The success of Smart Valentino in the final of the National Distance Championship at the Meadows on Saturday night was significant in that it was the first time in the 45-year history of the event that a New South Wales representative had snared the title on Victorian soil.
Indeed, it’s only the second time the distance title has been taken by a non-Victorian on the nine occasions the final has been held on a Melbourne track.
Conversely, Victorian stayers have won five of the eight championships run on Sydney courses.
Smart Valentino becomes only the ninth winner from New South Wales to have annexed the distance crown. That’s a far cry from the Victorian record, which stands at 22 wins out of the 45 runnings.
The National Distance Championship was first held in 1969, four years after the introduction of the National Sprint Championship. That first contest was conducted at Wentworth Park and resulted in a Victorian quinella with Amerigo Lady downing Holding in a roughly run race. The great Zoom Top was third, after suffering trouble in the run.
Since then, the final has been run at Wentworth Park in 1988, 1992, 1994, 2005, and 2008. Victorians High Intensity, Pace Galore, and Mantra Lad scored in 1988, 1992 and 2008. Miss Cruise (1994) and Texas Gold (2005) managed to repel the interstate invaders in their respective victories for New South Wales.
The final was also run twice at the now defunct Harold Park track. The first, in 1972, saw the highly consistent Victorian Bubble’s Luck successful, but in 1977 the NSW champion Woolley Wong became the first local stayer to take the race within NSW.
Victorians won the first six championships (1969-1974) but in 1975, at the Gabba in Queensland, Dotie Wilson scored from fellow NSW stayers Tintawin and Gaytilla. In fact, NSW won three of the next four titles: Woolley Wong in 1977 and Dusty Ginny in 1978 (at Hobart).
In 1979 Mary Marella brought it back to Victoria with victory at Olympic Park, and the following year All Promise kept it south of the Murray by winning at Sandown.
Sandown has only hosted the championship once since then, Tip Top Tears winning for Victoria in 2001.
Olympic Park, after hosting it in 1979, held the race again in 1987 and 1990 with Mystic Hope and Clean Machine both scoring for Victoria. Then, in 1995, at its last hosting before the track closed, Queensland champion Boronia Blossom broke through on Victorian soil.
The Meadows had held the distance final just once before this year. That was in 2007 when local star Flashing Floods was successful.
Spare a thought though for the South Australian stayer Kalden Mayhem. He was having his 118th start in the final last Saturday night and is the only greyhound to have made it into two national distance finals three years apart. He was third in 2011 behind Dashing Corsair at Albion Park, missed the 2012 title, and was having his first start at the 725 metres on Saturday.