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Shane Bolender

Sep 8, 2020

He was the best young star during qualifying, nearly regardless of what metric you were using. Owner Kevin Fulton had a dual brother combination of young stars out of SH AVATAR that came into the 2020 Great American Greyhound Futurity with little history to go off of. FGF MATHIAS sure looked the part though. He was wasting little time climbing the grade ladder at Southland, earning a four race win streak a week or so before qualifying began and reached grade “B”. Once qualifying began, the “new puppy dust” started to wear off quickly and he was establishing himself to be one of the likely favorites to win it all.

The first three rounds netted two wins and a second by a solo length behind youngster CTW BLACK FOREST who was one of the hottest greyhounds in those opening qualifying rounds. Those 40 points were easily enough to coast into the second set of three qualifying rounds. However, just like life itself, nobody really cares about what you did yesterday. What are you going to do now?

The 76 pound brindle male responded in similar fashion. He won two of the next three rounds as well, finishing second this time to eventual fellow finalist AMOS DECKER, despite running into trouble early. Mathias nearly went last to first in such a style that you wondered just how fast and good is this young budding star??

His “little” brother (he is 3 pounds lighter), FGF BRANCH didn’t quite seem to have the talent his bigger brother did. In fact, the first three rounds were a bit shaky as he only earned 15 points with two third place finishes and a seventh. He survived the cut to the field and enjoyed the reset of the points to zero where he made the most of the second opportunity. We went undefeated in the final three rounds, being the only greyhound in the field to do so. Well, he hadn’t faced his brother in any of those three races, but he did beat fellow finalists SNL VIPER and AMOS DECKER. Plus he got a bonus in drawing the one box for the championship too.

ELIZA FRASER (Gloria Dorsey Kennel) could be best summed up by saying she got stronger each and every race in qualifying. She was one of two females to make the championship field, but quickly dismissed any doubters about her skillset when she waxed a semi-finals field by just over seven lengths. The inside runner also drew a nice blue blanket for her run to the championship race, which would be her third straight start from the inside. The previous two attempts resulted in that big victory and a close second place effort.

JS PRETTY FLY (Lester Raines Kennel) was one of two entries in the championship by trainer Monte Hoopes. Her racing style was a bit different from most in the field in the fact that she relied on a good break and even better rush to the first turn to do her damage. She never finished worse than 3rd in any of the six qualifying rounds and although she claimed two wins in those six starts, she had the lead in four of those six.

SNL VIPER was the other Monte Hoopes trained entry in the championship and the 69 pound brindle male was boxed just to the outside of his kennelmate. And just like his kennelmate, this SH AVATAR sired youngster relied on his early speed as well. The more concerning part was that although he had the lead in five of his six qualifying rounds, he only held on for one win, which was in the opening round.

AMOS DECKER was the second entry for trainer Natalie Looper who had the second most experience in the field with 23 starts (only kennelmate Eliza Fraser had more with 33). Unlike his kennelmate, he had the polar opposite of running styles. While Eliza Fraser liked the inside, Amos Decker loved the outside part of the track. Where Eliza relied on early speed for success, Amos more than not came off the pace. They both got their one win when it mattered the most though (last qualifying round) and all you need to do is have a seat at the table in stakes championships to have a shot.

AB HUCK (Charter Kennel) was the third entry into the championship for trainer Stephen Ulrich. This 73 pound red male was probably the least talked about of the three entries thanks to the overwhelming success Branch and Mathias were having during qualifying. Although he won two of his six rounds, it was that last place finish in round 5 that almost sealed his fate out of the championship race. He had to win a tiebreaker against two other greyhounds, and the sole saving grace for him was a second place finish in the fourth round. This midtrack runner also drew on some more luck by drawing a six post for the championship race.

SALUD BLACKJACK (Northshore Kennel) seemed destined for the championship race. In the opening round, he fell and finished last. The second round wasn’t much better when he finished fifth. His third place effort in round three earned him a total of 10 qualifying points after three rounds. He just missed not moving on at all. Fourth round action ended up with a seventh place finish, putting this 76 pounder in serious threat of not even making the consolation race. Then a fire struck inside him as he ran a very impressive 2nd to FGF Mathias in round five and then he obliterated a field by 6 ½ lengths that contained the likes of KB’S ROCKYBALBOA and CTW BLACK FOREST. This wide runner also drew the far outside post 8 for the championship. He was as hot as any coming into the finale.

And what a finale it would be. When the box opened for the 2020 Great American Greyhound Futurity, nearly all the early speed came flying out of the box that you would expect. JS Pretty Fly, SNL Viper and FGF Branch had a three way duel going into the first turn with Salud Blackjack having all the room he wanted to rush up on the outside. Viper hugged the rail smartly to take control of the race through that first turn as well did Eliza Fraser. Blackjack had an incredibly clean trip around the turn and was closing on the leaders fast. FGF Branch got stepped on some from behind which broke his stride and ended his championship hopes. One greyhound everyone was looking for in the backstretch though was Mathias. And they found him, laying fifth but easily still within striking distance with half the race to go.

And he needed 49.99% of it too. By the time the far turn came up, Blackjack had finally worn down Viper and Eliza Fraser couldn’t match his speed either. The one greyhound that could match that late kick was coming fast and quickly and that was Mathias. It would come down to those two in an epic stretch run.

Blackjack swung toward the middle of track coming to the finish line, which had Mathias been a rail runner, could have resulted in an easier victory or path. Mathias swung a bit further outside in the stretch run which made the victory even tougher to come by considering the valuable ground he gave up in order to go to that part of the track. In one late last burst, Mathias pulled nearly even with Blackjack when the bright photo finish lights came up. It took a little while to know the results. The photo finish says it all.

One greyhound is in extended gait crossing the finish line. The other, in contraction. The difference in a hundredth of a second and those two positions in their running strides resulted in a “win by a head” and a championship by FGF Mathias. If the race was just a hair longer than 583 yards, maybe a photo wouldn’t have even been needed. But then again, for us racing fans, we would have been stripped of this great finish if it would have happened any other way.

FGF Mathias not only earned a championship, but showed the heart of a champion in the process. If this turns out to the be the last Great American Greyhound Futurity run, what a heck of a way to go out. Congratulations to all the connections for FGF Mathias, including the entire Fulton family, trainer Stephen Ulrich and kennel owner Rodney Cooley.


· 1994 – DESIGN TIME (Bob Bradshaw)

· 1995 – BEE LITE (Ron Beckner)

· 1996 – BOMB THREAT (Bernie Colette)

· 1997 – STAT US SKIPPER (J. Taylor & R. Sifferman)

· 1998 – WW TIME WARP (Wayne Ward)

· 1999 – HOTSHOT SALESMAN (Charles & Judith Moore)

· 2000 – HAPPY VOYAGE (C. Don Godby)

· 2001 – TOM S GREEN MILE (Tom Sugihara)

· 2002 – WHIP LASH WINK (Jason Haynes & John Henry)

· 2003 – SYSTEM MC ASICS (Jimmy King)

· 2004 – ATASCOCITA LEROY (Atascocita Racing)

· 2005 – ATASCOCIATE SMOKE (Atascocita Racing)

· 2006 – FLYING BRITT (Flying Eagles Kennel)

· 2007 – USS SAN JUAN (Ron Wiltse)

· 2008 – FLYING TANADAK (Vince Berland)

· 2011 – TIGER UP A TREE (Vince Berland)*

· 2016 – ATASCOCITA SIG (George Ulmer)**

· 2017 – KONOMI (Robert Hardison)**

· 2018 – FIESTA MOUNTAIN (Jeff Blair) ***

· 2019 – SALUD APOLLO (Jeff Blair & Michael Montoya)***

· 2020 – FGF MATHIAS (Kevin Fulton)

*** 1994-2008 races run at The Woodlands

* run at Victoryland

** run at Wheeling Island

 *** run at Southland

August 29, 2020 – Evening (Great American Greyhound Futurity Championship) ·

Race: 3           Grade:   SAA                 Distance: 583                         Condition: F

Fgf Mathias 7 7 5 4 1-ns 31.99 .80 SAA G.A.G.F. Champion

Salud Blackjack 8 6 2 1-1 2-ns 32.00 7.30 SC Outdueled Late Wd

Eliza Fraser 2 3 3 3 3-6 32.42 7.20 SAA Bmpd Str Turn Ins

Fgf Branch 1 2 6 6 4-6.5 32.46 3.10 SAA Bmpd 1st Turn Mt

Ab Huck 6 8 4 5 5-7 32.49 36.80 SAA Blckd Str Turn Ins

SNL Viper 4 4 1-1.5 2 6-7.5 32.53 12.30 SA Bmpd Str Turn Rl

Amos Decker 5 5 8 8 7-8.5 32.60 36.50 SA Bmpd 1st Turn Wd

Js Pretty Fly 3 1 7 7 8-13 32.90 7.10 SAA Bmpd 1st Turn In


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