Monday, December 24, 2018
When Portland greyhound Hutch quickly found the front from box two in last Friday’s Williams Crane Hire Christmas Cup final (512 metres) at Tara Raceway he was always going to be hard to beat.
Rarely, it seems, do Robert Halliday-trained greyhounds get run down at the local track, the veteran conditioner once saying that “all his dogs gallop every other day even if they don’t need it”.
The 2018 Christmas Cup final brought together a pretty fair line-up, Hutch eventually running out a 2½ length winner over Cryer’s Plugger with a further length back to Springvale Alysa in 29.86 seconds, a time bettered only by Who’s Doing What’s in 2014 – 29.77 seconds.
And for Halliday – fourth in last year’s Christmas Cup with Homer behind Hit The Runway – the win was the culmination of a frustrating past six months, the black son of Premier Fantasy x Cairnlea Ellie having raced only 10 times due to injury.
First there was a lengthy break due to a toe injury and then that disappointing night at Angle Park on October 12 when, as one of Mount Gambier’s representatives, he took virtually no part in the SA Country Cup (515 m) final due to an unrelated injury sustained early in the race.
Friday’s win was Hutch’s fourth in succession – three at Tara Raceway and one at Warrnambool – the dog having come a fair way since being picked up as a pup by Halliday from the late Peter Hubbard.
“It’s just a pity that Peter didn’t live to see the litter race. Hutch has now won 23 races, Bigtime Vanessa and Bigtime Michelle 29 between them in New Zealand, Cairnlea Ollie 12 and Cairnlea Kenny the leading stakemoney earner with 18 wins and $77,000.”
Halliday also said he was currently weighing up his options with Hutch.
“Realistically, he’s a day to day proposition but while he continues to race well I’m considering having a crack at Sandown Park with him and then look towards another Mount Gambier Cup in March.”
Like all the Summer Classic winners before and after him – Cryer’s Ricky 2015, Menzel Boys 2016 and Galactic Panther 2018 – Hutch reached the final of the 2017 Mount Gambier Cup when defeating Paraphernalia in a heat before finishing unplaced in the final behind Fabregal in race record time.
This year he failed to reach the final, running unplaced in a heat behind Print The Money, but defeated Henry in the Cup Consolation (512 m) in a best of day 29.56 seconds.
Hutch’s cup success last Friday brought up his tenth win at Tara Raceway this year and Halliday’s 40th at the track – placing him in fifth spot on the leading trainer list with one meeting remaining (a time-graded fixture this Sunday).
Christmas Cup success still eludes Margaret and Tom Cryer although Cryer’s Plugger – probably better suited over more ground – ran a big race to finish second while the John Little trained Springvale Alysa once again showed that she is more than capable of matching it with Tara Raceway’s higher-grade sprinters.
But Hutch’s win was a popular result for Tara Raceway regulars Halliday and his wife Shirley who readily admits that she prefers the social atmosphere at Mount Gambier over some of the other tracks that her husband has frequented in his long involvement in the sport.
And while Robert Halliday has won bigger races than that of last Friday, it was obvious that he was delighted with the win. Also, that Hutch had once again overcome the odds.
Allendale East trainer David Peckham had high hopes of winning his third Christmas Cup – Napoleon Wiz successful in 2011 and Bourne Again in 2013 – with his enigmatic chaser Usain Insane who contested a heat on the back of a blistering 22.95 seconds 400 metre win the previous week.
But the son of Bekim Bale x Swift Blaze failed to make it through and subsequently lined up on Friday in the Klaassens Contractors Stake (512 m) which followed the Christmas Cup.
The black dog quickly found the front after a brief tussle with Blue Blaze and from then on never looked like getting beaten, eventually winning by 5¾ lengths in a personal best time of 29.81 seconds.
The win was Usain Insane’s eighth for the year and once again highlighted how quickly things can turn around in a short space of time in greyhound racing.
Meanwhile, leading local trainer Tracie Price was at The Meadows the following night with Who’s Doing What’s best son, Smart Knocka, for a heat of the Feikuai Greyhounds Silver Chief (525 m).
Contesting the third of eight heats from box six, Smart Knocka found the front approaching the first turn and led the way until the home turn where Rio Brave and Aston Kimetto issued strong challenges,
On the line, Rio Brave, trained at Lara by Dave Geall, had a half length to spare over Aston Kimetto in a time of 30.14 seconds while Smart Knocka battled on gamely for a two length third. Fastest of the heat winners was Deliver (Fernando Bale x Veetee Saharrah) who ran a quick 29.69 seconds.