The loss of former Tasmanian staying champion Chinatown Lad this week evokes great memories of the brilliant half miler who, along with his litter sister Fallen Zorro, took the Australian staying ranks by storm in 2008.
As greyhound fans, the thrill of watching a powerful athletic stayer at the peak of their powers is just about the most perfect sight we could ever hope to witness in greyhound racing, and for many, Chinatown Lad was the embodiment of this ideal.
The brindle chaser, bred by Shane Whitney, was from a mating of Lilli Pilli Lad out of Chinatown Babe and was whelped on December 3, 2005, from the Dams first litter. The litter of eight comprised five dogs and three bitches, and would go on to secure Chinatown Babe as the Australian Greyhound Racing Association (AGRA) broodbitch of the year in 2008.
While all in the litter were talented, two proved to be superior to the rest, namely Chinatown Lad, and Fallen Zorro.
Chinatown Lad began his race career on August 9, 2007 at Hobart in a Juvenile stake over the flying 340 metre course, winning on debut off the red box in a handy 19.90 seconds. He would win his next two starts at Hobart over the 457 metres in good times and shortly after went to Launceston winning over the 515 metres in a flying 29.75, saluting by over 15 lengths.
It wasn’t until February 2008 however, when his staying ability was initially put on display, with a win at Devonport over the 580 metres in a sensational 33.00 seconds, equalling the track record and winning by over 14 lengths. His connections had no reservations about his ability to get the long distance and he was produced in Perth shortly after for a crack at the staying riches on offer during the Perth Cup Carnival.
The heat and final of the Swan Challenge, a Group Three event over 715 metres at Cannington, saw two victories chalked up for the rising staying star, with the final won in track record time of 41.42 seconds.
Chinatown Lad then ventured to Brisbane for the Group One Albion Park Gold Cup over 710 metres, which he won in brilliant style. His heat was stunning, winning by over 16 lengths, and then he claimed victory in the final over his litter sister, Fallen Zorro.
The super staying duo would again quinella a Group One Race, this time it would be the Sandown Cup in May, which he won leading throughout, in a super run of 42.14 seconds, with his sister Fallen Zorro again runner-up.
The big race occasions continued for Chinatown Lad, finishing third in a Group 2 AWM Distance title at The Meadows in July and then winning the Chairmans Cup at Wentworth Park over the 720 metres in September. He also broke the Wentworth Park track record over the 720 metres in his first run at the track, completing the journey in an incredible 41.93 seconds, the first greyhound to ever break the magical 42.00 seconds barrier at Sydney’s premier track.
Chinatown Lad retired with 47 starts for 21 wins and 17 minors with stake earnings in excess of $220,000.
Australian Racing Greyhound spoke to owner Katrina Gregory for her recollections of her champion chaser.
“He was given to me to train by Gavin Whitney, who had been a lifelong friend of our family. I knew very little about greyhound racing, having come from a harness racing background and I was a little unsure of how to go about it.” Katrina explained.
“I realised pretty quickly he (Chinatown Lad) was special, because people kept making offers for him in the car park when I would trial him.”
ARG asked Katrina about her biggest thrill with Chinatown Lad.
“For me the one of the biggest thrills was his first start, when he won over the 340 metres. It was my first starter as a trainer and he won from the red box. Then we got swabbed.” She said jokingly.
“The other great thrill was when he went to Perth and broke the track record in the final of the Swan Challenge.”
“After sixteen starts I gave him to Gavin and Shane (Whitney) to train as I realised he was a pretty special dog and they both had so much more experience as trainers than I did.”
Katrina explained to ARG about the loss of Chinatown Lad.
“Unfortunately he developed a lump on his neck, and after being examined it was found to be cancerous. It was terrible news for us, especially for my son Brayden who looked after “Max” on a daily basis, feeding him and the broods and attending to their everyday needs.”
Katrina also explained that while having a champion greyhound is a great thrill, the experiences and lifelong friendships she enjoyed via the deeds of Chinatown Lad is something money can’t buy.
“Greyhound people are like a large a family and I have travelled around the country and met and become friends with many wonderful people including Jason and Seona Thompson, Paul Felgate, Tina Womann and Dennis Trewin to name a few.”
While the passing of the former champion is difficult to accept, Katina said his legacy would live on through his pups.
“He has served a few bitches, but being a stayer and a Tasmanian greyhound he has not served the numbers some sires enjoy. We have a couple of litters here, and there are still straws available should anyone want to breed a litter by him.”
Vale Chinatown Lad, gone, but will live on in the memories of greyhound lovers forever.