The Devonport Cup only gained Group status in 2010, but it ranks as one of the longest-established major races on the Australian calendar. It also rates as one of the toughest races to win, with no chaser ever being able to go back-to-back since the race was inaugurated in 1953. Ordinary greyhounds don’t tend to win the Devonport Cup, and this year, which marks the 61st time the race has been conducted, looks to be no different. In fact, the race is almost always taken out by a well-boxed greyhound, racing in good form.
Although the junior of the three Tasmanian tracks, the Devonport club has attracted its share of some of the best greyhounds ever to race in the Apple Isle, as well as drawing top trainers like Graeme Bate and Darren McDonald in an attempt to annex their cup.
The first Devonport Cup took place on 2 April 1953 and resulted in King’s Idea scoring by a length and a half from White Oct and Main Birch in 24 9/16, a new track record.
The following year, the smart Opotoki defeated the favoured Sunny Nebo by a length with Allie’s Boy third. Allie’s Boy had finished fourth the previous year and thus became the first dual finalist of the race.
Prominent local trainer Vivian Berresford took out the 1956 running with Moomba Queen and repeated the dose with Ripple Bay, in 1964.
Since its inauguration, the Devonport Cup has only missed being run twice, first in 1963, and then in 2002. Although contested in January since 2003, the race has been held in March, April and, for a lengthy time, in October.
In 1996 it was run twice, first in January, when won by Ginger’s Charm, and then in October, when it was taken out by Hi Tech Boris. The move to October was partially aimed at turning the Cup into a lead-up for the Hobart Thousand.
Only two chasers have won the Devonport Cup and then gone on to win the Hobart Thousand in the same year. The first was the great Shantung Tiger, in 1997, who defeated the 1996 Devonport Cup winner Ginger’s Charm and then went on to success in Hobart. The second was Black Caleb, in 2001, who narrowly defeated Stylish Doctor to notch his seventh successive win before making in nine on end in winning in Hobart.
Top Shiraz, who won the Cup in 1999 went on to run fifth in the Hobart Thousand, but came back in 2000 to take out Tasmania’s premier event.
Nowadays, the Hobart Thousand is run in December, so the Devonport Cup is the follow-up rather than the lead-up event. Since that date change, no greyhound has taken the double. Regent Thunder won the 2004 Hobart Thousand but found the smart Supa Instinct too strong in the 2005 Devonport Cup final. Taipan Bale, however, finished fourth in the 2008 Hobart race but then snared the 2009 Devonport Cup for Graeme Bate, giving the trainer his first success after years of trying.
Champion sprinter Rewind ran second in the 2011 Hobart Thousand before coming to Devonport and beating one of the best fields ever assembled for the Cup.
Rewind found the Victorian Allen Benji (trained by Graeme Bate) too strong in the 2013 final, once again keeping the race as an event that has never been won twice by the same chaser.
Other top-class racers to have won the event include Black Tuesday (1967), Unique Venture (1979; a winner of 41 of 84 race starts), Wynlee Wonder (1982; she set a track record and had won the Sandown Cup two years earlier), Stylish Doctor (2003; who went on to register 50 wins from 114 starts, with 38 placings and was a dual finalist in the Cup, running second in 2001), Big Moose (2008; but failed in 2009), Gardam Prince (2010; for trainer Darren McDonald), and St Pierre (2011; an Australian Cup winner).