Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club

Tara Raceway, Lake Terrace East, Mount Gambier, SA

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Local greyhounds dominate memorial heats

It’s now been three years since Tarpeena owner-trainer Dita Mitchell was lamenting the fact that she couldn’t find a dog that was able to run further than 400 metres.

But all that changed yesterday at Tara Raceway when Mitchell’s Aston Percival led all the way from box four in the first of three heats of the Newman McDonnell Memorial over 512 metres.

Dita Mitchell with Aston Percival who is through to the final of the Newman McDonnell Memorial.

A big leader down the back, the son of Aston Dee Bee and Fantastic Skye still had 1½ lengths to spare on the line over Adrien Chevalier’s Ettrick-trained Run Like Jess in a personal best time of 29.89 seconds.

For Mitchell, it was Aston Percival’s second win after he was purchased back in July when Allendale East-based David Peckham was training him for Ray Borda.

“Not long after the purchase he won over 400 metres at Tara Raceway and some of his subsequent runs over the short course had been quite handy,” she said.

“But I was keen to give him another try over 512 metres so the McDonnell Memorial heats for grade five greyhounds looked a good fit. And believe me, I was absolutely delighted with the way in which he handled himself and the time that he ran.”

Aston Ziebell ran the quickest of the three heats for Peckham when finishing powerfully in his win over Kevin Mugavin’s Killarney trained Classic Moment by 3¼ lengths in 29.74 seconds.

In the final heat, another runner virtually untried over 512 metres was Nitrogen Outlaw, trained at Moorak by Melissa Freitag for the Yeah Nah Syndicate – also owners of this year’s Carlin & Gazzard MG Mount Gambier Cup winner Departure Gate.

Based at the Freitag/Jason Newman kennels since early October, Nitrogen Outlaw led all the way from box two. He eventually ran out a 1½ length winner over Compton trainer Tracie Price’s El Banjo in 29.96 seconds.

It was a win that surprised even Newman.

“To be honest I really didn’t know how he would go, given his lack of racing over 512 metres. But he did the job pretty well and who knows maybe he can make amends for last year’s McDonnell Memorial when we ran second behind Crush Your Enemy with Departure Gate.”

Making up the eight finalists are Price’s Jayville Slick and Zoe’s Way, trained at Glencoe by Dean Fennell.

Aston Ziebell defeats Classic Moment in the second heat of the McDonnell Memorial.

And from the SA Greyhound Trainer, Friday, July 6, 1979:

The South East Greyhound Racing Club has honoured its president, Mr Newman McDonnell, by naming the greyhound track at Glenburnie racecourse, “Tara Raceway”.

Mr McDonnell uses the name Tara in greyhounds he breeds or owns. More than 30 dogs have been successful under the Tara name.

One of the more prominent of these is Tara Pine, who is now at stud and was among the sires paraded at the club’s opening last week.

Appropriately, the main race on the program, the J. R. Cornwall Invitation (476 m), was won in a time of 30.05 seconds by Andy Mangan’s Tara Pursuit (Invercoe Snow x Tara Cindy) who Mr McDonnell bred.

Mr McDonnell, who has been president for the past four years, has been a member of the South East Greyhound Racing Club committee since its inception in 1972.

He led the negotiations with the Mount Gambier Show Society, City Council and later the Mount Gambier Racing Club to establish a greyhound track.

A club spokesman said in deciding upon the name Tara Raceway it had been felt that it was only through Mr. McDonnell’s perseverance and dedication that greyhound racing in Mount Gambier had become a reality.

Meanwhile, Greyhound Racing SA tipping guru Todd Gray, on his way to Victoria, took in Sunday’s Tara Raceway meeting with his mum Pam.

And when it comes to greyhound racing, Gray boasts a fair sort of pedigree. His father, Vaun – in days gone by known as Ol’ Yellow Coat – has been throwing out winners for almost as long as greyhound racing has been conducted in SA.

And Todd’s uncle Howard (Vaun’s brother), when based in SA some years ago, was one of the leading trainers with greyhounds such as Kate’s A Scandal, Youthful Prince and Cool It Pop – to name just a few.

Then there was his grandfather John. John Gray was one of the original bookmakers at Angle Park and to this day is remembered with the running of the John Gray Memorial.

Sunday was the first time Gray had visited Tara Raceway in many years. He was suitably impressed.

“This place has gone ahead in leaps and bounds,” he said. And Pam, a kennel house worker at Gawler and Angle Park, thoroughly agreed.

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