This year marks the 22nd anniversary of one of the greatest races in the world: the 520-metre Golden Easter Egg, the Group One event that is the richest open entry contest in Australia and the brainchild of the late Bill Baker, GBOTA Chairman.
The Golden Easter Egg was in some ways a response to the nation’s first $100,000 to the winner event, the Greens Classic held at the Dapto circuit. The-then Dapto Secretary, the late Bill ‘Dumpling’ Dwyer, conceived the idea of running a race worth $100,000 to the winner, a concept many believed was a pie-in-the-sky dream.
By the time it became a reality in 1990, the GBOTA, under the direction of Bill Baker, had already formulated an idea to promote an un-sponsored event to rival Dwyer’s. So, the inaugural event was held in March-April 1990.
The best 80 greyhounds nominated were drawn in a series of 10 heats on 31 March 1990. Of the 80, there were 13 interstate nominations, from Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia.
New South Wales drew first blood with Kylie Bale, the winner of that inaugural Dapto Green’s Classic, taking the first heat in a slow 30.61 on the old grass circuit. She improved her racing record to 14 wins and three seconds from just 19 outings.
Pom Pom Girl defeated the Victorian Hunting Gold and National Futurity winner Gozo Nicoloa in the second heat. Heza Short downed the ultra-consistent Valley Mail (later to take out the 1990 Association Cup over 720 metres) in the third run-off.
Spider Web won heat four, Fast Train defeated the Christine Coleman-trained Ultra Sense by a half head in the fifth heat, a race that saw the Western Australian champion Sandi’s Me Mum only fourth.
The sixth heat fell to National Derby winner and Dapto Classic finalist Master Hilo. The seventh event saw the Victorian flying machine Eureka Man just hold on to beat the Queensland star (and later super sire) Acacia Ablaze.
The top-class Victorian sprinter Spread Eagled exited box seven and thrilled patrons with a superb first-up win in heat eight. The 1990 Australian Cup winner downed Whiskey Bale and Wentworth Park track specialist Classy Spider to notch his 16th win in 24 starts.
Top trainer Harry Sarkis led in Blinky’s Pride, the winner of heat nine. Victorian champion Hua finally broke through at Wentworth Park, taking the final heat, at what was his third run on the circuit.
So, 10 of the 13 interstate greyhounds made the progression to the four semi-finals run on 7 April.
Two of them fell by the wayside in the first semi-final as Whiskey Bale overwhelmed Gozo Nicoloa in the home straight to score in 30.69.
Acacia Ablaze flew out of box five and led all the way to defeat Classy Spider by four lengths in a quick 30.35 in the second run-off.
The third semi-final contained Spread Eagled, Eureka Man and Hua. Before the race it was considered unthinkable all three could miss out on a place in the final. Yet that’s exactly what transpired. In a roughly run race, Fast Train beat Blinky’s Pride in 30.44. Spread Eagled was fourth, Hua sixth and Eureka Man last.
The fourth and final semi-final saw Ultra Sense turn her first round half-head defeat into a half-head victory over the luckless Valley Mail with Heza Short third.
Thus, just one interstate greyhound (Queensland’s Acacia Ablaze) was left standing to advance to the $80,000-to-the-winner final, the richest free entry greyhound race in the world.
Acacia Ablaze was sent out a 7/2 favourite in an open betting final ahead of the red-rugged Whiskey Bale and Valley Mail.
Overall, the eight finalists had contested 197 races for 84 wins (42 percent) and 76 placings, while at Wentworth Park they had collectively raced 69 times for 31 wins.
In what proved a somewhat anti-climactic finale, Ultra Sense bounded straight to the lead from box five and led her rivals a merry dance, defying all attempts to run her down. Gozo Nicoloa and Classy Spider chased her in the early stages with Acacia Ablaze back in fourth position.
She held a solid lead until the home straight and then held off a determined finish by Acacia Ablaze to win by three-quarters of a length with Valley Mail storming home to grab third, another three-quarters of a length away, literally nosing Gozo Nicoloa into fourth place.
Ultra Sense ran the trip in a tidy 30.39 and took her record to a commendable eight wins and seven placings from just 16 race starts.
That first Golden Easter Egg proved to be a great hit with owners, trainers and the general public alike and within a very short time was established among the pantheon of great greyhound events, not just in Australia, but worldwide.