A huge crowd flocked to Sandown last night to witness a moment in greyhound racing history with the running of the $125,000 to the winner RSN Sandown Cup. One of the most publicised races in recent memory, the group one event oozed class with some of the nation’s most spectacular stayers lining up for their crack at the prize.
In box one was Bell Haven- the Tasmanian star with three Group wins to her name, the great Destini Fireball from box four who is most notable for his wins in the Group One Zoom Top , the Group One Superstayers series and the 2012 Group One Sale Cup, in the black was Proven Impala the winner of the Group One Rookie Rebel, defending RSN Sandown Cup victor Irma Bale was poised to pounce from the five and of course the mighty champion Miata from box three who was lining up for her final start after what can only be described as an immaculate career.
The sentimental favourite for obvious reasons was Miata- the sweetheart of greyhound racing for the past two years, but as is the nature of this fantastic sport the fairytale ending was not to be with yet another champion bitch emerging from the race in Irma Bale, who has stamped herself as a genuine front running stayer over the past twelve months. The beginning of the race played out as expected with Irma Bale showing electrifying speed to land in front of the field at the first turn before kicking clear from her competitors. Stalking her in second position through the first circuit was Destini Fireball, whilst Miata was precariously placed back in fourth position for most of the run after an average beginning. Down the back the second time, the field starting closing in on the pace setting speed machine but the gallant little bitch had the gap on her opposition and was able to hold out the brilliant Bell Haven by half a head on the line in 42.10 seconds with Miata not disgraced when finishing a further head behind Bell Haven in third.
The win in Australia’s richest staying event took Irma Bale’s record to 83 starts for a remarkable 35 wins with 23 seconds and 6 thirds. Renowned for her early speed, Irma Bale is usually able to pinch a break with her dazzling pace and often that is enough to snare the top honour. Trained by the master of group winners Graeme Bate, Irma Bale has recorded victories throughout her career in the 2012 Group One RSN Sandown Cup, the 2012 Group Two McKenna Memorial and the 2013 Group Two Summer Distance Plate at Wentworth Park. This year’s RSN Sandown Cup win was her second win in the prestigious event, with the black speedster becoming the first greyhound to win two consecutive cups since the legendary Bold Trease who took out the race four years in a row in 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989 respectively. The victory also catapulted Irma Bales stakes money earnings to over $550,000 with the daughter of Bartrim Bale and Amelia Bale now sitting in fifth position on the list of Australia’s Top Prizemoney Earning Greyhounds which can be viewed by clicking on the following link – Australia’s Top Prizemoney Earning Greyhounds.
Bell Haven ran a stunning race in second after sitting well back in the field for most of the run before thundering home down the outside to narrowly miss out on the lucrative winner’s cheque. Miata lost no supporters in third position and frankly could not have given anymore in the chase with only one run back from a three month spell in last week’s heats. With such an arduous preparation she certainly ran a dazzling race at what was an emotional night for many enthusiasts with Miata bowing out in fine form. The red fawn dynamo by Bombastic Shiraz out of Winsome Bluebird will leave the racetrack with the magnificent record of 51 starts for 42 wins two seconds and four thirds. It seemed almost appropriate that the race was taken out by Irma Bale, with the two distance divas going head to head against one another in Australia’s premier staying events for virtually their whole careers at the top level.
As they say when one door closes another door opens and this will definitely be the case for this once in a lifetime greyhound who will now embark on a career in the breeding barn whilst her absence from the track, although somewhat sad will leave a wide open opportunity for the next generation of young stayers to write their names in the record books. Whilst we may never see another one like her Stuarts decision to retire his star at her prime is admirable and despite not claiming top honours in the 2013 RSN Sandown Cup Miata will be remembered and immortalised forever as one of the best we have ever seen.
Thanks for the memories Miata; your legend will live on!