In the 33 years since Dennis Calleja‟s greyhound Marcus Rate took out the first running of the W.A. Gold Cup, as it was then known, the Sky Channel Perth Cup, has developed into one of the country‟s most important group one classics.
His first prize of $1300 pales when compared to the $140,000 on offer to the winner of this year‟s cup on April 21st.
The race has had a number of sponsors over the years and was known as the Brownes Gold Cup from 1976 to 1986. In 1987 it was called the Australis Mining Gold Cup, in 88 it was the Fairplay Gold Cup then from 1989 until 1992 it was called the Winfield Gold Cup.
In 1993 a long sponsorship begun with Be Active and it was known as the Be Active Gold Cup in 1993 and 94 before being called the Be Active Perth Cup until 2007 when the club welcomed their new sponsor Sky Channel.
The Sky Channel Perth Cup has an honour role the envy of many, with some of the nation‟s top performers claiming the trophy.
While local dogs have at times had their fair share of success, more often than not in the last two decades the winner has been the best-performed chaser in the country at the time.
Possibly the best dog to have raced in the West enjoyed a stella run of success at Cannington in 1998. Jane Carruthers arrived in town for the big race that year with the mighty Rapid Journey. He had just won the Golden Easter Egg in Sydney and was keen for more Group One success.
That year local star Reggemite didn‟t let his fans down when he ran a slashing 30.54 in his heat. He had the crowd buzzing with his near track record run, but then Carruthers unleashed her brindle sensation on Cannington bettering Reggemite‟s time by a neck and equalling his track record of 30.52 in an awesome heat winning display.
Rapid Journey dominated the final of ‟98 and justified the second shortest odds offered in Cup history winning by almost 8 lengths at the quote of 1/3. Later in 1998 he again showed his liking of the Cannington 530m by returning and claiming the National Sprint Championship.
It was apparent in 1994 that having the best dog in the country was no guarantee of conquering one of the Nation‟s toughest sprint challenges. Star Queenslander Worthy Reward smashed the track record in his heat win that year and backed it up with a faultless display in his semi-final. Although drawing poorly in six he was sent out a 2/5 favourite but found trouble and was no match for the Troy Provost trained Just Like Whiskey who held off the fast finishing Worthy Reward to win by two lengths.
Harry Sarkis ventured west in 1996 fresh from taking out the Easter Egg with his smart black bitch Tenthill Doll. Harry showed his confidence early by supporting his bitch heavily in the traditional Calcutta and she didn‟t disappoint equalling the track record in her heat. When she drew the cherry in the final, bookmakers sent her out the shortest priced favourite in history at 2/7. The race was never in doubt and she cruised in to beat Jurassic Vapour and top local bitch Storm Act.
Seven of the last nine winners have come from interstate. Victorian Amy‟s Doll remained undefeated in the series when she claimed the trophy in 1993 for young trainer Paul Mills. Paul enjoyed a great visit that year also qualifying City Success for the final and was to become a regular over the next few years at Cannington as he tried to recapture the Cup.
Queensland had won the first of its two Perth Cups in 1987 when Pretty Fearless out kicked Scot A Win in one of the closest finishes on record, and claimed its second cup in 1995 with the Michael Zammit prepared Brisk Bill.
That same year a super smart local bitch by the name of South Georgia was emerging and many thought she had the speed to match Brisk Bill in the final. She led them into the back straight but could not hold on as Brisk Bill raced away for a convincing win over another visitor Baltusrol with South Georgia a gallant third.
Star Tribute for Dave Irwin overcame box eight with a barnstorming finish to win in 1997. That year NSW dog Welsh Duo put in a slashing performance in the heats and after drawing box one was expected to jump a short-priced favourite in the final. In possibly the most sensational incident in Group One racing, the stewards at kennelling, due to weight variation, scratched Welsh Duo.
Marcus Rate‟s 1976 annihilation of the field stands as the second biggest winning margin in Cup history.
It would take another 14 years before his winning margin of 10 lengths would be bettered. It was broken in 1990 when one of the smartest bitches to race at Cannington finally emerged from the shadow of her famous litter sister.
Sand Pebble, trained in the hills east of Perth by Ron Timms, won the first Gold Cup of the nineties by an emphatic 10-¾ lengths to easily hold off Grant Langston‟s Quit and her mighty sister Sandi‟s Me Mum. Sand Pebble‟s race career was cut short by injury but many who saw her run remember her as the equal of Sandi‟s Me Mum in ability.
Perhaps the most remarkable Perth Cups came in the two years following Sand Pebbles win.
Frantic Night was purchased for $200 by a group of owners headed by Billy Choules shortly before the 1991 series. He was not fancied in either the heat or semi final but made his way through to the final, drew the checks and the rest is history. A bad scrimmage on the first turn allowed him to rail through and pinch the race as a rank outsider with the celebrations from exited owners continuing for many days.
In 1992 the Cup was run as Perth experienced its wettest February day on record. Former Victorian chaser Wynlee Supreme ploughed through the bog to win in the slowest time in history. His win as a 50-month old dog also made him the oldest winner of a Perth Cup. The conditions were so bad that officials had to cancel the last race on the program when the sea of water on the infield made it impossible for the below ground lure system to operate.
Wynlee Supreme gave trainer Linda Britton her biggest win in the sport and was to be the first of two wins in the race. She qualified four runners for the final in 1999 with all eyes on the superstar Reggemite.
In a major shock Reggemite began well but was injured driving into the first corner, he battled on strongly to finish fourth but sadly it was the last time he was to race at Cannington. Britton trained the quinella that year as Bliss Bale held off kennel mate Shirdon‟s Alarm to win by a half length.
Nifti Fire went into the first Perth Cup of “the naughties” as the form greyhound for popular trainer Jodie Harding. When he drew the cherry in the final, many thought the race was as good as over. As luck would have it, Nifti Fire began only fairly and copped a buffeting going into the first turn. His chances looked remote going down the back straight but he showed great fighting qualities to get up in the last bound to grab the 2000 Cup.
Grant Langston dominated training ranks in the late eighties and early nineties qualifying three runners for the final on four occasions. He managed to win the race only once.
Miss Crisp will always be remembered as the bitch that took out the last Cup run on grass at Cannington. She began brilliantly from the white and was never troubled in beating the croweater Faust‟s Legend in quick time. She‟ll also be remembered as the mother of Paradise Street, the best stayer produced in the West and a three-time winner of the State Distance championship and National Champ in 1998.
In 2001 Graeme Bate sent over the brilliant Kantarn Bale for the series and he quickly emerged as Cup favourite with dashing wins in the lead up Interstate Challenge and Perth Cup heat. He drew well in box two in the final but totally bombed the start and ran a remarkable race to finish second to the Jason Thompson-trained Sammy Mint.
Sammy Mint had qualified with a tough-as-teak performance from box six in his heat. When Thompson drew out the envelope to give his dog the coveted rails in the final, he knew he had the chance to end Sammy Mint‟s racing career with a Group One victory. He was right as Sammy Mint easily held of Kantarn Bale and hometown favourite Cobram Storm.
The 2002 cup saw group one success for Victorian super sprinter Modern Assassin often the bridesmaid in the many major finals he gave nothing else chance after sweeping to the front at the first turn and led from that point on to win in 30.60. Favourite was the all conquering Carlisle Jack who had breezed into town to take the Interstate Challenge in track record time and after a brilliant heat win he was all the rage for the final but early trouble after a slow start left him near the rear and struggling. Trained by Mary Mugavin-Brown the Perth Cup was a highlight of a stellar career for the talented black chaser.
Outstanding Gippsland sprinter Elgrando had been most unlucky not to snare a Group 1 victory in 2002. Travelling to the West in 2003 in search of the Perth Cup, the “big fellow” showed a distinct liking for the Cannington circuit. After a brilliant heat win, he made a sweeping run down the back straight in the final to claim the leader Rifle Street in the shadows of the post. The $60,000 first prize took his stake tally to over $184,000. Elgrando trained by Carolyn Jones was one of five Victorians to make the final.
Victoria provided the winner of the Perth Cup for the fourth time in succession in 2004. Many were surprised by the performance of relatively unknown sprinter Kilby Supreme when she gave some of the big names a run for their money. Her star was to shine brightly as the speedy black bitch made Cannington her own not only accounting for a top class field but taking a big chunk of the 530 metre track record in the process.
It was a tremendous thrill for Victorian trainer Elaine Vigor with Kilby Supreme becoming her first Group One success and she shared the night with “Kilby” owner popular MGRA employee Jackie Davis.
A well deserved Group One glory was finally posted by Sun Hero in the Perth Cup of 2005. The Andrea Dailly trained super sprinter had made nineteen group finals, with his closest finish at Group One level being third in the Paws Of Thunder of 2004.
It was a happy return to Perth for former Sandgropers Tom and George Dailly who had been introduced to the sport by their late father, George Senior. The Perth Cup was proving easy pickings for Victorian trainers with Sun Hero‟s win the fifth in succession. It was also a big “V” trifecta with Go Forever finishing second and Black Lee third.
2006 and Greyhounds WA were delighted with a spectacular evening of greyhound racing. A record crowd in excess of 5300 the biggest ever assembled at Cannington since the opening night back in 1974. Victorious in the big final was up and coming Victorian sprint sensation Superman after establishing a new track record in his heat win Superman begun well from box seven and finding the front early he careering away to win comfortably from fellow Victorians Trewly Special and Pororoca.
2007 and superstar Victorian sprinter and reining AGRA Australian Greyhound of the Year Betty‟s Angel captured the Sky Channel Perth Cup with a brilliant win.
Beginning well from box 1 Betty‟s Angel ($1.80) was beaten for the early lead by the locally trained Decathalon ($26.10) he held that advantage through the first turn and down the back, with “Betty” in hot pursuit. Unfortunately at the first turn youngster Kostic Burns fell heavily causing havoc for a number of finalist‟s behind the two leaders.
Decathalon was still in front into the home straight and for a fleeting moment looked like winning, but the last section has always been Betty‟s Angel‟s best and she raced pass Decathalon going on to win by one length and three quarters with Brother Knows ($29.80) seven back in third, time for the final was 30.47.
2008 and high speed Queensland youngster Size Can Matter captured the Group 1 Sky Channel Perth Cup final in brilliant fashion with a very impressive all the way win.
Beginning like a rocket from the “squeeze” box 4 Size Can Matter ($5.00) took control in the run to the first turn with the favourite Whippy‟s Image after a slow start in hot pursuit, the classy white chaser held the fence around the first turn and down the back straight he showed the superior speed. The Adelaide Cup winner was trying hard but wasn‟t making any ground.
As “Whippy‟s” started to wilt new challengers appeared on the scene with West Australian track specialist Back Tonight ($9.40), racing into the picture from well back. He looked a winning chance as they came into the home straight however Size Can Matter found another gear kicking near the line to win by a length and half in 30.22.
In 33 times the Perth Cup has been staged winners have come from every corner of the country. Victoria leads the way with eight from New South Wales with six victories, four from South Australia (all in the eighties) and three from Queensland making Western Australia‟s showpiece a Group One race of National importance.
Listed below is the Perth Cup honour roll it has been won by some outstanding sprinters over the years most coming from the eastern states.
Perth Cup Honour Roll
- 1976 Marcus Rate
- 1977 Canonero’s Gift
- 1978 Biafra’s Son
- 1979 Rare Discovery
- 1980 White Panther
- 1981 General Jeff
- 1982 Wotta Wizard
- 1983 Superstar
- 1984 Legatee
- 1985 Supreme Carmen
- 1986 Farquhar
- 1987 Pretty Fearless
- 1988 Karinya Flash
- 1989 Miss Crisp
- 1990 Sand Pebble
- 1991 Frantic Night
- 1992 Wynlee Supreme
- 1993 Amy’s Doll
- 1994 Just Like Whisky
- 1995 Brisk Bill
- 1996 Tenthill Doll
- 1997 Star Tribute
- 1998 Rapid Journey
- 1999 Bliss Bale
- 2000 Nifti Fire
- 2001 Sammy Mint
- 2002 Modern Assassin
- 2003 Elgrando
- 2004 Kilby Supreme
- 2005 Sun Hero
- 2006 Superman
- 2007 Betty’s Angel
- 2008 Size Can Matter