China Trip remains unique in the annals of the Australian Cup

A FAWN bitch by Brother Fox out of La Paz, in 1993 China Trip became only the ninth greyhound to make the final of the Australian Cup on two occasions, but achieved the unique feat of being the first and only one so far to have managed to annex the race twice.

Part-owned and trained by Garry Ball, China Trip had begun her racing career with a 13 lengths victory in a maiden at Albury on 11 May 1991. Over her next 12 starts China Trip won at Shepparton, Sandown Park, Bendigo, Angle Park and Wangaratta.

In a three-start campaign at Angle Park, China Trip was beaten into second place by the classy local bitch True To Do, then won her way through to the South Australian Oaks final, but once again found True To Do too good on the night.

At Wangaratta, China Trip made the final of the Wangaratta Matchmaker, running second behind Amblako. The winner would go on to win the Matchmaker a second time, in 1992.

China Trip had her first start at Olympic Park on 23 September and led all the way for a strong win. She was found to be injured after the race and did not appear again for a month.

She was taken to Ipswich to contest the City of Ipswich Gold Cup, making the final by running second to Haylewie Miss, but finished at the tail of the field behind that same greyhound in the final. Haylewie Miss went on to win the same event the following year.

Returning to Victoria, China Trip made it two out of two at Olympic Park and then began 1992 by taking out a heat and final of the Cranbourne Cup.

Set for the Australian Cup, China Trip was beaten three-quarters of a length by Moyarra Miss in her heat and then went down by a length and a quarter to Buka Blitz in her semi-final after leading until the home corner.

That second placing was enough to see her make it through to the 24 February final, where she drew nicely in box two. Punters rallied to her and China Trip started a firm 2/1 ($3.00) favourite. She began well and quickly raced to strong lead and although challenged by the fast-finishing Buka Blitz in the home straight she managed to hold on to win by a head. Bomber Gleeson ran on well for third.

China Trip ventured to Wentworth Park for a tilt at the Golden Easter Egg, but after finishing third behind eventual winner Jessica Casey in her semi-final she was unplaced in the Egg Consolation.

She raced just three more times in 1992, winning once at Olympic Park, and then, having raced 30 times for 13 wins and 11 placings, she was retired.

Garry Ball then decided to have a second crack at the Australian Cup and China Trip resumed racing at Olympic Park on 25 January 1993, scoring by a length in 29.68, the best of the night.

She then took out her heat of the Australian Cup on 15 February, downing the smart Master Giant by two lengths. In her semi-final, China Trip bounded out of box seven and led all the way to defeat Fiery Blue by almost four lengths in a fast 29.78, the best of the night.

For her second final, China Trip drew badly in box six. She had drawn this alley on five previous occasions for three placings, but despite her poor record from the draw punters rallied to her and she went to the boxes a firm 5/4 ($2.25) favourite.

China Trip began brilliantly and quickly raced to the lead, a position she held all the way until the home straight. In the run to the finish line China Trip was starting to tire and it was her South Australian nemesis True To Do who came charging home, but the post was too close and China Trip held on to score by a head, the same margin by which she had prevailed in 1992. Bomber Gleeson, having also made his second successive Australian Cup final, once again finished third.

Of the previous dual finalists, only Ungwilla Lad, in 1975, had won the race and then returned to try and defend the title, finishing third in 1976. Of the others, Fawn Nulla had won in 1967 after being third the previous year; Count D’Argent won in 1978 after running fourth in 1977; Tangaloa won in 1980, after being second in 1979, and Franklin Deano scored in 1991 after finishing at the tail of the field the previous year.

Since China Trip, a further three greyhounds have made the Australian Cup final twice, but none have managed to win the race, the best performance being by El Galo, second in 2008 and 2009 (thereby joining Cheltenham Lass, who was runner-up twice, in 1966 and 1967).

The victory was China Trip’s fifth consecutive win at Olympic Park and she went on to make it seven on end before tasting defeat at the course. After being injured in a race at Wangaratta in June, China Trip did not race again until November.

China Trip made a third attempt at the Australian Cup, in 1994, winning her heat on 14 February but was injured in running sixth in her semi-final a week later. As far as I am aware, China Trip is the only greyhound to have ever reached the semi-finals of the Australian Cup three years in a row.

After that race China Trip was retired, having won 22 of her 48 starts (with 12 seconds and five thirds) and 10 from 18 at Olympic Park.