October 8, 2015 was a night that greyhound racing revelled in glory in what has been a year that has been, without a doubt, the most turbulent since the sport began.
On that balmy Spring night at Angle Park ion the outskirts of Adelaide, Fernando Bale, the sole shining light that the industry has had the opportunity to hang its hat on, powered to victory in the Group 1 Adelaide Cup and created history by becoming the first greyhound anywhere in the world, to eclipse $1m in prizemoney.
Even though I am heavily involved in the industry, I still shake my head at the current levels of prizemoney on offer – I vividly remember travelling to Wyong as a young trainer in the mid-late 1970’s and racing up the straight track in Maiden races on a Saturday morning for the princely sum (if memory serves me correctly) of around $40 in first place prizemoney.
Like so many others involved in the greyhound industry, its not always the money that provides the greatest thrills and memories although having a greyhound that can bank over a million dollars in earnings must provide enormous pride for Fernando Bale’s owners, the Wheeler family, as well as his trainers, Team Dailly (Andrea, Tom and George), who have placed the chaser to perfection.
To be honest, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Fernando Bale and his exploits on the racetrack.
Breathtaking – Sensational – Amazing – Incredible – Brilliant – I’ve used virtually every adjective in the dictionary to describe the feats of Fernando Bale so now I use just one, the often maligned but in this case, undoubtedly warranted…Champion
At just a tick over 2 ½ years of age, since February this year, he has claimed seven Group 1 events; two Group 2 titles, and one Group 3 race – his record stands at 38 starts for 31 wins and 4 minor placings – and his earnings have reached $1,006,110. Incredible statistics for any animal in any code of racing.
On Saturday night at The Meadows, Fernando Bale has drawn box 1 in the G1 Sky Racing Topgun, considered one of the ‘big 4’ races on the Australian greyhound racing calendar, and a race which offers $150,000 in first place prizemoney.
There are neither heats nor qualifying trials – the eight-dog field is selected by a panel of industry representatives and for the owners and trainers, it is as much a thrill to have an entrant, as it is to win the race.
Fernando Bale has drawn the coveted inside box in the Topgun and accordingly, has been marked as a $1.20 favourite by the TAB Fixed Odds bookmakers.
I learnt my lesson a long while ago with Fernando Bale – ‘thinking’ that he will miss the start and not receiving clear running in the early stages led to me wiping egg off my face so I did what every smart punter would do and jumped on his bandwagon.
Plenty of people will tell you that the more they win the closer they are to a loss and that the more they begin the closer they are to missing it, but this greyhound is not you’re stock standard chaser, he is a freak.
His pace from the boxes to the first turn is electrifying but for me, it’s his mid-race ‘burn’ that sets him apart from his opposition. He does what not many animals, equine or canine, can do, and that is he accelerates through the turns despite being on an inside leg.
While he may stifle betting markets, Fernando Bale encapsulates all that is great about greyhound racing and long may he continue his reign as one of the best to ever grace a racetrack.
If punters were looking to play the exotics with Fernando as the anchor, I’d be throwing in Kayda Shae, Bessy Boo and Dyna Double One to run the placings.
And while Fernando is the ‘King’ of the sprinters, Sweet It Is has also rightly earnt the tag as the “Queen” of the stayers.
She will start a short priced favourite to win the inaugural running of the G2 Topgun Stayers event where $75,000 awaits the winner of the 725m event.
Like Fernando Bale, Sweet It Is can also do freakish things on a racetrack which often leaves punters and viewers gasping and she appears to have this race at her mercy as she too climbs ever so closer to the magic million dollar mark.
If you don’t want to take the $2 on offer about Sweet It Is, I’m going to have something small each-way on Ada Mary who is currently quoted at $51 for the win and around $8 the place. She recently won the G3 Sydney Cup at Wentworth Park and trialled at The Meadows last week over 600m in fair time and she is a greyhound who will race up near the pace and may be able to sneak into the placings.
I’ll be trackside to bring you all the action on Sky Racing 1 (Ch519) on a night where the stars will race under the stars.
Good luck and good punting
G3 - The Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Steeple Chase
G2 - Prix Raoul Balliere
G2 - Prix Ariste Hemard
G3 - Victress Stakes
G2 - Premier Trophy