One of the fastest greyhounds ever owned and trained by the late Allen Wheeler, Steelflex, had a most unusual career which spanned just 14 starts, yet he managed to set a record that has never been matched.
A red dog by The Smoother, out of Wheeler’s fine producer Miss Topaway, Steelflex was whelped in November 1972. The dog possessed great early speed and Allen Wheeler set his sights high from the start, entering the 31-kilo sprinter for the 1974 Young Star Classic series. After coming through his non-betting qualifying runs, Steelflex drew poorly in box six for his first official race start, a semi-final of the Young Star Classic over 530 metres at Wentworth Park on 17 June. He was slowly away and could only run sixth.
Unperturbed, Wheeler successfully ran Steelflex in the qualifying events for the National Derby and the red speedster qualified for the semi-finals, run on 6 July. Drawing well in box one, Steelflex jumped well and went on to score by three lengths from the brilliant Early Copy, running a fast 31.17.
Having only his third start in a race, Steelflex began well from box three in the 1974 National Derby final against a hot field that included Victorian stars Temlee and Roomatic. Steelflex repaid Wheeler’s faith in him by holding off the future track record holder Tientsin Tosca by a head, with Lord Venn three lengths away third. Early Copy was fourth, ahead of Roomatic and Temlee.
In a strange twist of fate, Steelflex would not win again at Wentworth Park for another year.
A week after his Derby triumph, Steelflex finished fourth, beaten two lengths by Vintage Time at Wentworth Park, but was found to be injured and did not race again for almost three months.
Steelflex resumed on 10 October in a fourth grade event over 457 metres at Harold Park. From box two he scored an easy six lengths victory in a speedy 26.38.
Drawn in box one, Steelflex then contested a mixed 1st and 2nd grade race at Wentworth Park, but was defeated by Corporal Tich. After a third placing behind the smart Busy’s Chief at Wentworth Park, in a race won in a fast 30.98, Steelflex turned the tables at Harold Park, defeating Busy’s Chief by almost two lengths in a best of the night 26.31.
Steelflex ended 1974 with two second placings at Wentworth Park in December, both behind Gorgeous Zero. After 10 starts, Steelflex had scored four wins, three seconds, and one third.
The red dog was constantly troubled by cramps in his races and Wheeler was at a loss to fix the problem completely.
The sprinter did not start his 1975 campaign until 15 March, once again running second behind Gorgeous Zero, beaten two lengths in an Invitation Stake (top grade) at Harold Park. It was to be his third and last race at the big circuit.
Just three days later, Steelflex again ran second, his time beaten just a half length by Vixen’s Patch at Wentworth Park.
Wheeler decided to have a second tilt at the National Derby and Steelflex duly delivered the goods by winning his non betting heat and quarter-final before taking his place in the semi-finals on 12 April.
Drawn box five, Steelflex was beaten half a length by Warlin Way in a slow 31.59, well outside the 30.99 best of the night recorded by the brilliant Alpha Brava and the Tasmanian sprinter Arkaroola.
Nonetheless, Steelflex was through to a second Derby final, emulating the feats of Silent Retreat (1969 and 1970) and Woolley Wilson (1972 and 1973).
Steelflex drew wide in box seven for the $8,000-to-the-winner final, with the Australian Cup winner Ungwilla Lad in box one, Arkaroola in box two, and Alpha Brava in box three.
Starting at 10/1 ($11.00) and beginning only fairly, Steelflex rocketed down the outside in the run to the first turn and succeeded in cutting sharply to the fence, causing interference and scooting away with a five lengths break into the Leger side. The red dog kept giving plenty and held on to defeat an unlucky Alpha Brava by three-quarters of a length, with Ungwilla Lad just a nose away third, ahead of Arkaroola.
So, after seven successive defeats at Wentworth Park, consisting of five seconds, one third, and one fourth, Steelflex had broken back into the winner’s circle, in exactly the same event that he had won a year earlier.
Wheeler immediately announced Steelflex’s retirement. At Wentworth Park he had raced 11 times for just three wins, but with five seconds and one third, while overall his career consisted of a mere 14 starts for five wins, six seconds, and one third.