VICTORIAN trainer Robert Britton knows what it takes to win a Hobart Thousand, and how to do it on the Elwick circuit. After all, he rugged up Prankster in 2009 and last year he took Above All across the Tasman and, having only his 11th race start, the New Zealand-born and bred sprinter established a track record with a scintillating seven lengths drubbing of Ride The Rails and Dyna Villa. His 25.52 time took a whopping 12/100ths off the previous track record for 461 metres at Hobart, held by Paw Licking, and set in the 2013 Hobart Thousand final.
Two track records in two years in a Group 1 final had only ever happened once before, in the 2000 and 2001 Adelaide Cup finals. Jack Junior won the 2000 Adelaide Cup in track record time and a year later Brett Lee smashed that mark.
The only other time two track records have been established in consecutive years in a Group 1 (or any other Group class race for that matter) was in 2005 and 2006, in the finals of the National Distance Championship. Texas Gold broke the Wentworth Park track record in 2005 and Bothing eclipsed the Launceston track mark in 2006.
This year, Robert Britton has managed to almost miraculously get Above All not only back to the track after serious stopper injuries, but the brilliant sprinter will be lining up to try and defend his Hobart Thousand title, and his track record, following a brilliant heat win. Given that his heat run was only his third race back from injury, Above All can be expected to improve his times, albeit having to overcome box six.
Since 2006, when the race was first conducted over the new 461 metres trip, the Hobart Thousand has seen boxes one, six and eight as the most successful, all winning twice. Boxes two, five and seven have each supplied a winner. So, arguably, the box draw doesn’t make that much of a difference. Last year, Above All overcame box five to score.
History, however, tends to be a harder taskmaster. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Hobart Thousand. The race started in 1935 as the Hobart Cup and had its name changed to the ‘Thousand’ in 1939, when it became the first ever event in the country to offer £1,000 in prize money.
Since then, only one greyhound has managed to win the race twice. That was Ophir Doll, in 1961 and 1962. In fact, Ophir Doll made the 1963 final, but could only run fourth behind her kennelmate Ophir Gold.
In 1978 Royal Griffin scored by six lengths at the old Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) ground. A year later, Royal Griffin became only the second greyhound to make a Hobart Thousand final as title holder, but was beaten four lengths into second place by Astradome Lad.
In 1988 one of the greats of Tasmanian racing, True Vintage, won the Hobart Thousand by just over four lengths, running a race record 26.34 for the 457 metres trip. The black bitch became the third winner to become a dual finalist when she contested the 1989 final, but found Scott James too good on the night.
So, Above All becomes only the fourth greyhound to have won a previous Hobart Thousand and then gone on to make a second final. With one dual winner and two second placings as the current historical record surrounding that statistic, arguably the money should be on Above All to at least run a place.