It wasn’t quite what the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club had envisaged for the 40th running of its time-honoured Mount Gambier Cup (512 metres), sponsored this year by David Peckham’s Bourne Kennels of Allendale East.
First, the traditional time-slot of late March for the Group Listed $15,000-to-the-winner event went by the wayside following the coronavirus outbreak and the border closure. Greyhound Racing SA later announced that there would be no Mount Gambier Cup this year.
GRSA later rescinded this decision, the cup final set down for the June long weekend. By then everything would be back to normal. Not quite.
In the end, the last two Sundays in August were settled on, the Mount Gambier Cup retaining Group Listed status but reduced to a $10,000 first prize – and there weren’t too many complaining about that.
With the SA-Victoria border still closed, the success of the Mount Gambier Cup ultimately came down to local support and that of Adelaide trainers.
Visiting trainers Tony Rasmussen, Tim Aloisi, Damien Bates, Ben Rawlings, Tim Richards and Michael Stewart threw their support behind the event to the extent that five heats were run at the Sunday, August 23 meeting.
Aloisi, of Munno Para West, and better known as an owner, stepped in as caretaker trainer of three of his top dogs, bringing Sunset Milo, Kipling and Rajasthan over from Rob Camilleri and Deb Coleman’s Lara kennels.
And as things turned out, the successful Victorian training team would have loved to have been at Tara Raceway yesterday, especially after being on track last year to witness Slingshot Hammer go down by the narrowest of margins to Galactic Athena.
The trio made their way through to yesterday’s final, Aloisi looking to hold a particularly strong hand after former WA chaser Sunset Milo, a son of My Bro Fabio and Jewel Action, ran a near-record 29.29 seconds in his heat win.
However, Sunset Milo, who jumped a $1.90 favourite, couldn’t match the early pace of Kipling out in box six, the son of Fernando Bale x Some Kinda Girl opening up a big break down the back and leaving his kennelmate to do the chasing.
Turning for home, Kipling still held a slight advantage. Even half-way up the straight he looked to have the favourite’s measure. On the line, though, it was Sunset Milo who got the nod in what was a race record 29.42 seconds.
Rough Pearl, a son of Dyna Double One and West On Jorji, flew the flag for the locals, running a five lengths third – the margin likely to have been a bit less than that but for a check down the back.
Actually, one could have been excused for thinking Worrolong trainer Lee Bartholomew had won the cup with the $31 chance Rough Pearl such was her excitement after the race. And good luck to mother and daughter Elysia.
Sunset Milo is raced by Aloisi and Matt Lehman who also ran the quinella in the past two Gawler Gold Cups with Honcho Monelli and Shima Breeze in 2018 and Awesome Catch and Immediate. They also own Kipling in partnership with Damien Bates and Mick McSorley.
Aloisi, who is involved in about 20 greyhounds in Adelaide and Melbourne, was delighted to win his first cup as a trainer but was quick to give credit to Camilleri and Coleman.
“A lot of trainers wouldn’t have wanted the dogs to leave their kennels but Rob and Deb had enough faith in me to send them over so that we could have a crack at the Mount Gambier Cup,” he said.
“We love the Mount Gambier track, it’s one of the best places to race in Australia. And the Mount Gambier Cup is a race we’ve wanted to win for a long time.
“Sometimes it’s not about the money. It’s about the thrill of winning a cup and meeting a lot of good people along the way. Even Deb was crying after yesterday’s win!”
All told, yesterday was a pretty good day for Aloisi and his extended team. Also winning at Tara Raceway was Angelo’s Entity in the Progreyhoundtips.com.au Stake (400 m) for Peckham while Bates was successful with Ask Me Now in the Trackside Meats Mixed Stake (512 m).
Later, My Word Shirley won at Cranbourne for Coleman and at Murray Bridge Rob Harnas (the breeder of Rough Pearl) was successful with Mercedes Monelli.
Yesterday was the biggest crowd Tara Raceway had seen this year. Certainly no record but pretty good considering the anticipated lead-up coverage in Mount Gambier’s 159-year-old newspaper The Border Watch failed to materialise when it closed its doors a week prior to the final.
With continuing border restrictions and an ordinary day, weather-wise (after a beautiful Saturday), the MGGRC was therefore certainly appreciative of Ewan Grant’s efforts in promoting the cup on his Ewan for Breakfast Triple M Limestone Coast 963 show.
Representing GRSA at this year’s Mount Gambier Cup were Grantley Stevens (Chairman), Matt Corby (CEO), Gavin Bosch (Chief Financial Officer) and Adrian Battiston (Legal).
And they would have left Tara Raceway yesterday more than happy that the decision to ultimately run this year’s Bourne Kennels Mount Gambier Cup had been the right one.
Pictures: Todd and Bronwyn Nicholson.