He’s drawn the alley, he has the class credentials; has he got what it takes to annex a third Group One event?
That’s the question being asked of Kilty Lad for the 30th July 2011 final of the Maturity Classic at the Meadows.
The fact he has drawn beautifully in box one, statistically a huge advantage in any major race over 525 metres at the Meadows, means Kilty Lad is so obviously the one to beat. Yet he faces a potentially tough task in beating history.
Since its inception in 1970 -six years after the inaugural running of the Silver Chief Classic- the Maturity Classic has been taken out by some pretty good greyhounds. Between 1970 and 1998 it was run over 511 metres at Olympic Park. Some of the winners include Temlee (1974), Satan’s Legend (1978), Pharaoh’s Mask (1986), New Tears (1987), Hay Dinney (1988), and Northern Legend (1995). It’s worth mentioning that two of those winners, namely Pharaoh’s Mask and Northern Legend, went on to great heights over the longer journey.
This Maturity Classic is unique in the sense that since the move to the Meadows and the 525 metres distance, it is the first time the race has hosted two Silver Chief finalists: namely Kilty Lad and Stefan Bale. Kilty Lad, of course, won the Silver Chief in January (from box five) while Stefan Bale was injured in finishing last and was out of action for over four months.
The only other dual finalists since 2003 have been Hotline Hero (2003), Rock Cool Daddy (2005 Maturity; 2006 Silver Chief), Run’s House (2007), and Sheoak Ian (2009 Maturity; 2010 Silver Chief).
Of these, only Run’s House has been successful, winning the 2007 Maturity after running fifth in the Silver Chief. Hotline Hero was fourth in the Silver Chief and last in the Maturity; Rock Cool Daddy ran last in both events; and Sheoak Ian was sixth in the Maturity and fourth in the Silver Chief.
With 21 wins in 40 starts overall, eight successes from 11 outings at the Meadows, and four victories in five races out of box one, Kilty Lad rates extremely highly, but it’s worth noting that this year’s Maturity field is arguably one of the best ever assembled in its long history.
It is the easily the most experienced in terms of race starts since the 2008 final. This year’s finalists have collectively raced 205 times. In 2008, the year Paddy’s Flame was successful, the field had raced a collective 214 times. This figure, though, was inflated by Queenslander Make You Happy, who had started on 64 occasions. This year, Kilty Lad is the veteran, with 40 previous starts.
This year’s finalists boast one of the most amazing strike rates I’ve ever seen for a major final: 101 victories for a 49.26 percent average. When El Grand Senor won last year’s Maturity, the strike rate was 83 wins from 198 races, a very healthy 41.91 percent average. The 2009 field had a 40 percent win average (54 from 135 collective starts) while the 2008 race was a comparatively weak 37.85 percent (81 wins from 214 outings).
Since 1970, only two greyhounds have won both the Silver Chief and Maturity Classic. The first of these was the sensational speed machine Satan’s Legend. He annexed the 1977 Silver Chief from box one in July and then, in February 1978 he exited box seven to take the Maturity by almost seven lengths. Satan’s Legend went on to take out the Bi-Annual Classic (now the Peter Mosman) at Harold Park in track and world record time before eventually finishing his career with 18 wins from just 27 starts.
The second dual winner was Enfield. He exited box four to win the 1990 Silver Chief and seven months later, on 3 June 1991, he again had box four when he took out the Maturity by almost three lengths. That was his 26th start and although he had been favourite for the Silver Chief, he was a $6.00 chance for the Maturity following patchy form. The Maturity success was his 13th victory. Enfield went on to race on 19 more occasions for just six wins.
Put simply, Kilty Lad faces a tough task, in historical terms, if he is to take out this year’s Maturity Classic.