Best Sun: a brief, shining star The annals of greyhound history are littered with countless stories of the ‘could-a-been’ champions as well as the dozens who, their star burning brightly, are suddenly brought crashing to earth and an early stud career or even premature demise, by irreversible injury, after just a handful of races. Among those to figure in the latter category is the winner of the inaugural National Sprint Championship, Best Sun.
A white and fawn dog whelped in August 1963 from the mating of leading sire Sunview and Bareena’s Best, Best Sun was owned and trained by long-time greyhound veteran Eddie Batiste. The trainer had become embroiled in the mysterious deaths of Dr Gilbert Bogle and Mrs Margaret Chandler on New Years day 1963 at the Lane Cove river. He slipped his greyhounds on the Lane Cove river golf course most mornings and had been in the area where the couple were found. There was never any suggestion in Batiste being directly involved in the deaths, but there is a strong belief it was he who was the mysterious person who had covered the partially naked bodies with their clothes.
Best Sun showed ability from the time he was broken in and Batiste had no hesitation in setting him for a maiden race at the home of speed, Harold Park. Best Sun qualified easily and had his first official race start on 22 January 1965. The 17-month-old was poorly drawn in box six for the 500 yards (457 metres) race and missed the start, coming out second-last. Only third as the field came onto the wide home turn, Best Sun cleared the pack as the field straightened for the long run home and came away to score by six lengths in 26.7, two-tenths outside the best of the night.
Eight days after this impressive debut, Best Sun ran in a Sixth Grade event over 580 yards (530 metres) at Wentworth Park. Drawn well in box one he led all the way to once again score by six lengths, running 31.6. Again he was two-tenths outside the best of the night.
He made it three out of three on 13 February with a scratchy victory in a Fifth Grade at Wentworth Park. Drawn in box two he began only fairly and was second at the first turn. He ran out at this point and lost ground, although he managed to hold onto to second position. Best Sun regained his balance and took the lead before the home straight, going on to score by two lengths in a fair 32.0.
A week later, he was never out of trouble from box seven at Harold Park and finished a disappointing seventh. Batiste, wanting to give his charge time to forget this experience, turned him out for a spell.
It was nearly five months before Best Sun came back to the track, contesting a semi-final of the National Derby at Wentworth Park on 17 July. Drawn poorly in box six he was only fairly away and back in fourth spot at the first bend. From second into the back straight he finished strongly in the run home, coming away to win by four lengths from Ang’s Desire with Australian Cup winner Worthing a length away third. Best Sun’s time of 31.7 was just one-tenth outside the best of the night.
The Derby final on 24 July attracted a crowd of more than 10,000 people and although Best Sun had drawn poorly in box seven he went into the race as the 6/4 favourite. Chariot Charm, drawn nicely in box two and a noted strong finisher, was backed from 6/1 into 4/1. He had been narrowly beaten in his semi-final by Kewin. The latter had been an unplaced 1965 Australian Cup finalist and would later win the Winter Stake at Harold Park. Victorian Billy Vee, well drawn in box one, was next best at 5/1.
At box rise, Billy Vee jumped straight to the lead while Best Sun was only fairly away. He was fourth at the first turn but was then checked by Chariot Charm. He held fourth position down the back section but was again hampered by Chariot Charm towards the home corner. In the run to the post, Chariot Charm finished brilliantly and overwhelmed Billy Vee in the last stride to score by half a head. Best Sun ran on well into third place, four lengths away.
The Derby win was Chariot Charm’s 12th win in 25 starts. He had previously run third in the Vic Peter’s Memorial Classic at Harold Park and equalled the 550 yards Maitland track record.
Best Sun returned to the winning list on 31 July when he exited box four in a Fourth Grade race at Harold Park and raced away to down Two Ties by four lengths in a brilliant 26.5, the best of the night.
Best Sun, well drawn in box two for a Third Grade at Wentworth Park on 7 August, gave nothing else a chance as he cruised away to win by 10 lengths from Rocket Saucer, the runner-up in the 1964 NSW St Leger (now Paws of Thunder). Best Sun stopped the clock at 31.1, thereby equalling the track record held by Saskaview and Revwood. The great Roman Earl would equal this record in 1966 before going on to break it twice more.
Batiste now prepared Best Sun for a tilt at the inaugural National Sprint Championship series, the final to be held at Harold Park.
On 28 August the first set of semi-finals for the Championship were held at Harold Park, with representatives from Victoria and Queensland also engaged. The top eight point-scorers through the two semi-final rounds would go through to the national final.
Best Sun, not well served by being in box six, found himself opposed by Chariot Charm and Queensland champion He’s Lightning, the 1965 Queensland Cup winner. Slowly away, Best Sun gathered pace rapidly and was in front as the field reached the home bend. In the straight he held off the fast-finishing Chariot Charm to win by one length. He’s Lightning was six lengths further adrift in third place. Once more Best Sun had run a fast 26.5, the best of the night.
He found himself opposed yet again to Chariot Charm in the semi-finals held at Wentworth Park on 4 September. Best Sun had box five while Chariot Charm had drawn alley seven. This time it was Chariot Charm who prevailed, running home six lengths clear of Best Sun in a sensational 31.2, easily the best time of the night.
The final of the National Sprint Championship on 11 September featured some of the most outstanding sprinters in the nation, including Billy Vee (who went on to win the 1966 Australian Cup and Geelong Cup), He’s Lightning, Black Tass (the Harold Park track record holder at 26.3), Lady Sonic (the 1963 NSW Country Championship winner), and Satyr Rocket (winner of the 1965 Bi-Annual Classic [now Peter Mosman Memorial]).
Once more Best Sun was poorly served by the box draw, coming up with the black rug of alley seven while his chief rival, Chariot Charm, drew nicely in box two. In the end it didn’t matter: Best Sun began well enough to secure a good position in the run to the first turn and then defied his rivals in the run home, defeating Satyr Rocket by two lengths with Chariot Charm a length away third. Black Tass was fourth ahead of He’s Lightning, Billy Vee, Triple Speed and Lady Sonic. Best Sun ran the trip in a speedy 26.6 and earned the equivalent of $4,000 for his owner.
Batiste gave his charge a well-earned break and brought Best Sun back on 22 October for the semi-finals of the Vic Peter’s Memorial Classic at Harold Park. From box seven he began well and as the field swept onto the turn into the home straight, near the 800 yards starting boxes, Best Sun was four lengths clear. All of a sudden the white and fawn dog began pulling up. He crossed the line in fourth place but it was clear something was not right and an inspection after the event found him to be injured. Already a valuable stud commodity, Batiste decided to retire him.
Best Sun raced just 12 times for eight wins, one second, and one third. His average winning margin was just under 4.4 lengths and he was undefeated in three starts from boxes one and two.
Best Sun proved popular at stud. When mated with inaugural NSW Greyhound of the Year Blue Autumn, one of the results of the litter was the smart Main Issue. He later sired the great Harold Park sprinter Early Copy and he, in turn, sired 1981 NSW Greyhound of the Year Glider’s Son.