In greyhound racing circles, the month of May can only mean one thing – Sandown Cup. The ‘Melbourne Cup for Stayers' always attracts the finest going around, and usually the finals go down as the great races in the history of our Sport. In preparation for the 2012 version of this great event, here is a look back at the victors for the 21st century so far:
2000 – The first Sandown Cup of the new millennium was taken out Osti's Joker in 42.26. The son of Gallant Ruler and Versatile Osti was approaching four years old when he won the Cup, and would eventually go on to win the National Distance Championships in Launceston the same year. This iron dog eventually retired in February 2002, at over five years of age, with a bank account of over $180,000. His Sandown Cup win some twelve years ago, currently remains the last time the cup was won form box one.
2001 – A front-running white dog by the name of Bentley Babe took out the Cup the following year in 42.54 ahead of Pearl Larricki in a great finish. It was a strong time for stayers, with dogs such as Gateway, Tip Top Tears, Hotshow Vintage, Why Complain and Mr Boswell all at their best. Bentley Babe continued on to make it back to back Group 1 finals, when beating Call Collect in a heat of the Albion Park Gold Cup a few weeks later. Bentley Babe was by Head Honcho out of Malawi Blue and trained by Peter Dapiran.
2002 – West Australian, Jennev (Moonambel Prince – Natglen) caused a boilover when she turned the tables on champ, Boomeroo to win the final by less than a length from box seven. After tasting defeat the week before, Linda Britton's consistent chaser found a way to cling on the next time around, defeating both Mighty Galore and Boomeroo in 42.46. Eventually, she would go on to be a grand veteran of 136 starts including 43 wins.
2003 – Arvo's Junior was the premier stayer at the time, and won the premier event in 42.48. George Arvanitis had a great run with this son of Arvo's Express, getting the chance to compete in a plethora of black-type races in an exceptional 98-start career. His Sandown Cup winning time was 42.48 defeating Rare Aussie by a length.
2004 – It was Jason Thompson's turn to stand on the top podium step when Proven Lethal took the Cup in 2004 at barely two years of age. After only a handful of half-mile starts, the son of Awesome Assassin and Proven Gain had no trouble from box three, and was too good for South Aussie Springvale Jinx. Whilst winning by almost four lengths in a super 42.12, unfortunately Proven Lethal would only race another 9 times, mainly over the sprint trips before finally succumbing to injury.
2005 – A New South Wales invader came, saw and conquered when Best Quoted upset hot favourite Texas Gold to win in 42.33. Settling midfield, the brindle bitch was too strong in the run to the post and took out the honours by 3 lengths. It was only a matter of time before a Token Prince continued it's domination of staying events and this litter by Miss Quoted was certainly one of the best.
2006 – Sargent Major stamped himself as the leading stayer of his time with an emphatic win in 42.50. Peter Giles put the polish on the son of Stately Bird, who had put the result of the final beyond doubt at an early stage with a typical front-running display. By the time Sargent Major completed his racing career, he had competed in no less than twelve Group finals.
2007 – The 2007 running of the Sandown Cup was sensationally deemed a “No Race” after Sky Hazzard's trainer Don Hazzard accidentally released the field from the boxes by using the manual release lever to steady himself after boxing his greyhound. You can relive the moment watching Sandown's 2008 promotion of the event by sending up Don and his error.
2008 – There was no race held in 2007 so we had to wait two years for the next installment, but it was worth the wait for the folks down south. The Apple Isle had arguably their finest moment in the history of the sport when the Tasmanian bred, owned and trained pair of Chinatown Lad and Fallen Zorro ran the quinella to begin their reign of dominance. Chinatown Lad was the victor on this occasion in 42.14, and again in the Albion Park Gold Cup less than a month later, while Fallen Zorro would go on to take out another three group events herself. It was a dream year for trainer Shane Whitney, having two of the three finalists in the Australian GOTY.
2009 – Mantra Lad was bred to stay, being by Pure Octane out of Al Fresco, and that potential was justified by dazzling Sandown Cup win he put together back in 2009. An amazingly capable chaser, Mantra Lad finished racing as a triple Group 1 winner, but it was his 42.00 Sandown Cup win that was the pick of his 26 career victories. Only the great Lizrene has won a Sandown Cup by a bigger margin.
2010 – Next Top Model defeated a supremely talented field to claim victory in one of the best Cup finishes in recent memory. After leading for the majority of the way, Next Top Model was clearly headed into the straight by Reign Over Me, but kicked back to get the better end of a tight photo finish, giving Jason Thompson two winners in four years. With the likes of Satanic Cash, Jarvis Bale and Symmetry amongst the beaten brigade, it elevated the win to something special, including the time of 41.96; the first of the Cups won in under 42.00. As is the fickle nature of racing, Next Top Model would only win one from the next six before retirement.
2011 – So that brings us to the most recent edition, where a young black dog going by the name Bobby Boucheau would turn the event into a one-act affair, accounting for Pillow Torque by five lengths, and setting a new race (and track) record of 41.57 in the process. More than six lengths faster than any other Sandown Cup winner in the race's history, Bobby Boucheau had a huge affinity for outside boxes, but that didn't stop him pinging out from box two in May last year. Sadly we won't ever get to see the champ defend his title after his immediate retirement was announced very recently.