This year marks the sixth time the NCA Derby, or National Derby, has been run at the Gardens venue and the 52nd running overall. As befitting a race of its stature, there are almost as many ‘back stories’ to the winners as there have been runnings of what, for one year, was the richest event in the country.
The first National Derby, as it was then called, took place in July 1963. Run over 580 yards (530 metres) on grass at Wentworth Park, the winner was the oft-underrated Keen Linen (see below), who defeated Mulga Bay by two lengths, with the Victorian’s Minsby and The Stripper third and fourth respectively. The smart Saskaview was also unplaced. First prize money was £1,500, which supplanted the Australian Cup as the richest race in the country. The following year the Australian Cup was back on its pedestal after the prize money was raised to keep it as the nation’s richest race.
From 1963 until 1986 the Derby was run over 530 metres on grass at Wentworth Park. In 1987 it was conducted over 457 metres at Harold Park. In 1988 it returned to the refurbished Wentworth Park circuit, over 520 metres on grass (to 1993). Between 1994 and 2008 the Derby was run on the loam surface at Wentworth Park and since 2009 has been held over 515 metres at the Gardens.
When Is The Race Run
From 1988 until the present the Derby final has been run in February. At the start it was held in July, until 1974. From 1975 to 1987 the final was held in either March or April.
Biggest Winning Margins
General Jeff (1980) won by an ever-widening nine lengths, Baguio (1976) scored by eight lengths, and Roman Earl (1966) by five lengths.
Closest Winning Margins
As befitting a race that is meant to showcase the best young male sprinters, 11 of the 51 finals have seen the winner score by half a length or less. The closest finish was in 1965 when Mister Moss stormed home to down the Victorian Billy Vee by half a head. Flying Myobb (1964), Steelflex (1974), Brother Knows (2006), and Bogie King (2011) all won by just a head. Lord Tegimi (1982), Inch Time (1984), Shy Sultan (1987), and Comrade In Arms (1997) won their Derbies by a neck.
Most Successful Trainer/s
Christine Coleman holds the record with four victories (General Jeff, 1980; Handicap, 1981; Inch Time, 1984; Dallas Man 1995) ahead of Allen Wheeler with two (Steelflex in 1974 and 1975).
Only Dual Winner/s
Only the one: Steelflex in 1974 and 1975. The Wheeler-owned and trained speedster won by a head in 1974 at only his third start in a race, then failed to win again at Wentworth Park in seven subsequent starts (five seconds, one third, one fourth) before taking the 1975 final by three-quarters of a length.
Only Reserve/s To Win
There have been two winners to wear the green and white striped rug of the number nine reserve: 1985, Rapid Supreme, and 1987, Shy Sultan. The 1970 winner, Arthur’s Desire, had been beaten in his non-betting heat and was first reserve for his semi-final, but gained a start from box one and scored easily.
Silent Retreat (third 1969, seventh 1970), Woolley Wilson (second 1972, third 1973), Steelflex (won 1974 and 1975), Alpha Brava (third 1975 and 1976), and Gallant World (fourth 1983, second 1984)
Some Beaten Stars
Apart from the likes of dual finalists such as Silent Retreat, Woolley Wilson, and Alpha Brava, there are stars such as Best Sun (third 1965), Munich Boy (third 1967), Milo’s Charm (second 1971), Ragsie (fourth 1972), Cabernet (fifth 1972), Tientsin Tosca (second 1974), Early Copy (fourth 1974), Temlee (sixth 1974), Ungwilla Lad (second 1975), Fine Arama (second 1978), Acclaim Star (fifth 1979), Fast Sapphire (seventh 1979), Glider’s Son (seventh 1981), Legendary Kid (third 1986), Credibility (second 1992), Alastic Rebel (fourth 1992), Deanne’s Dancer (second 1994), Forest Fin (third 1995), Roanokee (third 1997), Faithful Hawk (second 1999), Stately Bird (third 2000), Go Wild Teddy (second 2001), Arvo’s Junior (fourth 2003), Whisky Assassin (fourth 2004), Sun Hero (seventh 2004), Size Can Matter (third 2008), and St Pierre (eighth 2010) reveal an amazing depth to so many Derby finals.
Set for the inaugural NCA Derby, the sensational sprinter Black Top shocked his fans when he was eliminated in his non-betting heat. One source suggests he turned in the boxes while Bill Bracht claimed in his book Greyhounds and Mechanical Lure Racing the champion had his ‘hind foot caught in the back door of the starting box when the lids opened.’ The final fell to Black Top’s litter brother, Keen Linen.
Every winner from 1963 to 1982 inclusive boasted Chief Havoc somewhere in their pedigree.
An incredible 12 Greyhounds of the Year in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland have either been winners or finalists in the Derby: Roman Earl, Ragsie, Acclaim Star, Fast Sapphire, Glider’s Son, Worth Doing, Faithful Hawk, Go Wild Teddy, Slater, Roanokee, Size Can Matter, and Whisky Assassin.