FERNANDO Bale’s sensational, yet oh-so-close, victory in the Topgun, after leading all the way from box one, looked almost like a re-run of the 1998 Topgun, taken out in almost similar fashion by the great Rapid Journey.
Fernando Bale maintained his undefeated record in Group events, having now won all 11 of his ‘black type’ starts, eight at the elite Group 1 level. No greyhound has achieved anything like this feat in the 20-year history of Group-class racing.
Back in 1998, Rapid Journey became the first greyhound to finish a career undefeated in Group 1 events, contesting five and winning them all.
Yet his last race start, the Topgun, was at Group 2 level. 1998 would be the last year at Group 2, and it was also the second year of seeding international participants into the race. So the 1998 event had an English greyhound named Remel’s Black as the international competitor.
Apart from Remel’s Black, who would finish a well beaten last, the rest of the field was top-class: Reggemite represented Western Australia, Golden Butter was the second of the New South Wales contenders (behind Rapid Journey), while the other four starters were all Victorians: Cerin Bale, Fiery Sal, Poetic Reward and Time Framer.
Run over 515 metres at Sandown Park, the 1998 Topgun looked to be all over at the first turn as Rapid Journey began well from box one and led into the bend. Yet in the back straight Rapid Journey rolled off the fence and allowed Fiery Sal to push up underneath him. As the field turned for home, Rapid Journey looked in trouble with both Reggemite and Poetic Reward finishing solidly. Rapid Journey dug deep and held off Reggemite to score by a head in a fast 29.85, a new race record time. Poetic Reward was a half-length away third, just ahead of Fiery Sal.
As we saw in Fernando Bale’s Topgun victory, the champion used box one to perfection to lead into the first turn. Yet he could not shake off the trailing Kayda Shae and in the home straight he needed to dig deep to hold on and defeat his young rival by about a neck.
As with Rapid Journey, Fernando Bale set a new race record time for the Topgun, eclipsing the previous mark of 29.75, held jointly by 2008 victor Regal Thyme and 2009 winner Cindeen Shelby.
Fernando Bale’s 32 successive wins and placings is easily a Victorian record (the next best of which I’m aware is by Lizrene, who recorded 28 wins and placings before being unplaced, back in 1974).
To the best of my knowledge, the Australian record is held by former Queensland star Toolibuk. He won or was placed in his first 40 race starts back in 1998 and 1999, a truly remarkable effort.
Check out Fernando Bale’s thrilling win in the 2015 Group 1 Topgun.