Saturday, July 25, 2020
Greyhound racing in Mount Gambier returned to some form of normality on Thursday when the Anniversary Cup, John Reid Memorial and Eric Lewis Memorial were conducted at Tara Raceway.
Granted, the meeting still fell well short of some of those Sunday afternoon Anniversary Cup meetings of years gone by. However, at least patrons are now permitted on track and catering was back in the form of a barbecue while canteen renovations continue.
And Glencoe trainer Dean Fennell was finally able to celebrate another winning day with a can from the re-opened bar!
The only thing now missing is the on-course TAB which is likely to be back in operation at Tara Raceway on Thursday, August 6.
And, as Portland trainer Brian Weis rightfully pointed out, the continued absence of Victorian participation.
However, due to the current circumstances, the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club couldn’t have hoped for a better Anniversary Cup final, the event first run in 1985 and steeped in a fair amount of tradition.
Compton trainer Tracie Price looked well placed to win his first Anniversary Cup (512 metres). Five finalists, including Nick Papatheodorakis and Ray Prior’s Spring Cuervo sitting up in box one after having recently won a couple of races at the track, strengthening his claim.
This time last year Spring Cuervo had been in Darwin where he won a heat of the Darwin Cup (537 m) before running third in the Group 3 final for then-trainer Troy Murray of Lewiston.
This year’s cup wasn’t run but in different times it’s quite likely Price may have returned to the Northern Territory for another crack with Spring Cuervo, the local trainer reaching the final of the 2017 Darwin Cup with Blazing Moment.
As things turned out, the Anniversary Cup final was a rough-house sort of affair, Spring Cuervo, reserve runner Rough Pearl (who took Rock It Fernando’s place in box three) and Perseverance out in front going around the first turn.
And that was the place to be. Spring Cuervo led all the way to defeat Rough Pearl and Perseverance by three-quarters of a length and a neck respectively in a time of 29.77 seconds, a couple of lengths outside Lektra Brandy’s 29.63 race record of last year.
The lightly-raced February 2018 whelping Rough Pearl finished the race off strongly, lowering his personal best time of 30.59 seconds to 29.82. He shouldn’t be too far away from opening his winning account over 512 metres.
The majority of last Thursday’s finalists are now likely to be set for the Bourne Kennels Mount Gambier Cup (512 m), heats of which will be run at Tara Raceway on Sunday, August 23 with the $14,275 final on Sunday, August 30.
Racing kicked off with the John Reid Memorial Maiden (512 m), Fennell chalking up another win for Koroit owner Peter Byrne, this time with Saint Caitlin, the daughter of Mepunga Blazer x Saint Jane also bred by the owner.
Having only her second start, the black bitch gave tearaway leader Aston Hayato five lengths down the back before finishing powerfully in the home straight to defeat another strong finisher in Dressed Up.
On the line, Saint Caitlin had three-quarters of a length to spare over Dressed Up with first-starter Aston Hayato a further 1¾ lengths back in third spot.
Remarkably, the winning time of 30.22 seconds equalled the race record established by Itza Bee, then trained at Portland by Robert Halliday, when successful in the inaugural Reid Memorial run in 2005.
Itza Bee, a son of Solve The Puzzle x Lilac Time, is still the best dog to have won the memorial after winning 23 races on SA, Victorian and WA tracks for close to $100,000 in stakemoney.
Saint Caitlin’s win on Thursday brought up Fennell’s 24th this year at Tara Raceway and, it’s probably fair to say, one of his most satisfying.
“John (Reid) was a great mate of mine and to win his memorial race was something that I had been chasing for 15 years,” said the laid-back trainer as he lumped a 20 kilogram bag of kibble – donated to the memorial winner by Mount Gambier’s Produce Store – back to the car park.
The Reid family, headed by Cindy, Daryl and Ricky, once again got right behind their father’s memorial race, Daryl promising a bus-load of supporters next year when the Anniversary Cup meeting returned to its traditional Sunday afternoon slot.
The family also donated a presentation rug to the MGGRC for its memorabilia display. Printed on the red rug was “Mt. Gambier Cup Finalist 1984”.
That was the year Count Down won the Mount Gambier Cup out at Glenburnie for John Reid, the family recalling that night the winner shared mum and dad’s bed and joined them in a sip of champagne.
Kevin “KD” Douglas, who handled the presentations on Thursday, also recalled Count Down’s win well. “Yes, I have to say that was a big week.”