THE Peter Mosman Memorial series in May 1997 attracted sufficient nominations to allow for a series of non-betting qualifying heats and five top-shelf semi-finals featuring some of the best youngsters in the country.
Sadly, the series kicked off with the breakdown of Lismore dual distance track record holder Major Fox. The winner of 10 of 13 race starts broke a hock in winning his qualifying heat and never raced again. The scratching of Major Fox from the semi-final round allowed Token Prince to take his place in the starting lineup.
Token Prince had raced six times for as many wins on Queensland and Victorian tracks, despite being officially trained at Nowra in New South Wales. In Queensland he annexed the Vince Curry Memorial and then went to Sandown Park and snapped up the Sapphire Classic.
He had been surprisingly beaten in his qualifying heat and was only first reserve for the first semi-final. Token Prince made the most of his reprieve. He began fairly and sat behind the speedy Murphy’s Benji before asserting his superiority in the back straight and pulling away for win number seven, downing Halcyon Daysin 30.38, a time that proved to be the fastest of the night.
Honkytonk Queen proved a surprise winner of the second semi-final, downing the Gary Young-trained Bigbad Nick (the greyhound which had defeated Token Prince in his heat).
Gary Young managed to get two finalists when Bigbad Trent jumped in front in the third semi-final and led all the way to defeat Perfect Result, recording his fifth win in nine race starts.
Boom Queensland puppy Wine Glass showed the benefit of her run in the qualifying heats by spearing the lids and giving nothing else a chance in her semi, downing a valiant William Wallace which fought on gamely after colliding with the talented and ultimately ill-fated Queensbury Rules in the middle stages.
The fifth and final semi-final was a race jam-packed with talent. Greyhounds of the calibre of Kedo’s Jenny, Sally’s Title, World Title and Hot Tickets (the fastest qualifier through the elimination heats with a 30.44 effort) were all favoured by punters.
In the end it was a mix-up at the first turn that determined the winner. The brilliant Victorian sprinter World Title (who would briefly hold the Wentworth Park track record in 1998) had drawn well in box one, but in the run into the first bend he ran off the track. This left Texas Glee a ‘mile’ in front, but Sally’s Title (later to represent New South Wales in the National Distance Championship), a noted slow beginner and strong finisher, gained a brilliant rails run courtesy of World Title’s run-off. She charged home to overwhelm Texas Glee.
The $20,000-to-the-winner final on 7 June looked to be almost a gift for Token Prince: unbeaten in seven races, drawn well in box two, and with the fastest time of the semis.
In an action-packed race was not decided until the shadows of the winning post, the event proved to be an upset for punters and a windfall for most bookies.
Wine Glass began well, but was outpaced by Bigbad Trent into the first turn, with Token Prince handy. Wine Glass worked hard to get past Bigbad Trent, but she looked to be in front on sufferance as Token Prince was camped on her heels.
The big black dog then made a complete mess of trying to get around Wine Glass, checking off her heels on two or three occasions.
Turning for home, Wine Glass gave a kick while Token Prince was a spent force. Then, the 33/1 ($34) rank outsider William Wallace (box seven) came storming into contention, along with Sally’s Title.
As the field straightened for the run home, Sally’s Title found her passage on the fence completely blocked by Halcyon Days. In the centre William Wallace almost fell as he clipped the heels of the fading Wine Glass, his nose dipping to within a couple of centimetres of the sand track.
Nonetheless, momentum was with William Wallace and he recovered fast enough to take the lead and actually score by just over one length from the tiring but valiant Queenslander. Sally’s Title finished a half head away third while Token Prince was fourth.
William Wallace, (a black dog by Saltwater Sid out of Cinder Power) went on to have a solid distance career, running third in the 1997 Penrith Stayer’s Championship and second in the 1998 Association Cup.