It was the race that broke the ‘hoodoo’ for one of the greatest greyhounds to have ever raced over the sprint courses in Australia. The 1998 Melbourne Cup series and the Topgun, which in those days took place after the cup final, were the targets set by owner-trainer Jane Carruthers for her all-conquering champion Rapid Journey.
The sensational sprinter had recorded a stellar year with victories at Group One level in the Adelaide Cup, Golden Easter Egg, Perth Cup, and National Sprint Championship. Campaigning all over the country, Rapid Journey also won the Queensland Cup (Group Two), WA Interstate Challenge (Group Three), Penrith Cup, Jockey’s And Trainer’s Cup, Lismore Cup, and Orange Cup as well as running second in the Coca Cola Cup (Group Two), third in the Winter Stake (Group Two) and Bert Bryant Memorial, and fourth in the Premier’s Cup. The champion had set track records over 520 metres at Wentworth Park and 555 metres at Beenleigh and equalled the 530 metres time standard at Cannington.
If Rapid Journey (Amerigo Man x Miss Courtney) had a nemesis then its name was Victoria. He had not won in three starts in the southern state, failures that were a marked counterpoint to his incredible successes elsewhere.
So it was that on 19 November, Rapid Journey drew perfectly in box one for his heat of the Melbourne Cup and finally laid the hoodoo to rest with an easy victory, blitzing his field in 29.92, the fastest of the run-offs.
When the box draw was announced, the NSW champ came up with the six marble. With the Graeme Bate-trained pair of Shelton Bale (box 1) and Cerin Bale (box 4) as well as Star Of Mine (box 2) all boasting faster first sectionals than Rapid Journey, the general view was the NSW star was going to have his work cut out to be anywhere near the lead in the run to the first bend.
Rapid Journey had staged a remarkable last-to-first victory in the National Sprint Championship final in Perth, while coming from box six, but the Melbourne Cup field looked just that much stronger.
As it happened, come final night 26 November, Rapid Journey simply blew his rivals away, rocketing out of the boxes as if he was well aware of what was required and leading all the way to down Billy Cruise and Cerin Bale by three lengths and recording a fast 29.91 to collect the $100,000 first prize money.
The Melbourne Cup victory meant Rapid Journey had contested five Group One races in 1998 for five victories, a feat that has never been repeated. He had also raced five times in his career out of box six for five wins.
Box six was not successful again in a Melbourne Cup final until 2007, when Shanlyn Prince took the event and it had not won the race since Legendary Kid in 1986.
Two weeks later, Rapid Journey contested his last race, the Topgun. From box one he defeated champion West Australian sprinter Reggemite in what was then a Group Two event. The $70,000 from the win took his overall prize money to an amazing $530,995, making him the first Australian greyhound to pass half a million dollars. It meant he finished 1998 having raced 30 times for 23 wins, three seconds, two thirds and two fourths.