History was made at the Longwood Coursing track on Sunday when the 140th running of the prestigious Waterloo Cup was taken out by defending champion, Zambora Blueboy. Trained by Graham Whitford, Zambora Blueboy is the first greyhound to claim back to back Waterloo Cups since the great Byamee who was victorious in 1953 and 1954.
Whitford was full of praise for his robust powerhouse which fought his way through six arduous courses over two days before being crowned the winner.
“The dog is a wonder. He has a recovery rate you would not believe and he just recovers so quickly between runs. Whereas other dogs get all fired up, he just lays back and relaxes until it’s time to go. He is a marvellous animal,” Whitford said.
“This bloke is really something special. I’ve had some other coursing dogs before which very good and one that I thought was better than him- he won 50 out of 52 courses over a period and I thought that was really good. He was greyhound of the year in coursing in 2009 but this dog has won two Waterloo Cups now and that hasn’t been done for 50 or 60 years.
“The more you sit back and think about it, the more excited you get.”
Whitford, who specifically targeted the Cup with Zambora Blueboy, says that he was confident going into the event.
“I thought he had a good chance because he is a very good dog. We hadn’t over coursed him. This year there has been 8 meetings and we’ve only taken him to two prior to this because I didn’t want to overwork him.
“I was purposely not that hard on him. He races on tracks as well; he is not just a coursing dog.”
In fact, Zambora Blueboy is quite an accomplished sprinter on the racetrack. The son of Cosmic Rumble and Secret Powers has faced the starter on 62 occasions from which he has notched up 16 wins and 22 minors. Included in those wins are five triumphs at Sandown with a slick personal best of 29.63 seconds.
Formerly trained by Robert Britton, it may have been the second win for Zambora Blueboy in the Waterloo Cup, however it was the first for Whitford who has had a long involvement in both coursing and track racing. Whitford comes from a family with racing roots dating back to the early 20th century.
“Although I didn’t know my grandfather, he died when I was one year old, I have a photo of him with a greyhound in 1902-1903 in front of a shop that he owned.
“I have been in greyhounds since I was a boy and I am 60 years of age now. My brothers brought a greyhound home when I was probably 12 or 13 and I have had them ever since”.
Whilst the dazzling dollars of the racetrack is alluring, Whitford also appreciates the atmosphere that is only on offer at the grassroots Coursing tracks.
“Back when I started in greyhounds it was very much a social thing where everybody knew everybody and they mixed together.
“Nowadays on the track people tend to be more money driven and want to get the win- they run their dog and then they go home, whereas coursing is still very much in the old style where everybody is friends with everybody and everybody helps everybody. It is a social scene and everybody is there all day.
“Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the track too – I’ll take a Melbourne Cup winner any day but this (coursing) is good and it is something that we have aimed for.”
It had been a long time goal for to take out the Waterloo Cup, not just for Whitford, but also the owners of Zambora Blueboy, Gerald and Matt Lanigan, who purchased the striking blue chaser late last year with the esteemed event in mind.
“Gerald and I have been friends for pretty much forever. We trained against one another 30-40 years ago.
“We’ve always, since we were boys, wanted to win the Waterloo Cup so now that we’ve got this dog we have achieved something that we wanted to for a very long period.”
Whilst they had not won it, Whitford and Lanigan had both come excruciatingly close to taking out the event in the past, as had their families before them. In fact, Lanigan expressed that he wanted to win the Cup for his late father, Tom Lanigan Jnr, who had failed just one round short of victory in his training career. With his father’s dream firmly in sights, it was only fitting that Lanigan notched up his first victory in the Waterloo Cup on Father’s Day.
As for what the future holds for Zambora Blueboy, Whitford is not ruling out a trip to Longwood for a crack at a third Waterloo Cup next year. At a relatively young age, the classy creature looks set for a bright future and there is no reason why he should not be competitive in twelve months’ time, assuming he stays fit, healthy and sound.
“He is not without a chance. He doesn’t turn three until next month so he will be just shy of four next year and it would be wonderful to try for the record.
“Our plan with him is not to go too hard and race him through to January or February on the track and then ease back on him and work him along until next year’s Cup. That’s the plan but whether or not it comes to fruition…He deserves a chance. I can’t do anything but praise him and I would have praised him whether he won or not. He is a very special animal.”