When it comes to Tasmanian chasers, the victory of Buckle Up Wes in the Topgun, combined with his success earlier this year in the Australian Cup, arguably makes a case for him to be called the best sprinter to have ever come out of the Apple Isle.
Tasmania was once the place where the best greyhounds in the country would make the trek across Bass Strait to compete in races like the Hobart Thousand and Launceston Cup. Those days are long gone, but from the start of greyhound racing behind the mechanical lure in 1927 until the late 1960s, Tasmania produced some good quality chasers who more than held their own against, usually, invaders from New South Wales. Some Tasmanian greyhounds even crossed over to the mainland and performed at the highest level.
Buckle Up Wes now has mainland victories in the Australian Cup and Topgun, a second in the Winter Carnival Cup in Brisbane, third in the Paws of Thunder, and fourth in the Golden Easter Egg. That’s a pretty strong lineup of major races. Overall he has raced 49 times for 30 wins, seven seconds and five thirds, with a remarkable record of 10 wins and six placings when drawn in boxes four or five.
He is undefeated in three starts at the Meadows. At Wentworth Park he has raced seven times for three wins, one second, two thirds and one fourth. In Brisbane, he has raced twice for one win and one second. The only blot on the Wes landscape are his two seventh placings at Sandown.
With $551,485 in prize money, which makes him the 11th greyhound to pass the half million dollar mark and puts him currently into eighth position overall, he has easily surpassed any other Apple Isle chaser. His closest Tasmanian rival in the money pit is St Pierre, the 2011 Australian Cup winner, with $242,050, although I would argue that St Pierre was really a NSW greyhound considering his first Tasmanian start did not occur until his 34th race, and overall his career was 68 starts (for 23 wins). The first ‘real’ Tasmanian on the prize money lists is Fallen Zorro, with $229,375, ahead of his kennelmate Chinatown Lad, who collected $222,730 in stakes. And both of those stars were stayers, not sprinters.
Of course, prize money records are pretty meaningless these days when so many races are worth silly amounts of money to the winner, the Topgun included.
So, how does Buckle Up Wes compare to the great Tasmanian sprinters of the past? And who are they anyway? A serious look at those who have crossed Bass Strait and made a name for themselves on the sprint circuit reveals a pretty short list.
One of the first to come over and do well was Ebony Minda. She had won her first seven starts, including the 1958 Launceston Cup in race record time, and came over to take the 1958 NSW St Leger (now the Paws of Thunder). She then went to Victoria and scored three wins at North Melbourne and Sandown.
Iceni Princess, who won her first start at Devonport and then almost immediately was transferred to the mainland, went on to set a 520-metre track record at Wentworth Park, won the 1992 Winter Carnival Cup at the Gabba and Schweppes Cup at Olympic Park, defeated NSW champion Warren’s Flyer and Classy Kyarran in a match race at Angle Park, was second in the Brisbane Cup, fourth in the1992 National Sprint Championship after setting a track record at Hobart in winning the Tasmanian division of the championship, fifth in the Golden Easter Egg, and fifth in the Melbourne Cup. She was easily the most prolific Tasmanian performer on the mainland in sprints before Buckle Up Wes.
Elle’s Commando raced just 20 times for 15 wins, including victories in eight of 11 starts at Wentworth Park. After coming from Tasmania he won the 1997 Paws of Thunder (in race record time), and Christmas Gift.
Then, in 1998, the smart Jamella Prince left Tasmania after winning his first eight starts on end, including the 1998 Hobart Maiden Thousand, and went on to take the South Australian Derby at Angle Park and the 1999 Silver Chief Classic at Sandown. He only raced 33 times, for 22 wins and in just 10 interstate races scored six wins and three seconds, the only time he was unplaced being when he fell.
A couple of others who made a name for themselves on the mainland include Northop Tuesday, who took out the 1974 Queensland Cup and also ran second in the 1974 Tweed Heads Galaxy, third in the 1975 Tweed Heads Galaxy, and was seventh in the 1973 Melbourne Cup and Arkaroola, who was second in the 1975 Australian Cup, reached top grade in Sydney and won seven of 12 starts at Wentworth Park. His trainer in NSW, Les Harper said he was, “the most honest and determined chaser I’ve ever handled, he would chase through a brick wall if he had to.”
Buckle Up Wes’ trainer Ted Medhurst is no stranger to top chasers and is astute enough to only take the best of his charges interstate. To agree to produce his star first-up from a lengthy break in a race like the Topgun speaks volumes for his rating of Buckle Up Wes, a rating that must surely have all Australia nodding in agreement.