Remember When: Sprint Queen Mint Magic wows for Watson

Quidame 2006

Owner-trainer Ray Watson was associated with plenty of top-class racers during his lengthy career, but one of his best was a red brindle bitch, whelped in May 1997, and named Mint Magic.

By New Fox out of Watson’s former top race bitch Franklin Mint, Mint Magic was one of the fastest grass track sprinters of her generation. Her career began over 384 metres at Singleton on 27 November 1998 when she finished second in a maiden and ended almost exactly two years later in a 280-metres event at Wentworth Park.

In between she competed against the best speedsters of her time and, more often than not emerged victorious. She opened her winning account on 4 December when scoring by eight lengths over 384 metres at Singleton before being beaten twice over 457 metres at Cessnock.

She finished 1998 with a victory over 400 metres at Maitland, running 22.78 (best). Mint Magic began 1999 by scoring three successive wins over 400 metres at Maitland, in 22.81, 22.64 and 23.04, all the best of the night, before being unplaced over 457 metres at Toowoomba in late January. After winning over 384 metres at Singleton in 21.12 on 17 February, Mint Magic raced on 3 March for what would prove to be the last time over the same trip, scoring by seven lengths in a track record 21.05.

Contesting the inaugural Singleton Oaks, over 466 metres, Mint Magic could only run third in her heat but bounced back in the 17 March final to come from fifth and snare the $3,000 first prize money.

After winning over 400 metres at Maitland on 31 March she had to be content with a second behind kennelmate New Mint at the same track and distance before Watson took her, as well as New Mint and Chief Mint, north to Tweed Heads on 24 April to run over 420 metres in order to prepare her for the up-coming Tweed Heads Galaxy series.

Mint Magic won by an easy seven lengths in a best of the day 23.43. Competing in the Galaxy heats on 12 June, she downed Lyntanga by three and half lengths in 23.42, just 5/100ths outside the best of the heats. Watson managed to also get New Mint and Chief Minto into the final, a rare achievement.

In the final Mint Magic gave nothing else a chance, bursting out of box three and careering away to score by six lengths from New Mint in a track record 23.06, carving a whopping 22/100ths off the previous mark. Runner-up was kennelmate New Mint.

Never was a $35,000 prize-money cheque more deservedly earned. After winning again over 400 metres at Maitland, Watson took Mint Magic north, this time to Queensland and the Gold Coast for their prestigious Cup.

She defeated the classy Questions by almost four lengths in her heat on 28 July in a best of the day 25.69 but from box seven in the final trailed home a long last behind Faithful Hawk. Mint Magic returned to her best with a win over 400 metres at Bulli on 20 August but then finished second at her next two outings over the same trip, both to the smart November Safari.

Mint Magic now entered upon the most glorious phase of her career and would win 13 of her next 15 starts. Running over 330 metres at Richmond on 10 September she downed Rapid Currency by half a length, then won three straight over 457 metres at Maitland, the first in a track record 25.33 on 15 September followed by a five lengths win over kennelmate Super Mint in a heat of the Maitland Gold Collar on 6 October and the final on 13 October in a sizzling 25.35. November saw her win twice at Singleton, leading all the way on both occasions in 26.20 and 26.19 in a heat and final of the Singleton Sprint Championship.

Both victories cemented her reputation as one of the best of Australia’s sprinters and Mint Magic was included among the invitees for the Topgun, run over 518 metres at The Meadows.

To give her experience on the track, Watson raced her there on 22 November.

In her first start beyond 466 metres Mint Magic proved strong and went on to defeat the smart Shirdon’s Alarm by six lengths in 30.07, the best of the night.

The Topgun, on 3 December, proved notable for its early interference which allowed Mint Magic to take full advantage and record a sensational 10 lengths win over the Irish greyhound Sweeping Storm with Kantarn Bale two lengths away third. Mint Magic ran a fast 29.97 in notching her eighth consecutive victory.

The sequence came unstuck in the four-dog Match Race of the Century over 520 metres at Wentworth Park. Opposed to Victorian Great Wish, Wentworth Park specialist Stately Bird and Queensland champion Faithful Hawk, Mint Magic stumbled just after the start but went fast to lead Faithful Hawk by a length at the first turn.

She increased this to two lengths in clocking a speedy 13.88 for the second section but on the back turn cramped in the hind quarters and collided with the closing Faithful Hawk. Stately Bird ran into them and Great Wish took the split to race away and score easily.

Mint Magic came home last. The race was her last for 1999. She had raced 28 times for 21 wins, three seconds and one third. Mint Magic resumed on 17 January at The Meadows but fell and was out of action until 11 March when she scored by 11 lengths over 466 metres at Singleton in a heat of the Oaks.

She then successfully defended her Oaks title by winning the final by 11 lengths in a track record 26.18. On March 25, she won the Battle of the Sexes at Singleton by 12 lengths in 26.21.

Once more Mint Magic was ‘put away’ and returned on 10 June in a heat of the Tweed Heads Galaxy. Her defence of the title looked strong when she downed Ima Monarchist by five and a half lengths in 23.50, the best of the day.

Drawn perfectly in box one for the final, Mint Magic became only the second greyhound in the long history of the classic to win it twice, defeating Hotshow Ben by two and a half lengths in 23.46 (best) to join Ebony King, the 1974-1975 victor as the only dual winners.

Another $35,000 entered the bank account as she made it five successive wins. After her grand victory Mint Magic was sidelined while a floating bone chip was removed.

The red brindle bitch resumed on 13 November over 280 metres at Wentworth Park but fell in the middle stages of the race and was immediately retired after the event. Mint Magic finished her career with 29 wins, five seconds and one third from 41 starts. Of her six unplaced runs, two were the result of falls. She accrued a substantial $214,720 in prize-money as well as four track records.

Mint Magic was unbeaten in five starts at Tweed Heads and won six out of seven over 466 metres at Singleton and six of seven over 400 metres at Maitland. Her average winning margin was a sensational 5.3 lengths, significant considering only four of her races were beyond 466 metres. There were many who said Mint Magic’s early speed was the fastest they had seen in 30 years.