Straight track match racing, a test of both speed and strength

AFTER Healesville, the premier straight track in the country, conducted its showcase Cup day on Sunday September 11, it’s worth remembering that in past decades one of the ways in which owners and trainers would spruik the merits of their latest kennel champs was by challenging all comers to the four-legged equivalent of a duel at dawn: the match race.

While the record books are full of some classic, and not-so-memorable, match-ups on the circle, the seven match races recounted below all took place up the straight and, notably, not one of them featured a greyhound who was, or would become, a household name.

It will probably be no surprise that a lot of tracks in the early days following the start of mechanical hare racing in May 1927 were of the straight variety. After all, it was easy enough to plough a straight run of about 300 to 400 metres or so and the primitive technology in use was good enough to host competitive racing.

Taree was one such track and on January 21, 1928, it played host to what must surely have been the most one-sided match race in history. Competing over just 220 yards (the old Imperial furlong) Squizzy, probably named after the infamous Melbourne gangster ‘Squizzy’ Taylor (who had been killed the previous October) led all the way to defeat Javelin by a massive 15 lengths in 13.2 seconds.

On October 22, 1932, at the White City straight track in the suburb of Tottenham in Melbourne, the reigning champion Marion Hawk led all the way but only just held on to defeat Cormorant by a neck in 21.0 seconds, a new track record. The win was Marion Hawk’s seventh successive victory.

On April 19, 1949, the judge was unable to separate Bronze Imperial and Falcon Lair in a straight track race run over 400 yards (366 metres) at Wyong. This apparently led to an argument between H. Gentle and A. Thomas, the respective owners of the two greyhounds as to which one of them was in fact the superior of the pair. So, four days later, the duo met in a match race over the same distance at Wyong for a £200 ($400) wager, quite a sizable sum in those days. Bronze Imperial managed to run out the winner, but only by half a length over Falcon Lair.

The Appin straight track proved a popular place for match racing for a short time, with a 274-metre clash taking place there on January 13, 1978, between Black Chamfer and Salland Galaxy. Worth $2,000 to the winner, Black Chamfer defeated Salland Galaxy by a length in 16.30 to take his record at the course to 11 wins, three seconds and one third from just 17 outings.

On June 16, 1980, Appin played host to a memorable match race between local stars Pavan Jack and Eagle Warrior. Running over 366 metres, Eagle Warrior bounced out of box eight to lead by two lengths at the half-way mark, but this was cut back to just half a length as the pair reached the grandstand. Pavan Jack then finished far too strongly and pulled away to score by three lengths in 21.23 and collect $2,000 for his connections.

On November 21 the same year, a match race run over 366 metres at the Capalaba track proved a fizzer when Ambitious Eagle (the winner of the Capalaba Derby) downed Lazy Buck Too by six lengths. The latter had twice won the National Straight Track Championship and had won 11 of his 12 starts at Capalaba, so the resounding defeat was a shock. However, after the race it was found that Lazy Buck Too had injured his groin.

Finally, on January 17, 1981 Appin hosted a 274-metre match race worth $4,000 to the winner between Onyx Zephyr (out of box one) and Lazy Dynamite (box eight). Onyx Zephyr, trained by Ron Oldfield, had raced 15 times for nine wins, five at Appin, while Lazy Dynamite had scored 10 wins in 25 starts, and five of these had been at Appin. Onyx Zephyr made it six wins at the course in downing Lazy Dynamite by two lengths in a fast 16.16.

As for Healesville, I’m not aware of any match races having taken place at the course, but would be happy to be proved wrong.

Past Discussion

  1. Yes I have a photo of my grandparents greyhound winning on the straight track at Wyong in 1942. He may not have become a household name except in our household but to this day he is loved and remembered by the family. By the time I was born and as old as I am he was an ancient old dog lying on the lounge at my grandparents. I hold him responsible for my lifetime addiction to greyhounds.

  2. Just got  a business Card in my Letter Box reads as follows Deer & Vermin Control, Rabbit removal from as little per rabbit, Birds, Deer,Fox, Pig, Goat, Wild Dogs ,Feral Cats , and a contact Name & Number and its not Mike Baird or Troy Grant.LOL

  3. BobWhitelaw  No Bob their business card would have included brumbies as well and then a forward date where they will they will also include greyhounds. Oh and I almost forgot thousand of unwanted pets. This bloke is obviously an amateur compared to these pair.

  4. Deborah555 Yeah my history is similar. My grandparents raced dogs, most wore ordinary but Brilliant Atom which is posted up on greyhound-data was their best. He raced up the straight, did plumpton rules coursing and ran the circle. He was the runner-up in the Sandown 1000 (pre-cursor to the Sandown Cup) back in 1945.

  5. Yeah, history will prove how the NCA destroyed  Greyhound Racing here in NSW .They allowed Saturday  afternoon at Wyong to fall over it had the best facilities compared to any Track in NSW ,huge crowds and great straight racing was the highlight of the day. look at their trail of destruction Penrith, Singleton ,Wyong, and lost control Wentworth Park, Tamworth The Gardens, These failures are still sneaking around the Industry ,i just hope the participants don’t allow them back in the door or fall for their con when we are back ! A TIP TO ALL HERE IN NSW DON”T UNLOAD YOUR RACERS JUST YET !  

  6. Jason Caley Deborah555  I will look up Brilliant Atom on greyhound data. As a little girl my grandparents greyhounds were old and retired from racing I never saw them race but  I fell in love with greyhounds because they were such beautiful dogs. I have always had one in my life. I think once you pat one you are addicted for life.

    My grandparents dog had won quite a few races at Harold Park and then he injured his shoulder. When he recovered rather than risk running him on a circle track where he had to corner my grandparents  raced him at the Wyong straight and he could and did win there. His father was Chief Havoc and while certainly not in that league he was a good race dog who won quite a bit of money.  Yes those corners are deadly and need redesigning or more straight track racing I have always thought it was safer for the dogs.  One of my grandparents greyhounds was the NSW coursing champion. They kept them all after they finished racing they would never even have thought of putting them down. Even the one who had never won a race or even placed stayed with them after racing career was over.

  7. Love straight track racing, but surprisingly it is not as interference free as one might think. – They need do do something about the lure at Healesville.

    Does anyone remember straight track racing at Warragul in Victoria, they also raced over hurdles up the straight too.

    Also, does anyone remember the straight track built at Sandown in the 1960’s – Only used at two meetings I think?

  8. Roger Clark  I agree it is not interference  free but those corners are where they all seem to collide. Agree lure design is important to make it even safer.

  9. Jason Caley Deborah555  I looked up Brilliant Atom great dog and amazing three way finish I love those old photos and I love it that all these dogs can be remembered on the greyhound data site – they do a great job don’t they?

  10. Deborah555 Jason Caley Hey Deb – check him out again in about 30 mins time. I will upload some more old clippings about him ;)

    Yeah I put him up there because I think he deserves to be remembered.

  11. Jason I got your reply in my inbox but it is not downloading here I would love to read the articles and will look it up tomorrow because I have run out of sitting time (have a really bad back injury) and would like to read them.  Yes I think they should all be remembered and greyhound data are wonderful people for doing it. The racing authorities just wipe the records when they are not longer of interest to the punters which is understandable but it is great to have this data bank. Isn’t it amazing that ancient old greyhounds long gone can still fill out hearts with joy they are indeed amazing critters. Yes Baird just does not understand the passion and sadly for him never will. But he understands votes.

  12. Deborah555  Hi again Deb – yeah I went to edit the dog and add the photos but GD have started insisting on money/membership now to add or edit dogs. Unfortunately I have enough memberships w Clubs and associations let alone sponsoring GD. I really think GD should focus on getting money from advertisers and those that benefit from the income that we trainers provide. (i.e. vets, suppliers etc.)

    Anyway I respect their decision but cannot endorse it as everyone makes money from us trainers. So instead, here’s the link to all the photos and articles I have about my grandparents dogs back in the day. The only one I dont think they had direct association with was a dog called Fotofin.!AlKSgGVIt2K9t0icB4mt8b4bKyjv

  13. Jason Caley Deborah555  I have downloaded them from that link – I hope you do not mind and put them with all my own photos. I will take me a while to read them. Thanks I love greyhound history. I am looking forward to John Tracey’s book.

  14. Jason Caley Deborah555  I am sorry Jason but I have been uploading pictures of my own dogs on greyhound data ( I have a gold membership because I shot my mouth off and said after they had upset Newson  I thought that effort required me to upgrade my membership- I am a person of my word. I have been so busy doing it I accidently uploaded a couple of yours, I don’t know what I was thinking, if you want to take them down you can

  15. Deborah555 Jason Caley Nah Deborah that’s all fine. Anything that preserves the memory of these long gone dogs is fine by me. Unlike the NSW Government I know something about RESPECT. ;) Much like you, I really like to preserve the memory of feats accomplished by dogs 40-100 years ago. To me this sport is all about the dog, not the trainer. I am old school. I still follow the dogs.

    Although Deb if you don’t mind can you please edit Brilliant Atom and add in some of those clippings about him.