Christmas Gift success a triumph of ability over experience

WHEN Royal Turbo took the lead going into the first bend in the final of the Group 3 Christmas Gift at Wentworth Park on Saturday night and then simply turned the race into his own, he became the third winner of a major race this year to greet the judge as the rank outsider in the betting charts.

Royal Turbo had upset Wentworth Park’s ‘winningest’ greyhound Bessy Boo in the heats the previous week at huge odds, and although Bessy Boo had drawn perfectly in box one, Royal Turbo (box eight) simply ran a brilliant race to take the event, with not an ounce of luck involved.

Although he officially started at ‘only’ $19.80, that was enough to have the Glen McKinley-trained sprinter as the official rank outsider of what was a pretty good lineup, which included the likes of Brad Hill Billy and Clock’s Ticking as well as Bessy Boo.

The other two Group races which were won in 2016 by the official rank outsider were the Silver Chief Classic, annexed by $41 chance Midwinter in January and the Sandown Cup, won by the $38.40 outsider Bells Are Ringin in May.

One of the reasons for Royal Turbo being sent out at the odds he was in the Christmas Gift final was simply a lack of race experience.

Royal Turbo was having only his eighth race start, but has now notched five victories, which is pretty good by any measure.

Looking back over the history of major races in Australia there aren’t too many winners who have had less starts than Royal Turbo before notching victory in an important event.

Perhaps the most recent example of this is Kendale Bale which won the 2008 Horsham Cup at only his seventh race start. Kendale Bale was also undefeated at the time of his Horsham Cup win.

In 1988, the Queensland bitch Tiger’s Sunset made it five wins from only five starts when she took out the National Futurity at Wentworth Park (then racing on grass).

Back in 1958, Ebony Minda also made it five wins from as many starts when taking out the Launceston Cup, while in 1952 the local star Baron Dhu notched his sixth win in six outings when scoring in the Hobart Thousand.

Although I don’t have figures for every winner, the best previous record to that of Royal Turbo in terms of winning the Christmas Gift with the least number of race starts is the 1973 winner Early Copy. This brilliant brindle sprinter won his seventh race from only 12 outings when successful on the old Harold Park track.

The Christmas Gift has been run continuously since 1965, with the first 22 runnings taking place on the grass over 457m at Harold Park.