Iconic Lara mentor Graeme Bate will rug an incredible 12 of the 41 final nominations for the state heats of the Group 1 National Sprint Championship at The Meadows on Saturday night.
“It’s the strongest team I’ve had for a national sprint series for as long as I can remember,” Bate said. “In fact, it’s my best chance of national sprint glory since Henerik Bale in 2001 at The Meadows.”
Bate – a 12-time Victorian Trainer of the Year and Greyhound Racing Victoria Hall of Fame inductee – rates this year’s Group 1 Australian Cup winner Velocette and last year’s Group 2 South Australian Derby winner Turanza Bale as his “aces in the pack”, and Whitfield Bale as the “wildcard”.
His other NSC aspirants are Group race winners Dyna Forte, Keeko Bale and Kendale Bale plus top flight speedsters Bora Bale, Dante Bale, Dyna Jayden, Fabrice Bale, Hayder Bale and Mirella Bale.
This year’s $50,000-to-the-winner NSC grand final will be hosted by Greyhounds WA at Cannington in Perth on September 5.
“Velocette and Turanza Bale have both raced at Cannington, which is a track where you need to have had experience,” Bate said. “Both finished second in heats of this year’s Group 1 Perth Cup prior to filling the quinella (Velocette-Turanza Bale) in fast time in the Group 3 Perth Cup Consolation.”
A qualified electrician, Bate, 61, was introduced to greyhound racing as a teenager purely by chance.
“My next-door-neighbour, Richard McCormack, suffered a debilitating back injury in a car accident, and he asked me if I could walk his greyhounds while he was recuperating,” Bate said. “I helped him out for a year, and during this period I caught the greyhound racing bug.”
More than 40 years later, Bate – a keen fisherman – commands a training reverence and is out to hook a second national sprint champion.