A fairytale ending it wasn’t to be for the great Miata, but the 2013 Sandown Cup final still provided a rare piece of racing history.
Although I don’t have the complete figures of starters for all the Sandown Cup’s ever run, I can say from what I do know that Irma Bale’s second successive success in the race means she becomes only the fourth greyhound to successfully defend her crown.
The Sandown Cup has the honour of being the only major race in the world, not just Australia, to have been won four times by the same greyhound. Bold Trease took the event from 1986-1989 inclusive in what is, without doubt, the greatest series of victories ever witnessed in the one event. Only the mighty Irish sprinter Spanish Battleship comes close to such a tremendous effort with three consecutive victories in the Irish Derby between 1953 and 1955.
The other two successive winners of the Sandown Cup were Paul’s Thunder, who won in 1970 and 1971, and the superstar Lizrene, who demolished her opposition in 1972 and 1973. Lizrene won her Sandown Cup’s by seven and a half lengths the first time and nine and a half lengths on the second occasion.
In 1993 Top Sovereign finished seventh behind Eliza Dylan, but a year later Top Sovereign became the first former finalist that I’m aware of to snare the Sandown Cup.
Tonight’s Wish won the 1997 running and made the 1998 final but was beaten into third place by Red Mystique from NSW. In turn, Red Mystique became the second previous finalist to win the event, having finished seventh to Tonight’s Wish the previous year.
Star West Australian stayer (albeit a former Victorian) Paradise Street was eighth and sixth in both the 1997 and 1998 finals.
Miata, by finishing third in 2012 and 2013, is the only greyhound to have been placed in successive Sandown Cups, so even she managed to snaffle a little piece of history for herself out of the defeat.
The question now is where does Irma Bale fit in the pantheon of champions? When she took out that first Sandown Cup, it was only her fifth start beyond 700 metres. Indeed, Irma Bale and Miata clashed four times, and the honours are even at two wins apiece, with Irma Bale second on both losing occasions.
With 35 wins and 29 placings from 83 career starts, four wins from her only five starts over the Sandown 715 metres and more than half a million dollars in prize money, Irma Bale has done pretty well for a greyhound not considered as a genuine half-miler.