From his first race late in 1978 until close to the end of August 1979, Acclaim Star, a striking black and white dog named contested 27 races and managed, by dint of 10 wins, to make himself a respected contender in any event in which he started.
Just a few months and six starts later and many greyhound scribes were calling the son of Arctic Tiger and the imported Irish bitch Clonmannon Ivy the ‘Greyhound of the Decade’ following a series of sensational victories against the best greyhounds in the nation.
Whelped in December 1976 by Canberra breeder Fred Scott, the litter included Clonmannon Cash (placed in the 1979 National Futurity) and Morialta Tiger, a city winner. Acclaim Star was purchased by Canberra butcher Frank Brown and sent, with Clonmannon Cash, to Sydney to be trained by the astute veteran Bill Fletcher.
Acclaim Star commenced racing on 18 November 1978 with a third in a maiden at Wentworth Park (530 metres), beaten nine lengths by future top-liner Lord Ballina and Leon’s Return.
He broke his maiden on 25 November with a two and a half lengths success over 530 metres at Penrith, running 31.31.
Stepping up in class, Acclaim Star could run only seventh behind Lord Buttons (later to win a Penrith Derby and Dave Alexander Memorial) in a semi-final of the NSW St Leger (now the Paws of Thunder) on 9 December.
Acclaim Star closed out 1978 with a two-lengths second to La Cachon at Penrith.
He commenced 1979 in good style with a three and a half lengths win over 486 metres at Gosford on 2 January and then, 15 days later, won first-up over 472 metres at Bulli, defeating Real Monaro by five lengths in a fast 27.36.
Bill Fletcher brought him to Harold Park on 29 January and from box five Acclaim Star notched his first city win, defeating Cashell’s Image over 457 metres by four lengths in a quick 26.36.
After a half-head second to Royal Kumara at Harold Park he was fourth to Barry’s Angel in a heat of the 400-metres Cannonball at Richmond.
Acclaim Star was back in winning form on 19 February when he led from the first turn to score by three lengths in 26.41 at Harold Park. Moved up to Third Grade five days later, he was skittled at the start but came from last to run a five-lengths fourth to Young Breeze at the same track.
Using box one to full effect, Acclaim Star scored by seven lengths from Flying Reward at Bulli in 27.36 and then came from seventh at the first turn to run a one and a half lengths fourth at Harold Park to Mullion Bunyip.
Fletcher entered him for the National Derby series at Wentworth Park where he led from box eight in his semi-final before being run down on the line by the Allan Pringle-trained Prize Brandy. The winner clocked 30.99, the best of the night, and gave the Pringle’s two Derby finalists, the other being Flaming Bolt.
The field for the 1979 Derby was one of the best on record. Prize Brandy had box one, the sensational Victorian Tegimi was in box two, future NSW Greyhound of the Year Fast Sapphire had box three, Flaming Bolt seven and country star All Design box eight. Acclaim Star drew poorly in box six. Despite the poor alley, Acclaim Star began well and led the field from the first turn until passing the Leger. He then dropped out and struggled across the line in fifth place behind Tegimi, Flaming Bolt, Prize Brandy, and All Design. After the race he was found to be injured and did not return to the racetrack for seven weeks.
Resuming up the 274-metres of the Appin straight on 19 May, Acclaim Star won by three lengths in 16.41 and then led from the first turn at Harold Park to win by three and a half lengths in a best-of-the-night 26.36.
After a second placing to Mullion Bunyip on a heavy track at Harold Park, Acclaim Star made it three out of three at Bulli with a 27.36 (best) victory from box eight over Golden McGrath.
His next seven consecutive races were all over 457 metres at Harold Park. Acclaim Star was a well beaten fifth behind track star Sole Force in his first Invitation Stake (top-grade) start and then ran fourth in a heat of the Winter Stake, his seventh unplaced performance in 21 career starts. He would not be unplaced again for 16 races.
On 14 July, Acclaim Star ran third behind dual Ladies Bracelet winner Gold Spring and a week later exited his favourite box eight and led most of the way to win by three and a half lengths in 26.41. This was his fourth, and it proved final, win at Harold Park.
A half-length third behind Jen’s Star Girl and a second to Gold Spring (in 26.35, with Fast Sapphire third) completed his next two races.
Perhaps a little optimistically, Bill Fletcher entered Acclaim Star in the National Sprint Championship series. The NSW heats began at Harold Park on 11 August and Acclaim Star finished second to Oberon Lily, who came from behind to beat him and Waverley’s Desire after the latter pair bumped in the home straight. The race was Acclaim Star’s 14th and last run at Harold Park. In the second heat, at Wentworth Park a week later, Waverley’s Desire led all the way to win by four lengths from country star Happy Endo with Acclaim Star a half length away third. Waverley’s Desire’s time of 30.89 was the fastest run at the course for many months.
With his two third placings, Acclaim Star was the sixth-ranked dog into the state final at Wentworth Park. With just one win from his previous eight starts and none from five Wentworth Park starts, Acclaim Star exited box seven as a 12/1 chance on 25 August.
Gold Spring began best and led to the home turn with Acclaim Star gradually gaining on her. The black and white dog cut to the rails on the home bend, slipped through and went on to score an upset win by four lengths in a fast 30.92. Gold Spring held on to beat Fast Sapphire for second.
The win was Acclaim Star’s first in four starts wearing the seven rug and would prove to be his last in New South Wales.
The National Sprint Championship final was run over 530 metres at Cannington in Western Australia on 15 September. In the lead-up, Acclaim Star and Gold Spring broke the Cannington track record in public trials, as did the Victorian finalists Monica’s Mist and Tempix, Queenslander Bollacky Barry and South Australian champion White Panther.
Acclaim Star drew box three for the first and only time of his career, while Gold Spring was well positioned in box one. She used the alley to lead into the first turn ahead of her NSW compatriot.
At the end of the back straight, Acclaim Star went to the front and came away to win by almost five lengths from Bollacky Barry with White Panther three lengths away third. Acclaim Star ran 30.95, a new track record, eclipsing Mr Toewyte’s mark set in June 1977 by 4/100ths.
Bill Fletcher took Acclaim Star to the Gabba in Queensland for the Brisbane Cup series. The track for the heats on 4 October was a bog after two days of heavy rain, but Acclaim Star scored by eight and a half lengths from Fawn Tivulla in 32.94 for the 558 metres. The best time of the heats was Monica’s Mist who scored in 32.69 while Queenslanders Gallant Anne and Miss Perlita won the other two run-offs.
Acclaim Star drew well in box eight for the Brisbane Cup final. He raced past Lady Gambit into the first turn and never looked like losing, scoring by two lengths in 32.73.
Next up was the Melbourne Cup series over 513 metres at Sandown Park. In his heat on 15 November, Acclaim Star came out of the traps three lengths behind the second-last greyhound.
Being un-used to the silent lure and the difference in time it took to reach the boxes from those in NSW and Queensland probably led to the poor start, but by the back straight he had raced through the field to hit the front, going on to score by almost four lengths in a quick 30.61. Drawing box one for only the third time in his career, the semi-final proved a one-act affair for Acclaim Star who ran a sensational 30.29, just 5/100ths outside Darville Flyer’s track record.
The Melbourne Cup final saw him draw well in box two. Big Pinch began well from box one and was joined by the speedy Relle Louise while Acclaim Star was again slowly out, but accelerated fast enough to be second into the back straight. Big Pinch led into the home straight but Acclaim Star finished too strongly and went on to score by a length and a half. White Panther ran on well for third. After the race, Acclaim Star was found to have injured a toe and Fletcher turned him out for the year.
The win in the Melbourne Cup was worth $35,000 and took his earnings to $77,000, a new Australian prize money record, eclipsing the previous mark of $61,000 held by former Victorian stayer Lizrene. From 30 starts in 1979 he had won 16 times with four seconds and four thirds.
In January 1980 Acclaim Star was named NSW Greyhound of the Year, defeating Tegimi, Sole Force and distance star Mercia Bale.
With six wins in a row, Acclaim Star resumed on 7 January 1980 in a six-dog heat of the Australian Cup over 511 metres at Olympic Park. From box five he was beaten for the first time in an interstate race, running third to Vibrant King and Mac’s Test.
He bounced back in the semi-final when he exited box eight to defeat Monica’s Mist by almost three lengths with Big Pinch taking third just in front of Olympic Park specialist Striding Ahead. His time of 30.35 was 8/100ths outside the best, recorded by Kalimna Boy.
The field for the Australian Cup final on 10 January was a cracker. Tempix was in the red, Monica’s Mist had box two, Kalimna Boy in box three, Tangaloa box four, Acclaim Star in five, Swanston Eddie box six, Vibrant King in seven, and White Panther box eight.
When the lids lifted, Acclaim Star began fairly but collided with Vibrant King and dropped out of the race. Tangaloa, winner of the 1978 Melbourne Cup and runner-up in the 1979 Australian Cup, jumped in front and led all the way to win by four lengths from Tempix and Kalimna Boy in a fast 30.12. Acclaim Star came home sixth.
After the race, Frank Brown and Bill Fletcher announced Acclaim Star’s retirement. Tangaloa’s win took his prize money to a new Australian record of $93,000. He too went into retirement.
Acclaim Star raced 37 times for 18 wins, five seconds, and six thirds. In four of his eight unplaced runs he finished fourth. He won four of the six major finals he contested and scored on 10 of the 11 tracks at which he started. His prize money tally of $79,000 was the second-highest in Australia at the time of his retirement.
If the box draw truly does make or break many greyhounds then consider this: Acclaim Star drew the ‘squeeze’ alleys five and six 15 times for four wins and six unplaced efforts. From boxes one to four he started 10 times and was never further back than second.