Temlee: A One-Track Wonder?

TEMLEE was one of the most pre-potent sires ever seen in Australian history and undoubtedly a terrifically fast greyhound. Yet he is often acclaimed as one of the ‘greatest sprinters of all time’, which this writer feels owes much to that later successful stud career rather than the hard facts of his racing career.

His career was limited to just 31 starts, being cut short by injury. Make no mistake, he was a brilliant sprinter and one who captured the attention of the broader media, a significant achievement in itself and so his value to raising the overall profile of greyhound racing was indeed worthwhile.

A brief resume of Temlee’s career looks pretty good: he won the 1974 National Sprint Championship, Maturity Classic, Olympic Park Sprint Championship, Autumn Trophy, and Lord Mayor’s Trophy, and was sixth in both the Melbourne Cup (at Sandown Park) and National Derby (at Wentworth Park). He was named 1974 Victorian Greyhound of the Year.

So, Temlee was a finalist in seven major races and victorious in five, undoubtedly a great record. Yet all five were achieved at the one track: the now-defunct Olympic Park.

Temlee was whelped in March 1972, by Tivoli Chief out of Temora Lee (by Mister Moss). The brindle dog was owned by Ray Hocken and trained throughout his short 15-month career by Frank Cray.

He commenced racing on 11 August 1973, in a 484-metre maiden at Sale, winning by six lengths in 29.20, the best time of the meeting and just 2/100ths outside the track record.

Twelve days later he raced over 513 metres at Traralgon, scoring by six-and-a-half-lengths in 30.91. Due to an injury sustained when beaten in a qualifying event at Sandown Park, Temlee did not race again until 1 December, winning by four-and-a-half-lengths at Sale from box one, running 29.18 to equal the track record.

Temlee made it four from four with a seven-length victory at Traralgon.

Brought to the city, Temlee raced over 511 metres at Olympic Park on 17 December but finished a disappointing two-and-a-half-lengths third. At his next run he finished only sixth over 484 metres at Sale, although he was severely hampered by a broken rug. That was his sixth and final start for 1973.

He began 1974 by reeling off three straight victories, all at Olympic Park. The first two were the semi-final and final of the Maturity Classic, defeating the smart Zulu Moss by two lengths in the former and the brilliant future country sprinter Sylvan’s Prince by nine lengths in the latter. His third successive win was also at Olympic Park, on 4 February, when he exited box two and scored by 12 lengths.

Contesting the Australian Cup at Olympic Park, Temlee won his elimination heat but from box six he found bother and could only run fifth in his semi-final, beaten 12 lengths by Bahdavid.

His next start involved a rarity on a city track: a no race. On 11 March Temlee could only run fifth behind the smart Roo Power at Olympic Park, but the event was declared a no race, and so was struck from his racing record.

The brindle flyer bounced back on 18 March in a heat of the Autumn Trophy at Olympic Park, winning his way through to the final with an eight-and-a-half-lengths victory over Mighty Thunder.

In the final, Temlee rocketed out of box seven and careered away to score by 11 lengths and run 29.67. This eclipsed the previous record of 29.14/16 (which had been turned into 29.87 in hundredth timing), set by Arctic Flame in December 1972.

Temlee’s new time standard would last a decade before Super Max took just 1/100th from it in August 1984.

Temlee then won two successive handicap events at Olympic Park, by seven and five lengths respectively, before making it five on end with a one-length success over Roo Power at the same course on 29 April.

Given a three-week break, Temlee resumed on 23 May for his first start at Sandown Park, over 513 metres. Although a short-priced favourite, he finished only fourth behind Shanghai Star. The following week at Sandown Park, although reasonably well-drawn in box seven in a seven-dog field, Temlee finished only fifth behind Sol’s Tornado.

Frank Cray brought Temlee back to Olympic Park for his next assignment, on 10 June. Drawn perfectly in box one, Temlee returned to the winner’s circle, scoring by four and half lengths from Zulu Moss.

Then it was off to New South Wales and a tilt at the National Derby, run over 530 metres on the grass track at Wentworth Park. After taking out his non-betting heat and quarter-final (the latter with an eight lengths drubbing of the smart Early Copy), Temlee exited box three in his semi-final on 13 July. The much-hyped sprinter made a real hash of the race but eventually proved too strong for his rivals and defeated Lord Venn by a head in a fair 31.34.

Temlee drew badly in box six for the Derby final but went out a 7/4 ($2.75) favourite. The Allen Wheeler owned and trained speedster Steelflex flew the lids and led all the way to hang on and defeat future Wentworth Park track record holder Tientsin Tosca by a head, with Lord Venn three lengths away third and Early Copy a close fourth. Temlee never challenged at any point and crossed the line in sixth place.

After pulling up sore following the Derby, Cray gave him a two-week break and entered him for a 457-metre race at Harold Park. Temlee was expected to be well suited by the one-turn, spacious course and, opposed to six others, went off at the good odds of 11/4 ($3.75). Probably feeling the effects of a long campaign, Temlee was beaten three-quarters of a length into second behind Bumper Star in a fair 26.85. Bumper Star, a member of the Wheeler kennels, and Temlee would meet again later, in the breeding barn.

Given a six-week rest, Temlee resumed at Olympic Park on 9 September. From box one he scored an easy three lengths win over Tootsie’s Pride in a brilliant 29.91.

Temlee was then entered for the National Sprint Championship series. A set of six heats to decide the Victorian top point scorers were held at Sandown Park on 12 September. Temlee exited box eight and notched his first win at the course, defeating Scala Red by six lengths in a fair 31.37.

A week later, Temlee competed in the semi-finals for the Championship, also at Sandown Park. This time his race held NSW contestants Armatree’s Idol, Majestic Linen, Sitka Spruce and Wicked Wilson, but South Australian star Bristol Sue was scratched so she could contest the Adelaide Cup final the same night. From box four, with a vacant box three, Temlee made it two wins at Sandown Park, scoring by almost four lengths from Tootsie’s Pride in a good 31.07.

On 23 September, four days later, a second series of semi-finals took place at Olympic Park. This time Temlee drew badly in box six, although the field was reduced to seven starters. He faced Queensland representative Hi Now as well as the NSW starters Thunder’s Pride, Sitka Spruce, and Wicked Wilson. Starting a short-priced 2/5 ($1.40) favourite, Temlee ran only fourth, 10 lengths adrift of Thunder’s Pride.

Nonetheless, Temlee had earned enough points to make the September 30 final, to be run at Olympic Park.

Temlee drew fairly in box four, but when the lids lifted he began better than usual and quickly asserted his superiority, racing away to score by six lengths from Bristol Sue (who had won the Adelaide Cup and then won the other semi-final held on 23 September) with Thunder’s Pride third. Temlee recorded a scintillating 29.71, the second-fastest registered on the course, just 4/100ths outside his track record.

Two weeks later, Temlee returned to Olympic Park, winning a heat of the Lord Mayor’s Trophy, although only managed by a neck from Pedito’s Champ, despite the advantage of box one.

In the 21 October Lord Mayor’s Trophy final, Temlee registered what proved to be his 13th and last win at Olympic Park, downing former New Zealand sprinter Kwik Metal by a head in a fair 30.25.

Set for the Melbourne Cup, Temlee made light work of his opponents in his heat on 7 November, scoring by seven and a half lengths in a fast 31.03.

Drawn box seven for the final, Temlee was a 6/4 ($2.50) favourite but easily outpaced by the inside pair of Miss Alliance (NSW) and Kwik Metal. He struggled across the line in sixth place behind Kwik Metal.

Temlee’s last start came in the 3UZ Trophy (best-eight) at Olympic Park on 25 November. Sadly, Temlee suffered a cracked bone in his left hind leg, finishing sixth behind the smart Zulu Moss. The injury forced him into an early retirement.

Temlee finished with 21 wins, one second and one third from 31 races. [Note: for some reason the Hall of Fame claims he raced 37 times for 25 wins and three placings, but this is incorrect]

At Olympic Park he raced 17 times for 13 wins and one third. At Sandown he won three from six. On grass, he competed twice at Wentworth Park and once at Harold Park for one win and one second. The only other tracks Temlee competed on were Traralgon (two starts for two wins) and Sale (three starts for two wins).

Temlee was undefeated in five starts out of box one. He was also unbeaten in three races when sporting the yellow rug of box five. His average winning margin was an impressive 5.3 lengths.

In reality, the Temlee legend was born at stud. He proved a fabulous sire and included the likes of Beaumaris Sue, Society Romeo, Fag Ash, Gleefullee, World Acclaim, Winston Lass, Collis Queen, Cavalier Queen, Satan’s Legend, Gwendalyn Bale, Winifred Bale, Frostylee, Kate’s A Scandal, Drop Of Wine, Monica’s Mist, Temlock, Taciturn, Bianca Lee, Quick Pulse, Tangaloa, Tempix, Relle Louise, Ten Guitars, Riviera Tiger, Starfire Lady, Wynlee Wonder, Nation Parade, Promises Free, Vienna Parade, Murchison Champ, Flat Flyer, Fawn Villager, National Lee, and Chief Dingaan among some 695 progeny.

Temlee was undoubtedly the greatest sprinter ever seen at Olympic Park, which is hardly small praise for any greyhound.

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