Anyone wondering why Victoria has always produced some of the best ‘half-milers’ in the country only needs to look at the plethora of major distance races conducted in Melbourne. The McKenna Memorial joined the likes of the Sandown Cup, Sandown Park Distance Championship, Olympic Park Distance Championship, Anniversary Trophy, Spring Cup and Roy Maidment Memorial as the standout events of the Victorian racing year for stayers.
The first McKenna Memorial took place on 22 July 1971, run over 785 yards (718 metres) at Sandown Park. The reigning National Distance Champion, Saki Dasher, used box one to perfection to score a brilliant victory for her owner-trainer Randall Hutchinson.
It has only ever been held at Sandown Park and was run over 785 yards (718 metres) from 1971 until 1985, then 716 metres between 1986 and 1995, 715 metres from 1996 to 2009 and since 2010 the event it has been run over 595 metres.
When Is The Race Run
It is one of the few major events that hasn’t moved much in its 43-year history. From 1971 to 1993 it was finalised in July, apart from 1986 (August). Between 1994 and 2009 it was completed in June. Since 2010 the final has once again returned to its July slot.
Biggest Winning Margins
I don’t have information on every event, but of those I do have, the most emphatic margin belongs to Osti’s Joker, who scored by five and a quarter lengths in 2000. Sam’s Idol (1997) and Arvo’s Junior (2003) both won by five lengths.
Closest Winning Margins
Wiljaver (1996) and Kobble Creek (1999) both won by half a head while Proven Impala won by a head in 2013.
Most Successful Trainer/s
George Arvanitis who scored with Arvo’s Junior in 2003 and Arvo’s Athena in 2004 is the only one I’m aware of with more than a single victory to his credit.
Only Dual Winner/s
Only Reserve/s To Win
None I’m aware of. Blossom Star finished second to Keon Star in 1995 as first reserve.
Lizrene (third 1972, Won 1973), Gallum Gold (third 1974, unplaced 1975), Jack (second 1977, unplaced 1978), Lively Millie (unplaced 1979 & 1980), Trevenson (unplaced 1984, third 1985), Bold Trease (second 1987, fifth 1989), Carmella’s Charm (second 1988 & 1989), Dorak (second 1989, fifth 1990), Kari’s Luck (third 1990, unplaced 1991), Northern Legend (second 1996, fifth 1997), Nilubah Pearl (fifth 1996, seventh 1997), Ringside Fire (second 1998, sixth 1999), Pitstop Love (fourth 1999, eighth 2000), Tip Top Tears (second 2001, sixth 2002), Arvo’s Junior (Won 2003, second 2004), Endless Pit (sixth 1994, seventh 1995), Rocky (second 2005, sixth 2007), Miss Grub (fourth 2006, Won 2007), Sky Hazzard (fourth 2007, third 2008), Irma Bale (Won 2012, second 2013).
Some Beaten Stars
Bubbles Luck (unplaced 1971), Black Diro (unplaced 1971), Dunmain Scholar (second 1975), Cherrie Sepol (second 1979), Rod’s Advice (second 1980), Ten Guitars (unplaced 1982), Club Stroller (second 1984), Tachycardia (second 1985), Spread Eagled (seventh 1990), Modern Express (fifth 1991), Gem Supreme (second 1992), Top Sovereign (third 1994), Red Mystique (fifth 1998), Tonight’s Wish (eighth 1998), Bentley Babe (fifth 2001), Total Denial (second 2002), Tears Of Jupiter (fourth 2003), Skipper Rip (eighth 2003), Toss O’Reilly (fourth 2004), Springvale Jinx (fifth 2004), Best Quoted (third 2005), Bothing (seventh 2006), Miss Brook (second 2007), Shimaguni (fourth 2011), Zelemar Fever (sixth 2013).
In its early years there were rarely any reserves drawn for the final, so the 1975, 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984 versions were all contested by less than full fields.
This is the only major race which has had two greyhounds make two finals three years apart. The first was Bold Trease, who ran second by a length to his great rival High Intensity in 1987, missed contesting the 1988 version, and then ran fifth behind Rules in 1989. The second was Rocky, who ran second in 2005 behind the NSW star Malfoy, beaten four lengths and then made the 2007 final but could only manage sixth to another NSW star in Miss Grub.