Corcoran: Sandown Cup victory propelled him to stardom

PIC: Paul Munt

THE Cup has always been one of the great distance events on the Australian calendar, but before the Group racing era commenced the race was usually only contested by Victorian ‘half-milers'. This was simply because Victorian stayers were considered almost unbeatable on their own tracks and the prize money was insufficient to entice interstate raiders.

One of the leading breeders and owners for a number of decades in Victoria was the late . In December 1971 he bred a litter by his former champion racing dog Plunder Road out of his former classy stayer Wonoka. The undoubted star of this litter was Corcoran, a brindle dog who completely dominated the first four months of racing in 1974, annexing the Sandown Cup and then the Championship.

Deakin placed Corcoran into the hands of Terry Baldwin and on September 13 1973 he contested his first race, over 720m at . From box five he made light work of his opponents, running home 15 lengths clear in 43.00, a new .

Taken immediately into the city, Corcoran won over 732m at Park 11 days later before rising in class to contest the heats of Radio's Golden Anniversary Trophy over 718m at Sandown Park on October 8.

Here the newcomer ran into the great , finishing eight lengths behind the superstar in second place. Thurmiss, a high-class stayer, was third.

Completely outclassed in the final, Corcoran finished at the tail of the field behind the high-flying Lizrene.

Despite this ignominious effort, which would easily be the worst of his short career, Baldwin had Corcoran drawn in the heats of the NCA Centenary Cup, just three days later. Suited by box eight, Corcoran bounced back in brilliant style, scoring by 11 lengths in 43.76, the best of the night.

Just four days later he contested a race at Olympic Park, but was beaten a nose into second place by Dale Scout.

Having his third run in eight days, Corcoran had box one for the NCA Centenary Cup final, but he again found Lizrene too good. The champion bitch exploded from the boxes and raced away to win by 10 and a half lengths while Corcoran was slowly away, found trouble and finished fifth.

Corcoran then trekked to Sydney, and on November 6 he scored a brilliant first-up victory over 732m at , winning by five lengths in 43.49, the best of the night on a wet track.

His target was the Summer Cup, and along with kennelmates Retreat and the undefeated Allocate, Corcoran easily won his non-betting qualifying heat before winning his semi-final on November 24 by four lengths in 43.48.

On the same program the Deakin contenders Allocate and Retreat took out their respective semi-finals, with the former setting the time standard at 43.36.

In the Summer Cup final, Corcoran drew fairly in box five, while Allocate was perfectly placed in the rails alley. Allocate ran a perfect race and ran home six lengths clear of Noble Mogul with Corcoran just half a length away third. He had been carried off in the long home straight by a tiring Bunyarra Miss, otherwise he would have finished much closer.

On December 18 Corcoran had his last run for the year, finishing only fourth in a heat of the Stayers' Christmas Gift at Harold Park.

After 11 starts for five wins, two second and one third, Corcoran was given a well-earned two-months spell. When he returned he would prove to be unbeatable.

Corcoran resumed racing on February 14 1974 with victory in a 718m race at Sandown Park, running 44.57 on a slow track.

Set for the Sandown Cup, Corcoran won his heat on March 7 by 11 lengths from Tetoma in 43.77, the best of the night. The other heats were won by Eternal Beau in 44.42, Darville Court in 44.28 (with Lizrene finishing an unlucky third) and Shan's Deb.

Drawn in box three for the Sandown Cup final, Corcoran was made favourite but was slowly away and checked. Sixth at the first turn he quickly advanced to fourth but was giving the leader Tetoma about eight lengths start. Corcoran unwound a solid finish in the home straight and collared Tetoma on the line to win by a head in a fast 43.32. It would be the fastest electrically-timed Sandown Cup ever run over 718m, only surpassed by Lizrene's hand-timed but unofficial track record 43.24 run the previous year.

Just four days after his Sandown Cup victory, Corcoran contested a heat of the over 732m at Olympic Park. From box one he careered away to record a sensational victory over White Sabre and a game Lizrene, running 43.79, a new track record.

Just three days later, Corcoran won the Sandown Park heat of the National Distance Championship to give him maximum points ahead of the semi-finals which were to take place at in South Australia.

For his semi-final, run on March 28, Corcoran was opposed by the consistent NSW stayer Gaytilla and the South Australian champion Ascapella Miss.

Ascapella Miss had only commenced her staying career a week earlier, winning the South Australian heat of the Championship by 12 lengths in 44.71, a new track record for the 731m trip.

Corcoran had drawn box one for the semi-final while Ascapella Miss occupied the five alley. Corcoran used the alley to full advantage and defeated Ascapella Miss by just over three lengths in 44.58, clipping 13/100ths off Ascapella Miss' track record. Gaytilla was third.

The final of the National Distance Championship took place on April 4 and once more Corcoran drew well, in box two, while Ascapella Miss was in box six. The Victorian champion began well but was outpaced by fellow Victorian stayer Andromeda. Meanwhile, Ascapella Miss was last away and only seventh going into the first turn. Corcoran eventually overhauled Andromeda and then held off a strong finish by Ascapella Miss to go on and defeat the South Australian by a length in 44.56, once again setting a new track record.

Corcoran was sold after the race for a high figure and immediately retired. The brindle stayer had raced 18 times for 12 wins, two seconds and one third, but was undefeated in seven races in 1974. To set four track records and win two major races in such a short career marked Corcoran as a genuine top-liner.

Check out the full history of the Sandown Cup right here.