This isn’t something that you would normally see me do. Those close to me have suggested that the things that matter most to me are usually kept within the complex boundaries of my brain. This time however, I wanted to share something. I wanted to pen down the reasons why the Hobart Thousand series continually finds a special significance within this humble writers’ existence.
Firstly, I need to point out that I’m not from Tasmania. Nor have I ever been there or know anyone from there. But strangely enough, the Apple Isle’s premier race strikes the nucleus of a greyhound passion that started in my teens.
My much-older brother was involved within the sport many years ago, and after spruiking my interest just after primary school, I enquired about which tracks number eight – my favourite number of course – won the most races. I was wisely advised that Hobart presented the best opportunity for dogs drawn wide to get across, and hence my focus narrowed on the Thursday night meetings from that venue.
Fast forward a couple of months, and all the buzz was to be about an ‘unbeatable’ greyhound coming out of Victoria, set to race around the U-Turn of Glenorchy’s showground track. For a fourteen year old boy, this was exciting news, and it garnered even more weight when the ‘unbeatable’ dog happened to be named Brett Lee.
After studying his particular race like nothing before, you can imagine the amazement when Elle’s Supremo, a handy local dog, would rain on the parade of this new invader, knocking him off in a sensational boilover. It was to be my first Hobart Thousand memory; one which solidified even further when Brett Lee would go within a length of the track record in the semi-final.
Hunched over a transistor radio in the kitchen of the family home (no access to Sky Channel back then) I can still hear then caller Damien Seaton’s excitement when the great Top Shiraz “landed two in front” in the final. Brett Lee would again have his colours lowered on that night, but would go on to become one of the greatest chasers the world would ever see.
Since that series in 2000, The Hobart Thousand has stopped my world every December. Also occurring on and around Christmas, it quickly became a checkpoint to reflect on how my life was progressing.
In 2002, I would travel to Victoria to see a proper thoroughbred farm for the first time. It was a great trip, except it was ruined when local star Santa Victor – whose picture still adorns my bedroom wall – was denied a final berth by Brokenwood. Star Witch would win the final that year. I remember it also took my money in a Grade 3 event two weeks prior, teaching me a valuable lesson about dogs at a new track.
I’d learnt to drive in 2004 – independence at last – and celebrated by going to the local hotel, The Bridgeway, watching the heats live for the first time. In the opening race, Lukeamy would break Moonamble Prince’s long-standing track record, before sending my world into a spiral as Regent Thunder would knock her off in the last Thousand held on the Glenorchy Track.
Without boring you of the details of every Hobart Thousand since then, I’ll move on to 2009 when I started writing for this website, Australian Racing Greyhound. Doing so as a keen volunteer, you can imagine the thrill of publicly reporting the happenings of Pranksters’ victory. Since then have had the pleasure of covering it most years since, although typing the details of Dyna Tron’s last gasp win over Rewind continues to haunt me when sitting at traffic lights.
In reality, I understand the Hobart Thousand is just another race, in amongst hundreds of features that fill the racing calender every year. I understand that the above experiences are unique to me, and don’t expect readers to specifically share the same passions.
But what many people don’t understand, and really the point of this exercise, is that greyhound folk don’t need gimmicks to sell a race. It’s not about a six-figure winner’s cheque, or about handlers dressing up in suits, or having a national anthem played, or even seeing one-off presenter on Sky Channel.
It about where the race sits in the scheme of a person’s life; the history, the sentiments, the timing, and more importantly, the emotion that is created. You can’t find that in any marketing handbook.
For me it’s the Hobart Thousand, and while the history of the race extends well beyond the 14 years I have taken interest, it really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s the Galaxy, the Easter Egg or a Grade 5 series at Mandurah that gets your heart racing, it’s the same core love of the sport that keeps the cogs turning year after year, day after day, hour after hours for participants around the country.
To others it’s eight dogs running around a track, but for select group of us, it means so much more. I probably won’t have the honour of having my own dog run in the Hobart Thousand in my lifetime, but I’ll continue to stop my world for it; just maybe not at the kitchen table with a radio anymore.