Thursday, March 1, 2018
With Group Listed status and $15,000 to the winner, the 2018 Mount Gambier Cup has come a long way since its inaugural running at Glenburnie in 1981 – only a couple of years after greyhound racing was introduced in Mount Gambier and conducted at the time by the South East Greyhound Racing Club under the auspices of the National Coursing Association.
Racing at Glenburnie was conducted on the inside of the thoroughbred track, the greyhound track known as Tara Raceway, the same name following the sport to its current venue on Lake Terrace East.
The “Tara” emanated from the naming prefix used by one of the sport’s founding fathers in the region, Newman McDonnell, who raced many successful greyhounds carrying the Tara tag. In fact, the winner of the first cup was Tara Topar (Luska Dubh x Front Rank) who defeated Cindy’s Range and Autumn Print in a time of 29.83 seconds for the 479 metre journey.
Sametzel won the cup the following year but not before Geelong trainer Charlie Hilet had to return a second time after a no-race had been declared the first time around.
In 1983, Barry Fullerton made the trip from Red Cliffs and was successful with Magic Fame, a daughter of Magic Typhoon and the prolific brood bitch Riverland Belle who three years later produced another cup winner in Riverland Roy (by Roy Trease) for Kevin Stone.
The wins of Durafi and Mitchell Boy in 1987 and 1988 for Connie Miller still sees her as the only trainer to have won consecutive Mount Gambier Cups. Thirty-odd years later, and in between hip replacements, she’s still training winners at Tara Raceway!
Then in 1989, the legendary Alan Evans of Rockbank, a cup regular at the time, finally landed the prize with Mr Chatters, who had run second the previous two years behind Durafi and Mitchell Boy. By Kid Campbell x Blue Louise, Mr Chatters retired in early 1990 having won 39 races.
Immortal Flash won the 1993 cup for Toolong trainer Brian Lenehan, the winner tracing back to his Hall Of Fame brood bitch Sydney Gem. Also tracing back to the Hall Of Famer is Lektra Stomp, trained by Lenehan’s son Phil and one of the top fancies for this year’s cup after a red hot run last Sunday at Tara Raceway of 29.54 seconds.
And perhaps fittingly, Col Sims, the leading trainer of the day, in 1996 won the final Mount Gambier Cup run at Glenburnie with his speedy front-running chaser Colin Ian while the Ralph Patzel trained Ashanti Gem, after gaining a run as a reserve, was the first cup winner at Lake Terrace East the following year.
Twenty-one cups have now been run at the Lake Terrace East venue, names synonymous with greyhound racing such as Robert Britton, Kevin Mugavin and Norm McCullagh among the list of winning trainers.
But of all the 37 Mount Gambier Cups run, surely one of the best stories must be that of 2015 when Ben Boers, a battling 39-year-old trainer from Portland with not much more than 12 months experience in the game, turned up with a give away greyhound called Lots Of Yap, who ultimately landed a spot on the reserve bench after running a distant second to Lobo Loco in a heat.
Boers still remembers the subsequent phone call – it was Tracie Price giving him a heads-up that Who’s Doing What, who had drawn box one in the final after running a best of day 29.75 seconds in her heat, was on season and would be scratched.
Although feeling for Price, Boers couldn’t believe his luck, even more so when, at the end of an exciting 512 metre Mount Gambier Cup final, it was Lots Of Yap who had a head to spare over the David Peckham-trained Bourne Again.
Race caller Allen Williams excitedly called Lots Of Yap’s win a fairytale story and one that the stuff of dreams are made of.
“This is probably the most popular Mount Gambier Cup win of all time,” he declared. And that coming from the trainer of Colville, winner of the 2013 cup.