Celebrating The Greats – Brother Fox

The career of Brother Fox, a brindle dog by Little Blade out of the great producer Pitstock Park, spanned a mere 13 months and consisted of just 19 races, yet he was without doubt one of the truly great speed dogs of his, or any other, generation.

Whelped in February 1983, Brother Fox was owned and trained by Steve Kavanagh and commenced racing in July 1984 at the tender age of just 15 months. This was in a heat of the long-standing and prestigious Maiden Classic over 402 metres at Grafton. He ran a quick 22.95 in scoring by 15 lengths.

The Grafton Maiden Classic Final proved a roughly run affair and Brother Fox was beaten a long way into third position behind Autumn Lilly.

Seven weeks later Brother Fox scored by four lengths over 405 metres at Maitland, and then went to Singleton for the 466 metres heats of the Singleton Classic. This race had originally been named the Daphne Smith Memorial Classic, inaugurated in 1968, but the name was changed in 1973.

He won his heat by nine lengths from Groundlark in 26.60, the best of the night. Sent out an odds-on favourite for the 21 September final, Brother Fox was knocked out of the race in the early stages and finished a dismal last behind Groundlark.

Just over a month later, Brother Fox made his city debut in a semi-final of the Vic Peters Memorial Classic at Harold Park, over 457 metres. From box three he began only fairly (he was generally a poor starter who gathered phenomenal pace in the first 50 metres of a race) but soon pushed through to the lead. From here he blew his rivals away, scoring by eight lengths from Autumn Lilly (to avenge his Grafton Maiden Classic defeat). He stopped the clock in a blistering 26.04, the best of the night. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, this was the fastest debut time ever recorded at Harold Park.

The brindle flyer drew poorly in box four for the Vic Peters Memorial Classic final and in what would prove to be the only time in his career he started ‘in the black’, he went off at the luxury odds of 5/2 ($3.50).

Brother Fox began better than usual and turned the classic into a procession, greeting the judge five lengths in advance of Brave Gambler in a new world and track record time of 25.82. This clipped a whopping 13/100ths off Victorian sprinter Satan’s Legend’s previous mark.

The Vic Peters was Brother Fox’s last run for 1984. He had compiled a record of seven starts for five wins, one third and one unplaced run.

The speedster resumed in January 1985 in a heat of the Potential Stakes over 530 metres at Wentworth Park. Despite being well boxed in two he was beaten two and a half lengths by Tijuana Will in a slow 31.34.

He drew perfectly in box one for the Potential Stakes final and, although last away, drove hard along the fence and was in front by the time the field went into the first turn. From there it was a slaughter as Brother Fox strolled away to score by a massive 13 lengths and run a sensational 30.65. This was a mere 3/100ths outside the track record and the fastest time recorded at Wentworth Park for five years.

Just a week later Brother Fox found himself in Tasmania contesting a heat of the oldest classic event still conducted in Australia: the Hobart Thousand over 497 metres. Despite the disadvantage of box six, he was sent out a prohibitive 1/8 favourite and didn’t let supporters down, blitzing his rivals in an 11 lengths romp over Highland Port, who had finished second in the 1984 Hobart Thousand final. Brother Fox ran a new track record time of 28.35.

He again scored by 11 lengths in his semi-final, defeating Bridport Silver, and ran 28.21 to take 14/100ths off his own track mark.

In the final of the Hobart Thousand, Brother Fox was poorly placed in box seven but punters could not see him tasting defeat, despite the presence of Tasmanian champion Busy Vintage in the line-up, and he went into the traps as a short-priced 2/7 ($1.30) elect. Brother Fox repaid that faith by giving nothing else a chance, blasting around the circuit in a brilliant 28.31 and beating Busy Vintage by six lengths.

A month later he contested a heat of the Adelaide Cup over 512 metres at Angle Park in South Australia. His winning run came to an end when he could finish only sixth.

Returning to New South Wales, Kavanagh entered him for the Vic Peters Bi-Annual Classic series (now the Peter Mosman Memorial) at Harold Park. He easily qualified for the semi-finals with victory in his non-betting heat and the track record holder defeated November Prince by a widening eight lengths in his semi-final. November Prince would go on to win the 1985 Tweed Heads Galaxy and, in a grand career, win two successive Goulburn Cups (1986 and 1987).

Brother Fox ran an incredible 25.89 in the semi-final, meaning he had now recorded the two fastest times ever run over 457 metres at Harold Park.

The Bi-Annual Classic final also proved to be a one-act affair as he coasted home six lengths clear of the smart Beach Rhythm, the winner of the 1984 NSW St Leger (now the Paws of Thunder) and third in the 1985 Australian Cup.

Brother Fox ran a fast 26.07, the second-fastest time ever run in a Bi-Annual Classic final (the record being held at 25.95 by Satan’s Legend). He was now unbeaten in four starts at Harold Park, long recognised as the home of great speed dogs.

The victory in the Bi-Annual Classic meant Brother Fox had now annexed three age classics in New South Wales, the other two being the Vic Peters Memorial Classic and the Potential Stakes. This was a feat only achieved previously by Victorian champion Tegimi (1978 Vic Peters Memorial Classic, Bi-Annual Classic, and 1979 National Derby) Glider’s Son (1980 Young Star Classic, NSW St Leger, and 1981 Potential Stakes) and Promises Free (1981 NSW St Leger, 1982 National Futurity and Bi-Annual Classic).

Steve Kavanagh then took Brother Fox to Richmond for a crack at the Richmond All-Aged Derby over 537 metres. In his heat on 10 May he exited box seven and gave nothing else a look in, scoring by 15 lengths over Rapid Supreme in a best of the night and very fast 31.34.

Installed a 1/3 ($1.35) favourite for the final, Brother Fox was again drawn in box seven but found early interference. He never received a clear run and despite finishing strongly was beaten just over a length into third place by Rapid Supreme. The latter became the first greyhound to win both the National Derby (held at Wentworth Park) and the Richmond Derby.

Travelling north to Tweed Heads in early June, Brother Fox contested a heat of the prestigious Galaxy, over 420 metres. Starting a 1/8 favourite, he shocked his supporters when he could only struggle into third place, beaten a length by High Line. After the race he was found to be injured.

Brother Fox was out of action for more than 10 weeks while he recovered and did not appear on the track again until 19 August. Contesting an Invitation Stake at Harold Park he was beaten a length and a half by Daisy Emm, despite the advantage of a box one draw. After the race he was found to have sprung a toe, and lacerated webbing. Steve Kavanagh decided to retire the champion to stud.

Brother Fox raced 12 times in 1985 for seven wins, two seconds and two thirds. Overall, he raced 19 times for 12 wins, two seconds and three thirds, being unplaced only twice. He retired with $35,000 in prizemoney and victories in four of the seven major finals he contested, running third in two of the others. Brother Fox started favourite in all 19 of his races and, incredibly, was odds-on in 18.

He started on nine tracks and won on seven (first-up on six) and was the fastest greyhound of all time at Harold Park. In his four wins he averaged a time of 25.96. His average winning margin was a phenomenal 9.2 lengths and no greyhound finished within four lengths of him in his 12 race wins.

Kavanagh advertised Brother Fox at stud for the-then unheard of fee of $1,000 for a first season sire. Despite the fee level he was inundated with bitches and became the leading NSW sire in 1988 and 1991. He also sired a large number of greyhounds who also went on to become leading producers. Among his best progeny were dual Australian Cup winner China Trip, Farmer George, Farmer Wilson, Golden Fox, Gun Law Osti, the sensational Worth Doing, Amerigo Man, West Cape, Walkabout Sid. Brother Fox died peacefully in July 1993.

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