HOW often does the greyhound finishing second in a heat or semi-final of a major race emerge a week later and snare the final? The answer is, quite a lot. This was the case in the 1972 Wentworth Park Gold Cup when the former Victorian discard Ragsie managed to stave off the determined finish of the future great Victorian stayer Lizrene.
In what was one of the greatest finishes to a major race seen on the old grass circuit at Wentworth Park, Ragsie confirmed his status as one of the best all-distance greyhounds ever seen in NSW, while Lizrene secured her growing position as the best stayer in Victoria.
Ragsie had shown his class and power with fantastic last-to-first displays in sprint events at both Harold Park and Wentworth Park. Trainer Paul Cauchi was reasonably sure the fawn sprinter had all the makings of a potential top-class stayer and in late January 1972 he was given his first test, a 722 metres race at Wentworth Park.
On a wet and slippery surface, Ragsie took the lead on the home corner only to lose his footing. This allowed three other greyhounds to rail underneath him and he was unable to catch them in the run to the post.
Ragsie quickly showed his mettle by winning his next four distance starts, all in fast time and making his way through to the final of the National Distance Championship, held over 732 metres at Harold Park.
In that event recent hard racing had obviously taken its toll and he struggled into third place behind Victorian stayer Bubble’s Luck.
In the lead-up to the 1972 Wentworth Park Gold Cup, Ragsie ran 43.0 at Wentworth Park, the second-fastest time ever on the track and then came from last to win over 530 metres.
In late March he ventured to Maitland and won the 676 metres Autumn Cup, scoring by 15 lengths in 39.70, clipping a massive 40/100ths off the track record.
Just three days later he won the Black Top Trophy over 457 metres at Harold Park, coming from last early. And then, to cap off his Gold Cup preparation, he went north for the opening night meeting at the Gabba track in Queensland.
Racing over 558 metres, Ragsie flew home to down 1971 Melbourne Cup winner Gerard The Gentin 32.76, a track record mark which stood untested for over a year.
However, the heats of the 722 metres Wentworth Park Gold Cup proved that even the mighty can be tamed. Contesting the second heat of the prestigious Cup, Ragsie found himself back in the pack while 100/1 ($101) outsider Secret Sighthighballed out in front.
Ragsie struggled to find a way through the field and turning for home, Secret Sight held a substantial break. She held on valiantly in the run to the judge, defeating a fast finishing Ragsie by a length in a slow 43.5. Midnight Enemywas third ahead of Lily Takiri.
The first heat of the Cup had seen Lizrene score a sensational first-up win on the tricky Wentworth Park circuit. Sent out a 9/4 ($3.25) second favourite behind northern coalfields stayer Mangrove Boy, Lizrene simply proved too good, running past Mangrove Boy as the field turned for home and racing away to score by six lengths in a fantastic 43.1. Silver Rhondawas third with Marcia Mossmaking it through to the final in fourth position.
Betting on the final by the 13,000-strong crowd was vigorous, but only two greyhounds were wanted by rank and file punters: Ragsie and Lizrene, with the former starting as favourite, fractionally ahead of the latter.
Ragsie began reasonably well from box two and moved up to trail Secret Sight as the field went into the back straight. Lizrene (box four) began only fairly and was back in sixth spot with a lap to run.
Approximately 180 metres from home, Ragsie tackled Secret Sight and took the lead with Lizrene just starting to get wound up.
Sweeping into the home straight Ragsie led by three lengths from Secret Sight, while at this point that Lizrene lost the race, being forced to scout deep to avoid clipping Secret Sight’s heels.
In the short run to the post Ragsie held off the fast finishing Lizrene to score by just a head. Secret Sight held third, four lengths away. Mangrove Boy could only finish sixth. Ragsie’s time of 43.3 equalled Strand Belle’s 1971 race record and earned him $4,000.
A couple of months later he became only the third greyhound at that time to also take out the Association Cup. Ragsie finished his career a few months later with a brilliant fast-finishing fourth in the National Derby final. All told Ragsie raced 53 times for 21 wins and 19 placings. He won 10 of his 16 distance starts. Ragsie was named 1972 NSW Greyhound of the Year, while Lizrene became the inaugural Victorian Greyhound of the Year, in 1973.