In March 1997 trainer Roger Green stated the best distance for his smart young sprinter Roanokee was “from 450 to 500 metres, but he has such brilliant early pace he is capable of getting away with a big 520 metre sprint at Wentworth Park.”
By New Tears out of Free Method, the brindle dog was already proving to be one of the best sprinters to come out of Queensland having made the finals of three major races at Wentworth Park. In the last of these he had just failed to run out the 520 metres, going under narrowly in the National Derby.
As it happened, Green was wrong on one count. Roanokee would never again make a Wentworth Park major final. Yet, just a few months after his statement, the champion sprinter would blitz a reasonable line-up in the Queensland Derby, taking the event in race record time before going on to snare his biggest prize: the 1997 Melbourne Cup, defeating a hot field.
Roanokee was whelped in November 1994 and commenced racing at the July carnival in Grafton in 1996 where he won his first two starts, both over 407 metres, before finishing second at his next run.
Green decided to have a crack at the Young Star Classic series at Wentworth Park with his 20-month-old speedster. He led up in his semi-final but was run down by the smart Kedo’s Millie, and in the final he again reached the lead but ran out of steam in the home straight and faded to finish sixth to Jazzy Tom.
Five successive victories followed, at Toowoomba, Ipswich, Lismore and the Gold Coast, before a seventh to Grysbok in the Lismore Cup (a best eight event).
In October Green had Roanokee back at Wentworth Park for a crack at the Vic Peters Memorial Classic. In his semi-final, Roanokee led all the way and broke his duck at Wentworth Park, defeating Tricky Wind by just over two lengths.
In the final he was never able to reach the lead and faded from second to fifth place behind Tricky Wind, Tranquil Fire, Byrneville Kara and Louisiana Lass, in what proved to be a very good field.
Returning to Queensland Roanokee notched five straight wins at Ipswich and the Gold Coast, including a solid success in the Ipswich Gold Cup.
Green set Roanokee for the Winter Carnival Cup (then known as the Eukanuba Cup) over 520 metres at Albion Park. In his heat he was run down and narrowly beaten by Saint Hallett, but in the $45,000-to-the-winner final Roanokee kept going to defeat Weeping Vixen and Jurassic Vapour in a fast 30.06.
Roanokee ended 1996 having raced 20 times for 14 wins and three seconds.
He began 1997 with wins at Ipswich and Toowoomba and then went back to Wentworth Park for a crack at the National Derby, winning his heat and semi-final and drawing box one for the final. In an exciting and close-fought race Roanokee led everywhere but on the line, fading right at the end to be beaten a neck into third place by Comrade In Arms and fellow Queenslander Deep North.
It wasn’t long after this that Roger Green confessed Roanokee struggled beyond 500 metres but his early speed should help him annex a major Group event.
At the end of April he failed to beat a runner home in his heat of the Australian Cup at Sandown, but was later found to be injured and would not race again for almost two months.
When Roanokee returned, in June 1997, he put together a wonderful sequence of nine consecutive wins. It started with two wins over 457 metres at Toowoomba, followed by wins in the heat and final of the Gold Coast Cup (457 metres) and then a resounding success in the heat and final of the Queensland Derby at Albion Park.
In the Derby final, Roanokee scored by six and half lengths in 30.00, setting a new race record and finally proving Roger Green’s claim that he could win a major 520 metre event.
Three more victories followed, at the Gold Coast, Ipswich and a heat of the Brisbane Cup, downing Barrio Babe, to make it nine straight since he resumed.
Barrio Babe reversed the placings in the Brisbane Cup final, downing Roanokee by three-quarters of a length with Victorians Lansley Bale and Chicago Blue third and fourth respectively.
Invited back for a second crack at the Lismore Cup, Roanokee led all the way to score narrowly from Leonie’s Osti. In fourth place was Rapid Journey, then just beginning to make a name for himself.
Roanokee was invited to contest the Topgun in October and did well on a wet track, beaten just under three lengths into third place by Chicago Blue and Awesome Assassin.
Victories followed at Ipswich and Albion Park and then the-now three-year-old took on the Melbourne Cup, easily winning his heat before picking up the $100,000 winners purse in downing Lansley Bale and World Title in the final. It was to be the high-water mark of his grand career.
Back in Brisbane, Roanokee again made the final of the Winter Carnival Cup (that year called the Nutrience Cup), but from a wide alley could only run sixth behind Wine Glass in the final.
He closed out the year with a win in top grade at Albion Park to finish 1997 having raced 32 times for 23 wins and four placings. It was no surprise when Roanokee was named as Queensland Greyhound of the Year, defeating Smooth Rumble and Wine Glass for the honour.
He began 1998 by again failing to make the Australian Cup final when last behind eventual final winner Fibba in his heat.
The brindle quickly bounced back with victory in the Toowoomba Cup before ending his career with another failed tilt at the Golden Easter Egg, running second in his heat and fourth in his semi-final.
Roanokee finished with 40 wins, six seconds, and two thirds from only 59 starts. He was undefeated in seven starts at the Gold Coast and eight runs at Toowoomba, all of them over 457 metres. At Albion Park he won eight of 11 starts with two seconds. He earned $297,850 in prize money, at the time an amount second only to Flying Amy among Queensland-domiciled greyhounds.