IT WAS February 1940. The war in Europe was just starting to get really serious but racing across Australia continued as if every day was a Saturday. Tasmanian greyhound racing was strong, second only in quality to that conducted in New South Wales, and some would argue it was its equal.
Racing was conducted at two courses: Hobart and Launceston, with the latter holding a carnival which coincided with its horse racing counterparts and took place during late January and into early February.
The Launceston club had only opened a new circular 430 yards course on 27 January, a week before the annual cup carnival was to commence.
Between 1939 and 1942, the Launceston Cup was actually three cups, designated Division 1, 2 and 3, with the latter as the premier, or top grade, event. The Division 1 and 2 contenders were those ranked next on the list as it were. All were run under handicap conditions.
The 1940 series kicked off with heats run on 3 February, and one of those who quickly shone through was Dancoma, a brindle and white dog by Tecoma Dan (1935 Waterloo Cup winner) out of Welcome Elva (1934 SA Oaks winner).
Trained by Mrs D Hindle, Dancoma had been given a 10 yards backmark for the series, but he went out a 1/2 ($1.50) favourite in his heat and duly delivered, scoring by a length-and-a-half in 23.12/16.
On the same night, Quality Tells lived up to his name, setting a new track record time of 23.7/16 in scoring by five lengths as a 5/4 ($2.25) favourite in a Division 2 heat.
The semi-finals took place on 9 February and Dancoma assured himself of final favouritism by scoring from NSW sprinter Jack Junior in a fast 23.11/16. The other semi-final winner was Quality Prince (also off the backmark of 10 yards) who only ran 25.3/16.
The first five in each semi-final were then drawn for the final, to be held two nights later.
When he was involved in a car accident on the Saturday morning of the Launceston Cup, there were doubts about whether Dancoma would run in the Division 3 final that evening.
According to reports, Dancoma was with other greyhounds in a car on the Saturday morning ‘when the door opened accidentally, and the dogs were thrown out on the road. Dancoma suffered a lacerated back…’
They breed ’em tough in the Apple Isle and after being nursed though the rest of the day he was passed fit to run by the veterinary officer.
Dancoma had drawn box one, with fellow backmarkers Criterion Girl (from Victoria) and Quality Prince in boxes two and three respectively.
Despite the reports of the car accident, punters rallied to Dancoma because of the inside alley and he started an even-money ($2.00) favourite.
Dancoma duly landed the prize, defeating Criterion Girl by a length and a half.
In a spectacular night for trainer Mrs Hindle, Dancoma’s kennelmate Mickey Minda took out the Division 2 Launceston Cup final. Connections were presented with their Launceston Cup trophies by the Premier, Robert Cosgrove, the man who still holds the record for the longest term at the helm of the Tasmanian parliament.
Note: For some reason the Tasmanian racing authorities, when listing the past winners of the event, only refer to the Division 3 winners as the ‘official’ Launceston Cup victors in 1940, 1941 and 1942. Basically, the Division 1 and 2 winners in 1940, 1941 and 1942 are ignored. In 1943, the race was held in just two divisions, but the Division 1 winner has been lost to the mysteries of time.
So, there are seven winners of a race which bore a trophy classified as the ‘Launceston Cup’ which are missing from their places of honour. Of course, in this modern throwaway age what won a major event back in the early 1940s is of little interest to anyone, but it just underlines yet again how much we have neglected our rich greyhound racing history.