IN THE current era the Sandown Cup ranks as the premier distance event in Australia, but even as far back as the 1960s the race was certainly among the most sought after on the calendar, though it rarely attracted a lot of attention from interstate stayers.
Part of the reason for this was simply quality. Victorian stayers were, in general, superior to their interstate counterparts and with night racing only operational in New South Wales and Tasmania until the early to mid-1970s, there was little incentive for chasers from either of these two states to make the trip to Victoria to compete in a race like the Sandown Cup. As well, NSW stayers were used to racing on grass rather than sand.
In 1972 a brindle flyer named Lizrene (Prince Kua x Joanne Lu) was set for the Sandown Cup without ever having raced over the-then 785 yards (718-metres) trip at the course and having only raced 14 times overall.
Trainer Peter McGuinness already knew he had a potential distance champion in his kennels, with the-then 23-month old bitch having previously been sent over 621-metres at Wangaratta, scoring by six lengths in the best time of the night.
More importantly, McGuinness had previously tested the 24.5 kilogram Lizrene against the best sprinters in Australia, when, after she had raced just six times he entered her for the 1971 Melbourne Cup. Not only did Lizrene win her heat in sensational fashion against far more seasoned greyhounds, she went on to finish a gallant third in the final behind Gerard The Gent and NSW champion Shapely Escort.
For the 1972 Sandown Cup, Lizrene dew poorly in box six for her heat, with the field opposed to her including Saki Dasher, the 1971 National Distance Championship victor.
Lizrene began well and was in front as the field came out of the first turn and kept on going to confirm McGunness’s faith in her abilities, winning by four lengths from Radio Belle and Idle Response, with an out of sorts Saki Dasher running only fifth. Lizrene’s time was a fair 44.6/16, but it proved to be the best of the night.
Highly consistent stayer Vista Haydale won another heat in 44.7/16, downing 1972 National Distance Championship victor, Bubble’s Luck.
McGuinness managed to get two greyhounds into the Sandown Cup final when his stayer Sandra’s Treasue took out her heat, in 44.11/16.
A natural wide runner, Lizrene was favoured by the box draw for the final, run on 7 March, by coming up with box seven. When Bubble’s Luck was scratched, punters sent Lizrene to the boxes as an 8/11 ($1.70) favourite and she didn’t let them down. Lizrene speared to the lead at the start and basically turned the race into a procession as she cruised home seven-and-a-half-lengths clear of Vista Haydale and Idle Response.
Her time was a very fast 43.15/16 and she collected $3,000 for the victory.
By 1973 Lizene was recognized as one of the best stayers of all time in Victoria and when McGuinness set his sights on defending her Sandown Cup crown she was racing in exemplary fashion.
Coming into the heats, run on March 8, Lizrene had won her three previous starts. Although poorly drawn in box one, Lizrene began faultlessly and simply blew her rivals away, cruising past the post nine lengths clear of Mr Lanza and Bush Melody. Her time of 43.63 was the second-fastest ever recorded by a female greyhound to that point at Sandown.
The other two heats were won by Dimpled Dianne, in 44.03, and Treasury Queen, in 44.37.
On times and class Lizrene looked ‘past the post’ and punters made her a 1/4 ($1.25) favourite for the Sandown Cup final, easily the shortest price in the history of the event.
Drawn in box five, Lizrene anticipated the start and went straight to the front. She gave nothing else a chance as she extended her winning streak to five and bolted home nine-and-a-half-lengths clear of Treasury Queen and Mr Lanza.
Lizrene’s time for the trip was posted as 43.24, which was a new track record. However, after the race, officials said the event had been hand-timed and so the run would not be recognized as a new track record.
Despite the disappointment, one thing that couldn’t be taken away from her was that the prize money from this second successive Sandown Cup victory meant her earnings in Victoria had reached $29,455, the highest ever by a greyhound in the southern state.
In 1974, Lizrene returned for a third attempt at winning the Cup. In her heat on 7 March, Lizrene found trouble from box eight and was near last at the first corner. Lizrene slowly worked her way through the field but was still beaten five-and-a-half-lengths into third place by Darville Court and Stan’s Roamer, thereby missing out on a place in the final field.
The great little stayer would race just three more times before finally being retired with an Australian record prize money tally of $59,400.