It was back in the winter of 2014 that the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club conducted its first Winter Classic – a 512 metre series run for greyhounds whelped on or after July 1 two years prior – at Tara Raceway.
First won by the Tracie Price trained Stylish Moment (Spring Gun x Nicky’s Moment) in 30.27 seconds, the classic has endured its share of ups and downs due mainly to a lack of eligible greyhounds available in some particular years.
For all that, though, the Winter Classic has come up with some pretty handy winners in the eight years that it has been run.
Price won with Cee Me Burst (Nitro Burst x Oh Cee Ya) the following year in a time of 30.31 seconds. And Phil Lenehan’s Lektra Munster (Fabregas x Supreme Vision) was successful in 2016 in a time of 30.89 seconds.
Then, in 2017, it was the $13 chance Solitary Lad (Lonesome Cry x Up And Away) who won the classic for Glenroy trainer Richard Clayfield.
But in 2018 the Price-trained Smart Knocka (Knocka Norris x Who’s Doing What) took the Winter Classic to a new level when running a race record time of 29.85 seconds.
The following month the blue dog was runner-up in the SA Derby (515 m) at Angle Park and several weeks later won the Adelaide Cup Consolation (515 m).
In 2016, Mount Gambier’s Summer Classic (512 m) was won by Tony Hinrichsen’s Menzel Boys. And in 2019 Hinrichsen looked a good chance of picking up the winter equivalent with Balboa Fury, a son of My Bro Fabio and Lektra Fury (a litter sister to Menzel Boys).
Not only did the November 2017 black dog win the Winter Classic but he also lowered the race record to 29.84 seconds before being retired at the end of 2020.
But Balboa Fury was back racing 15 months later. And last Thursday at Tara Raceway the rising five-year-old, at start number 117, brought up his 16th win when as an $81 chance he defeated Dundee Reactor by a half head in the Klaassens Contractors Stake (400 m) in 23.34 seconds.
Price landed his fourth Winter Classic winner in 2020 when Our Boy Thommo (Fernando Bale x Scarp Missile), after settling in second spot, finished strongly to defeat kennelmate Proud Fernando in 30.18 seconds.
Last year it was the Steve Bartholomew trained Mary Bridget (Flying Stanley x Galactic Cat) who turned in an outstanding effort to defeat Starlight Gemma by 9¼ lengths in a near-race record time of 29.85 seconds.
Heats of the Carlin & Gazzard MG Winter Classic, for greyhounds whelped on or after July 1, 2020, will be run on Sunday, August 21 with the $4000 final a week later.
On Sunday, September 11, heats of the South East Greyhound Racing Club 50-Year Anniversary Cup will be run over 512 metres. The $5000 final is set down for September 18.
With Greyhound Racing SA sponsoring the race, the Mount Gambier club is hopeful that GRSA Director David Lewis will be able to make the trip down to present the cup to the winner.
His father, Eric, was one of 13 elected to the inaugural SEGRC committee at a public meeting held in the Mount Gambier City Hall on September 14, 1972.
The club is also hopeful David will be joined by his brother, Dale, SEGRC secretary between 1981 and 1983 – and their families.
Other inaugural SEGRC committee members were R. Clark, J. Cruise, N. F. McDonnell, J. O’Brien, J. O’Connor, C. Potter, A. Steele, J. Taylor, J. Walters, R. White, J. Sullivan and B. Wittwer. The club welcomes contact from any family members wishing to attend the running of the SEGRC 50-Year Anniversary Cup.
Wrapping up the busy month will be the Mount Gambier Country Cup heat/s (512 m) on Sunday, September 25. A maximum of two heats will be run with the two winners representing Mount Gambier in the SA Country Cup final at Angle Park on Adelaide Cup night on Friday, October 7.
In the case of only one heat being run, first and second will represent Mount Gambier against qualifiers from Gawler and Murray Bridge in a six-dog race.
These days the Country Cup is a far cry from a time when Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Kulpara, Strathalbyn and Barmera also conducted greyhound meetings on a regular basis.
With that in mind, the Mount Gambier club is to meet with GRSA regarding the possibility of introducing a race on Adelaide Cup night that could work in favour of SA’s only remaining country greyhound club.