Irma Bale caused one of the great upsets in greyhound racing history when she upstaged champion West Australian stayer Miata in the RSN Sandown Cup at Sandown Park tonight.
In a drama filled final of the world's richest staying race, Miata ($1.20) blew the start and was last after a few strides as Irma Bale ($11.50) bounced straight to the front to lead through the first turn.
Past the post the first time, Irma Bale held a two length lead over He's My Future ($57.60) with Miata a further seven lengths from the lead. Down the back straight, He's My Future reduced the margin to less than a length before Vintage Blend ($13.90) swept around the leading pair and appeared to have the race at her mercy as they straightened for home.
However the Sydney raider found trouble in the run to the line, allowing Irma Bale to rail strongly and retake the lead and secure Hall Of Fame trainer Graeme Bate his first RSN Sandown Cup victory.
He's My Future stuck on gamely to finish a length adrift of the leader, while Miata showed her class to finish strongly to finish a further three quarters of a length away third.
“It was an absolutely top run,” said an emotional Graeme Bate following the win.
“I was little bit lucky in that Miata missed the start by so much. She was almost last through the catching pen and still ran third she's that fast.
“Irma knew they were coming – they were all over the back of her on the home turn. When she found the line I was so elated, I just couldn't believe it.”
Owned by leviathan New South Wales owner Paul Wheeler, Irma Bale is a member of an outstanding Bekim Bale x Amelia Bale litter than includes Sandown 515m track record holder Bekim Bale and The Meadows 525m track record holder Heston Bale. Irma Bale's win in the RSN Sandown Cup (715m) was the 19th win of her 38 start career, and the $100,000 first prize took her career prize money to $168,755.
Bate has always had a high opinion of the versatile 31 month old who missed a placing just once in her first 12 race starts.
“She's broken three track records over the middle distances and has been racing in great form,” continued Bate.
“It was a great race and a great night – it's incredible how many people are here tonight – it's just a great thrill.”
Miata's trainer Paul Stuart offered no excuses for his star chaser's defeat.
“It was disappointing. She blew the start and from there she got herself into strife. She did well to finish third but all of her trouble was her own doing.
“She appears to have pulled up fine from the run so we'll now look to Brisbane for the Gold Cup (heats to be run on Thursday 7 June).”
Miata's defeat was a big win for Ted Goss from Mornington, who drew Irma Bale in an on course competition and drove home in a new Mazda 2 courtesy of Berwick Mazda.
The RSN Sandown Cup was the culmination of Sandown's tremendously successful Autumn Carnival which shattered a number of records in a memorable month of greyhound racing.
Vintage Blend was vetted following the event. It was reported that the greyhound sustained injuries to the right shoulder. A 7 day stand down period was imposed. Acting under GAR 69(5), the Stewards charged Vintage Blend with failing to pursue the lure with due commitment (by reason of injury) and directed that the greyhound perform a satisfactory trial pursuant to GAR 69(6), before any future nomination will be accepted.