Unlikely Partners – How The West Is Becoming Tassie’s Second Home
The distance between Hobart and Perth is approximately 4000kms, and would take approximately 4.5 hours of flying time should one be lucky enough to find a direct path. It is also further than the distance across Europe, from England to Turkey as an example, and despite this, an ever growing number of our canine athletes are making this taxing journey to find greener pastures.
Whereas just getting starts in a comfortable grade is becoming increasingly harder in today's racing landscape, it would be understandable that both owners and trainers would be looking outside the traditional routes. However, the link between Western Australian and Tasmanian greyhound scenes is no overnight fad, but more an ever-growing relationship that is seeing both sides of the Nullabor benefit.
In the most recent Saturday night Cannington programme, no less than five former Tasmanian greyhounds were engaged for a regular graded meeting, through four different trainers. While that number may seem co-incidental enough, the highlighted card at The Meadows the same night contained only six genuine interstate greyhounds from three individual states. However, unlike visitor greyhounds that travel for feature events and return home immediately, the number of migrating Tasmanian dogs becoming based in the west is something quickly gathering attention.
Back in 2004, a greyhound by the name of Bin on Fire was sent from the Julie Bannon kennels in Tasmania to the racetracks of Perth. Having found the higher grades of the Apple Isle a bit fierce, a chance to become a grade 5 at three tracks again, in class not too dissimilar, was tempting. Like the rejuvenated creature it was, Bin On Fire would win four city-class races on the trot at Cannington once arriving, and amassed six further wins in W.A before retirement.
While other greyhounds may have stepped a similar path beforehand, it wasn't until the success of Bin on Fire did the door really open for Tasmanian dogs to try their luck in the far west.
Foolish Girl was another who had reached its maximum grade in the limited Tasmanian meetings, before being sent across to W.A in 2005. It would go on to dominate the Free-For-All class, winning 22 races in its' adopted state, including representation for W.A in the National Sprint Final held at Wentworth Park.
Since those early pioneers of Bin on Fire and Foolish Girl, Linda Britton has played the biggest part in giving Tasweigian imports a new home, and has had considerable success in doing so. Since 2008, those in a much longer list include Collector (2 wins, 13 placings in W.A), Lucky Louey (5 wins), Regent Diamond (14 wins) and currently Ever Grace (22 wins over 2 years).
Our very own Australian Cricket captains have done a similar thing with their dogs, starting with Embrocadero in 2007. Owned by Michael Clarke, the strong black stayer made its way to the kennels of Andrew Mclaren, where it won six races under his care. Likewise, Clarke's mentor, Ricky Ponting has very recently sent Strapper's Angel (part of the Collide x Ricky Angel litter) over where it has already won five of only 12 starts in its new surroundings.
Other notable members of this club include the widely travelled Accounts, who made Cannington FFA grade comfortably with 7 wins, Uno Keysy, Roo Paddy, Bashy's Boy and both Sitka and Sandhog who spent time in the Bill Mcnally camp to find form before returning home.
Perth has now frequently become the target for those feature race hit-and-run types as well. Shane Whitney's Chinatown Lad and Fallen Zorro first made a name for themselves during the 2008 Galaxy series, while Topline Doovee went over to claim the W.A Oaks in 2009. Even as recent as last year, Man For Man, who was undefeated at the time, was too good for the locals in the Westcha$e final, claiming $12,000 before making the flight home to Launceston.
The plights of these names above raise questions as to why success would come so frequently for Tassie dogs, when the standard of racing in Perth is believed to be superior to those on the island. Perhaps the climate or training conditions of those down south prepare them for such a journey, or maybe it is as simple as the depth of the two states being comparable despite popular belief. Both these factors would be very hard to substantiate, and in essence are highly subjective anyway. Furthermore, it seems surprising that the flow of greyhounds in the opposite direction does not seem to be occurring (although could Kalden Veyron's win in Hobart last Thursday be the start?).
Tasracing, the governing body for all three codes on the Isle, may want to start looking into why a growing number of contestants feel the need to migrate so drastically. Prizemoney is relative healthy in the state, and the depth of staying events has picked up since Hobart installed 709m boxes in preparation for the Nationals. Nonetheless the flow to Perth continues, and has become an intriguing pattern regardless of the reasons involved. For now, and possibly for a long time to come, this choice is one that both sides are willing to continue with.