friday and many people took the opportunity to get away for the long weekend.

Although there wasn’t the drawcard of AFL legend Gary Ablett like last year, attendees were still treated to entertainment from the Paul Kelly Tribute Band, headlined by a number of local musicians, as well as a good selection of food trucks, and face painting for the kids.

Traralgon was the last leg on the Gippsland Country Cups circuit, following Warragul and Sale, which had their traditional Boxing Day meeting moved to New Year’s Day following floods.

Greyhound Racing Victoria Board Member and Deputy Chair, Jack Blayney said it was pleasing to see a good turnout.

“It is a great event, the people here really enjoy the Traralgon Cup, it’s great to be here,” he said.

“The Cup field has some very high performing dogs who are trained by the best trainers going around.

“All the clubs are working together, the support we get from Gippsland for Greyhound racing is fantastic, and it just seems to go from strength to strength, particularly the Sale club with their new revised track.”

According to Blayney, the much-maligned J-Curve track in Traralgon had been operating to standard.

“We’ve had a lot of work done on the actual track itself, and it’s in top condition and performing really well,” he said.

“The J-Curve is in its infancy but we’ve had some work on the surface to ensure it is the safest it possibly can be, and we are very satisfied the way it’s been performing.”

Moving further into 2024, Blayney said GRV, who have been appointed administrators at Traralgon, were again committed to seeing quality of life for all its racing greyhounds.

“One of our high priorities is to ensure after racing, the dogs have a future, and that is for our Greyhound Adoption Program, one of our key focusses to achieve that, we’re always on the lookout for people who are willing to take these fantastic dogs,” he said.

“People don’t know a lot about greyhounds, but when they do learn a bit about them, they really work out they are a fantastic pet.

“We’re very much about having dogs in the racing industry, and putting them in a nice home for a good life in retirement.”

Those thinking of adopting a greyhound can do do via