Formerly held at Sandown Park, until 1999, the Silver Chief has been run at The Meadows ever since.
The race is named after Silver Chief, a brilliant coursing greyhound of the late 1930s and a good performer up the straight and on the circle, but an outstanding sire. This last factor is almost certainly the reason the puppy classic was named in his honour.
Owned and trained by Ray Herbert, Silver Chief (Pharminda x Silvermane) was a fawn dog whelped in July 1936. He had his first race start on 7 September 1937, at the age of 14 months. He was heavily backed to win up the straight at Sandown Park, so much so that his connections were unable to place all their money on him before the start. Silver Chief gave them no cause for concern, winning by a length and a half.
In November, Silver Chief contested the Melbourne Gold Cup series. He was surprisingly beaten a half length in a heat when a 2/5 ($1.40) favourite. He then ran third in a second round heat, beaten three and half lengths by Phil Goldsmith, a greyhound owned by Roy Maidment (after whom the staying trophy is named). Despite these defeats, Silver Chief made it through to the semi finals and duly saluted, downing John Gavin and Gay Monarch to go through to the final, along with his kennelmate Ever Bright.
The 1937 Melbourne Gold Cup final, held on 27 November when Silver Chief was just 16 months old, saw Herbert’s star hit the front just 30 metres from the finishing line only to be overwhelmed by Gay Monarch and go under by one length. Ever Bright ran third to give Herbert the minor placings.
Silver Chief continued to win into 1938, scoring a double over 300 yards at Geelong on 5 and 9 April and then making it three in a row with a win at Sandown on 12 April. At the end of April he registered an emphatic 15 lengths victory up the straight 400 yards at Napier Park.
Contesting the Victorian Guineas at Napier Park in June, Silver Chief was surprisingly beaten half a length in his heat, over 300 yards. Records are vague, but in November he was second in top grade race over 450 yards at Albury.
In between his racetrack duties, Silver Chief proved very successful on the coursing field. He divided the 1938 Victorian Sires’ Produce Stakes with his kennelmate Ever Bright while in 1939 he reached the pinnacle by annexing the Waterloo Cup.
By 1940 Silver Chief was campaigning with little success on the tracks of New South Wales. He was unplaced at Dapto in April that year and later the same month unplaced over 525 yards at Cessnock.
As a sire, Silver Chief was outstanding. Go back far enough and his name can be found in the pedigrees of some outstanding chasers. Genuine topliners and stud successes such as Cheltenham Lass, Chief Zephyr, Eaglehawk Star, Fairbairn Lady, Half Your Luck, Malawi, Pharaoh’s Mask, Plunder Road, Sheila’s Teresa, Tangairn, and Tangaloa are just a few who can trace back to Silver Chief.
With greats like these in his line descendants it’s no wonder the race is called the Silver Chief Classic.