The victory by former New Zealand greyhound Clone Your Own in the Harrison-Dawson Final at Sandown on Thursday night marked the sixth occasion a Shaky Isles competitor has snared a major Australian race. It was also the biggest single purse ever snared by a Kiwi greyhound.
The $100,000 first prize money easily the outstrips the $25,000 Waiwera Marika picked up for taking out the 1998 New South Wales St Leger (now the Paws of Thunder).
Equally, Clone Your Own becomes only the third New Zealander to win a major sprint event, after the aforementioned Waiwera Marika and Kwik Metal, who snared the 1974 Melbourne Cup.
The other three races taken out by New Zealand greyhounds have been the 1984 Sandown Cup by Raurimu, Know Peace in the 2012 Chairman’s Cup at Wentworth Park (720 metres) and the slashing 11 and three-quarter-length victory of Thrilling Brat in the 2012 Super Stayers at the Meadows.
That win saw the connections of Thrilling Brat take home $75,000, which, of course, made it the biggest single purse ever won by a Kiwi greyhound until Clone Your Own’s success in the Harrison-Dawson.
Clone Your Own’s victory shows just how far greyhound racing has advanced in terms of quality in New Zealand in recent years.
His victory brings to mind the efforts of two former terrific sprinters who came to Australian shores back in the mid-1970s.
The two were Brother Bee and Call Me Hobbs. Both were fine racers in New Zealand and both came over to contest the NSW St Leger series as representatives of their country.
In those days, probably in the hope of boosting racing in New Zealand, the National Coursing Association (NCA) would permit one Kiwi entry into the St Leger series.
In most cases the New Zealander was so far out of his or her depth that he or she would rarely make any headlines, but the 1974 contender, Brother Bee, became a short-lived and somewhat tragic sensation.
A strong 30-kilo brindle and white dog, Brother Bee had his first start in Australia in mid-November over 486 metres at Gosford. Drawn perfectly in box one he jumped straight onto the bunny and cleared out to win by 10 lengths in 29.0, the best time of the night.
On 30 November he exited box eight over 457 metres at Harold Park and led from the first turn to win by an ever-widening eight lengths in 26.43, again the best time of the night.
Brother Bee then trialled a sensational 30.78 for the 530 metres at Wentworth Park in preparation for the St Leger. The track record was 30.64 at the time. Seeded straight into the St Leger semi-finals, Brother Bee overcame box four and led all the way to win by six lengths in 30.95, the fastest time of the night and the second-fastest St Leger semi-final time ever run.
Sadly, he badly injured a toe when winning the race and had to be scratched from the final. He was purchased for the-then huge sum of $25,000 by veteran trainer Stan Cleverley who tried everything to get Brother Bee back to the track, but the brilliant Kiwi never raced again.
Just two years later, Call Me Hobbs, a wide-running speedster from New Zealand made it into the St Leger final and ran a gallant second to Palaver. Trained by Gary Young, Call Me Hobbs went on to be very successful in the top ranks of Australian sprinters, even making the NSW State final of the National Sprint Championship.
Right now, Clone Your Own could easily be the rightful successor to the wonderful Brother Bee and be acclaimed as the best New Zealand sprinter to grace Australian shores.
The above article has been updated to include new information. My thanks to Michael Floyd, the racing and media manager at Sandown Park, for pointing out a couple of omissions from the Kiwi ‘success tree’ on Australian shores.