The Group 2 Rookie Rebel, although a modern addition to the Victorian greyhound calendar, already occupies a special place in the scheme of top level racing.
The limited amount of high stakes racing over the 600m journeys around Australia makes the Invitational event an anticipated affair every year, and the significance of the race will only continue to grow.
The clear majority of racetracks Australia-wide hold middle-distance events on a regular basis. Yet none of the clubs seem committed enough to dedicate the dollars to make 600m racing flourish the way it potentially could.
In fact outside of The Rookie Rebel held at The Meadows, Brisbane GRC are the only metropolitan club in Australia to hold a group race over that distance, with its Big Dog Cup over 600m at Albion Park.
The Sale Cup over 650m is the only Group 1 middle distance event and is growing stronger every year as the classiest sprinters meet the best stayers head-on.
One can only wonder why the popularity and quality of the Sale Cup doesn’t inspire clubs to encourage more middle distance racing. It seems there are complaints from the powers-that-be about the consistent lack of nominations over the longer trips but the apparent reactive approach of these governing bodies is the bigger concern.
The saying “build it and they will come” must surely apply as merely creating big prize money races will encourage more nominations. This equals better fields and a higher profile. The stud ranks for stayers will then gain depth which means a healthy future for the sport as a whole.
The recent boom of 700m staying events in Australia are a showcase to this, and building the interest of races around 600m must surely present a perfect platform for both breeders and owners to try their hand at staying.
Back to the Rookie Rebel however, and looking at the previous winners of the hand-picked field demonstrate the crying need for better races over this journey. The race has only been run seven times and already the honour roll contains the likes of Malfoy (2005), Paua To Burn (2006), Train a Journey (2007), Bo Frazier (2009) and Flash Of Light (2010).
Is it any surprise the dominance of Victorian winners considering the amount of energy other states give this form of racing?
Full credit must go to GRV for their willingness to encourage these types of greyhound, and it now seems participants of other states are happy to abandon their home towns in orders to chase to opportunity presented by The Rookie Rebel.
In 2011, three of the eight dogs (and both reserves) making the cut are based interstate. South Australians Stack ‘Em Flat and Dark Duo join Tasmanians Posh Di, Sitka and Kialdu Anna for a crack at $25,000.
In saying that, the Victorians that will race are top notch once again. Symmetry won the aforementioned Sale Cup, Birthday Boy is a genuine topliner and Black Viking is quickly becoming a Meadows 600m specialist.
It really does shape up as one of the most entertaining races of 2011 and even more testament as to why middle distance racing is to play a big role in the future of our great sport. It’d be a real-eye opener to see how many dogs would retire early if 600m racing wasn’t around and yet it simply continues to be the forgotten distance.