Hours after the NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the state government would be shutting down the sport within NSW at noon, a talented field of eight lined up an hour and a half north of the border to compete in the $75,000 to the winner showpiece.
Zambora Brockie, trained by Anthony Azzopardi, started as the favourite from box four and was able to sit in second position behind Split Image (box seven) throughout the early stages of the event.
Turning for home and the son of Nitro Burst and Flying Liddy was able to assume the lead, sprinting clear and holding off a late challenge from Outside Pass (box three) and Cyndie’s Magic (box one) to score in 29.72.
The victory made it 22 wins from just 35 starts, with the black dog now the earner of $317,603 in prize money.
While delighted to have taken out the event, Azzopardi said it was difficult to celebrate the win following Thursday’s bombshell announcement.
“What can you say, he’s a champion,” Azzopardi told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He was born to race. He finds himself in positions where you think ‘oh no’ but he seems to be able to find a way to get out of them which is probably what makes him so good.
“He had to fight hard to win the race. He had a good leader in front of him and he had to hold off Outside Pass and [Cyndie’s Magic] at the finish so I thought it was a huge effort.
“We got a bit of enjoyment out of winning the race, but it was hard to celebrate when everyone was so upset.
“I’ve never seen a greyhound population so down in the dumps – people were crying and others couldn’t talk.
“It was heartbreaking.”
Azzopardi, who held a trainer’s licence in NSW for over 20 years, said despite making the move to Victoria earlier this year, the ban on his home state has still hit him hard.
“I never thought the industry would close but we made the decision to move to Victoria because we didn’t like how things were being run.
“It worked out in our favour, but I still feel like I live in NSW in a way so it’s heartbreaking.
“To see all my friends so upset, it’s hard to take.
“Not only that but NSW is basically where all my dogs come from – if that goes it is going to stop a lot because there will be nothing coming through.”