On Thursday night the greyhound racing world farewelled Miata; a true icon who gave our great sport more than just another champion but a legend, whose legacy will live on forever.
As a large crowd assembled at Sandown Park to witness ‘Goldies’ final race start, one trainer and his dog had a fairytale story of their own in mind; to secure back to back Group One RSN Sandown Cups.
In another era, Irma Bale would be regarded as the number one stayer in the Country, yet on every occasion had to settle for the ‘Bridesmaid’ tag, behind Australia’s all-time number one stakes earner.
Leading up to the race, Irma Bale’s champion trainer Graeme Bate had exuded confidence to the media, that his charge could spoil the party and snare the highly sought after $125,000 winner’s purse.
‘I knew if she jumped she would have a real good chance. There was less pressure on her (Irma Bale) since it was Miata’s last race start and once she jumped in front I just prayed she could hold on. What an unreal finish it was, the little girl just keep fighting and finding something and that was most pleasing’ said a proud Bate.
Despite the master trainer’s plethora of Group One victories, Bate still experiences pre-race nerves, as the endless hours of preparation are defined by 42 seconds of racing.
‘I still get quite nervous which people find unusual because I have won a lot of big races but it’s because I care and really want to win. I like to be on my own before a race and just put my head down and wait for the boxes to open’.
Beginning beautifully from box five, the daughter of Batrim Bale and Amelia Bale was heavily challenged in the concluding stages of the grueling 715m distance, lasting by a nose over her competitive rivals; Bell Haven and Miata.
Bate was overwhelmed with joy at the events that unfolded on Thursday night and will never forget the moment for several reasons.
‘She’s been a great little girl over a long period of time. Even though that was her 83rd start she is getting better with every race. She struggled to get past 600m for a while but now she just loves running that distance and we will keep perusing with her when she’s in this sort of form.’
Despite approaching four years of age, the forever-young chaser has plenty of life left in her according to Bate and is already set for her next targeted race at Albion Park next month.
‘We will definitely keep her going when she is performing like she is. I’ll give her a trial next Friday and that will set her up beautifully for the Group One Macro Meats Gold Cup. I’ll be very confident in her preparation going into the heats’.
The heats of the Gold Cup will be conducted on June 6 over the 710m distance, with a healthy $75,000 first prize that could take Irma Bale’s prizemoney total beyond the $600,000 mark. The 25kg lightweight who Bate describes as having ‘a heart as big as any dog I’ve trained’ is proving that age is merely just a number.
In a sentimental touch for Bate, the Lara trainer also put the polish on Irma Bale‘s dam; Amelia Bale, for the latter part of her career back in 2009. The insurmountable rewards of the Paul Wheeler breeding dynasty have provided the resilient combination with several group victories already in 2013 including; Group Two WP Summer Distance Plate, Group Two Launceston Cup and Group Two Bogie Leigh Futurity.
‘Amelia Bale was a beautiful dog but just didn’t quite have the mentality like her sister Amity Bale did. Paul and I discussed that she would make a real handy broodbitch and she has.’
As expected, Wheeler and Bate were spot-on with their prediction as Amelia Bale has produced out of her first litter to Batrim Bale; Bekim Bale ( 2011 Group Three Sandown Shootout winner, Sandown 515m track record holder and active sire), Heston Bale (The Meadows 525m track record holder and active sire) and Adelle Bale (2012 Group One Super Stayers Runner Up).
A daughter of Sonic Flight and Evonne Bale, Amelia Bale’s biggest achievement on the race track was runner up in the 2008 Group One Sapphire Crown Classic. Amelia Bale now has three more litters in the process of progressing to the racetrack to; Cromlah Bale and Hallucinate, who are certainly worth keeping a close eye on in the future.
Being no stranger to success, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the Bate kennel with a tough initiation into the sport. Bate is very appreciative of the triumphs he is experiencing today and I’m certain, in the near future.
‘The prizemoney wasn’t very good back when I first started so I would travel all over the countryside and it was very hard work. What the administrators have done for greyhound racing today is remarkable. The prizemoney is fantastic and there are so many incentives for all types of trainers’.
Graeme Bate’s simple philosophy of treating greyhounds as ‘creatures of habit’ has proven effective time and time again, as the two-time Australian Trainer of the Year is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with again in 2013.
Images courtesy of Sandown Greyhound Racing Club and Paul Munt Photography