Interstate speedsters Octane Show and Lee Winter as well as litter brother Decembrist are the obvious obstacles for Tasmanian champion Damek in his quest to snare the $75,000 first prize and the prestige of winning the 74th running of the Hobart Thousand (formerly the Hobart Cup).
The other obstacle concerns simple history. Damek is undefeated in 12 starts in Hobart, but, perhaps more importantly, has won his last nine on end. The most recent greyhound to run in a feature race final with a record of nine in a row was El Grand Senor in the 2010 Ballarat Cup. As we all know, El Grand Senor could only finish third in the final.
The record for the longest series of consecutive wins prior to running in a Hobart Thousand final belongs to Rod Deakin’s Victorian star Plunder Road. When he scored in the 1970 final for trainer Ted Baker, it was his eighth consecutive victory.
Others to have put together reasonable sequences prior to contesting and winning the final have been 1988 winner True Vintage, one of the greats of Tasmanian racing. The Margaret Crosswell-trained flyer ran a race record to win the 1988 final by just over four lengths and notch a seventh successive win.
Baron Dhu was undefeated in six starts when he won the 1952 Hobart Thousand, the only greyhound to have achieved such a feat. Trained by Vivian Berresford, Baron Dhu had won his heat, semi-final, and final of the Hobart Maiden Thousand at his first three outings before going straight into the Hobart Thousand series and doing the same. And this was in the days when the race was a handicap and 10 starters competed for the title.
For some strange reason the historians appear to consider the Hobart Thousand as a race beginning in 1939 and then being suspended between 1942 and 1945. Yet the race has had a continuous history since starting as the Hobart Cup in 1935. Even in 1939 when the prize money for the event was raised to £1,000 ($2,000) it was still called the Hobart Cup by some writers. The winner received a whopping £500 ($1,000), making it easily the richest race in the country. The Thousand was run over 410 yards (375 metres) from 1935 until 1941.
The distance was raised to 525 yards (480 metres) in 1942 when the race was won by a local greyhound named Mr Kenya. At this stage of the Second World War prize money was limited so the event was only worth £200 ($400). Yet it was held at the same time and under the precise conditions of the Thousand, it’s just that marketing managers were a bit thin on the ground in those days and so the race reverted to its original name of being simply the Hobart Cup.
In 1943 it was won by New South Wales greyhound Askalon, who made it five on end in taking out the final. The Hobart Cup was suspended in 1944 and 1945. When the event was resumed in 1946 the prize money level was back to £1,000 and the race was again called the Thousand.
It appears a little unfair on the connections of Mr Kenya and Askalon that they are not considered for the Hobart Thousand honour roll. Equally, the winners of the Hobart Cup from 1935 to 1938, namely Elwick Boy, Miafort, Loch Maree, and On Par should surely be accorded the same honour. After all, no one argues with the history of the Australian Cup, which began in 1958. Yet it started at North Melbourne, went to Olympic Park in 1964, had three years at Sandown Park and onto The Meadows in 1999.
At any rate, Damek will be hoping to create a little bit of history if he can score in this year’s Hobart Thousand and make it 10 wins on end. As far as Tasmanian greyhounds are concerned, only True Vintage (two sequences, one of 15 and the other of 13 wins in a row), Bomber’s A Flyer (12), and Fine Horizon (10) are ahead of him on the all-time list. He has equalled the effort of Top Shiraz, who won the 2000 Hobart Thousand from the mighty Brett Lee, who once ran a sequence of nine in a row. No matter what the result this week, Damek has already established a place for himself in the proud annals of Tasmanian racing.