GRAEME Smith had a rough year in 2012 but his brilliant bitch Miss Sugar Land is helping put a smile back on his face.
The Dubbo trainer lost his father Doug last year but the emergence of Miss Sugar Land, which Smith describes as the best bitch he or his father have ever had, has eased the pain in a small way.
Yesterday at Dawson Park the El Galo x Tommie's Placard bitch wasn't at her absolute best but didn't need to be as she took out the New Years Gift Short Course Final (318m).
Despite running two-tenths-of-a-second slower than her heat time, Miss Sugar Land ($1.70 fav) held a five-and-three-quarter length margin on her nearest rival Eleven Hour ($14.80) with Kaiser King ($7.40) a further four-and-a-half lengths away in third place.
"I'm glad to see the back of 2012. It was a bad year with dad dying and this bitch hurting herself but this is a good way to start 2013," Smith said after the race.
"Dad trained dogs for years and I've been going for a while now and this bitch is the best we've had in the kennels in those 40 years or so.
"It's just so nice to have a good dog after what we went through with dad."
With a record that now reads six wins and five minor placings from 13 starts, Miss Sugar Land has earned herself a crack at better races.
Smith will test the waters with a trip to Richmond and while it would be nice to get to Wentworth Park he is in no rush.
"She broke her shoulder last year so we have had to nurse her back and she's going well at the moment," he said.
"Before she broke down she showed us that she was probably going to be a bitch that got over 500m but for now we don't want to push her too much.
"Obviously it's everyone's goal to get a winner at Wentworth Park but we'll just take that as it comes."
Meanwhile, Springside trainer Wes McDonald tasted success in the other feature to be contested at Dawson Park yesterday when it took out the New Years Gift final over the longer trip of 516m.
From box two, Rustic Shiraz ($5.60) was able to record the 20th win of its career and its fourth from nine starts at the Dubbo track when it beat Alexis Casey ($10.80) and Janderra's Gift ($13.40)