For everyone except Kel Greenough and Allan Lang, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Black Magic Opal for Jason Thompson supposedly had a mortgage on Australia’s oldest race after breaking the track record with an 11-length heat win a week earlier. He had box eight. He had the $1.40 price tag. He was the reigning Melbourne Cup winner.
But 25.64 seconds later, he would be upstaged, out sped and beaten on merit. The dog who can now claim to having the prize scalp, and the Hobart track record in the process, is none other than fellow Victorian, Paw Licking.
Bred by Charles Northfield in March 2011, the son of Elite State and Kingsbrae Di flew out of the traps, keeping the favourite wide in the early stages. They drew well clear of the chasing brigade, headed by Yappin’ Jack who exited box two.
Ronan Izmir was far from his brilliant best, as was Hellyeah Bolt. Farmor Las Vegas, Clone Your Own and Sing The Song were all left scrapping for position at the tail of the pack.
At the half way point, it was clearly a race in two. It was going to be a moment to saviour as the high-profile duo swung for the judge. Paw Licking had done the hard part and crossed to the fence in the lead, but could he complete the job and hold off one of the fastest dogs of the last decade?
Black Magic Opal wasn’t going down without a fight. He saw an opportunity on the fence and didn’t need asking twice. Gritting his teeth and burrowing hard, the prize was still in reach. Paw Licking is noted as having a limited tank, and with each stride, the Thompson-trained superstar got closer and closer. But so too did the post, and with one last gasp, Black Magic Opal made its final dive. However Paw Licking was going too fast, breaking every sectional record and claiming the Hobart Thousand by under a length.
Yappin’ Jack was third all the way doing his state proud. Ronan Izmir kept the interest for first four players.
Paw Licking’s statistical record now reads as 44 starts for 27 wins, along with four minors. The 2013 Hobart Thousand will go down on paper as his third Group final success from nine appearances, and his first win at the highest level. Prizemoney for Paw Licking now exceeds $275,000, but one would dare think that it was the circumstances of beating Black Magic Opal at his own game that will be remembered most.
Trainer Kel Greenough has been previously associated with the Apple Isle, having taken in several Tasmanian Chasers for their mainland campaigns; Galtee Again, I’m a Fencer and Jethro just to name a few. Now it is his turn to receive a reward for his efforts, with this $75,000 win with his star chaser.
Earlier in the night, the traditional consolation for the Thousand, the Bob Brown Memorial, was deservedly taken out by Buckle Up Wes in 25.87.
The Ted Medhurst-prepared runner has been a class act in recent months, winning in good time on several tracks, including two wins at Wentworth Park.
From box two, the son of Collision and Everlong Bale was one of the best out, but had to tussle with Black Rip for the early lead. While those two were battling, Varcoe made his presence known and the stage was set for a grandstand finish.
Buckle Up Wes had other ideas though, and blew his rivals apart with a powerful finishing burst. Black Rip battled away in second place, holding off Varcoe and Pinto Pronto, who couldn’t make up any ground despite settling just behind the trio up front.
Buckle Up Wes takes his career performance to an imposing 15 wins from 25 starts, along with over $38,000 for connections and is a worthy winner of a listed event.
Feature racing will remain in Tasmania over the summer months, with Devonport holding their Cup series in January before the action moves east for the Launceston Cup in February.