Caption: Handler Robin Loechel and his niece Tracy Loechel after Weblec Star’s win in the SA Distance Championship. (Photo: Kurt Donsberg)
South Australian news with KURT DONSBERG
Angle Park celebrated 50 years of racing on April 29 and it was a meeting to remember!
The weather gods weren’t kind to us early with a bit a drizzle but a large crowd continued to roll in before the first race, with a final estimate of close to 1000 spectators and guests keen to relive some history and watch history in the making…..and they weren’t disappointed.
Among the guests were some of the trainers who were there all those years ago. The likes of Blair Cross, Colin and Joan Wachtel and Betty Oehme – the wife of John who had the very first winner at Angle Park back in 1972. The first race of the night named the John Oehme Riverette Stake.
The night had a real nostalgic feel to it. There was a vintage-style racebook, the handlers in race five also wore the old coloured jackets from the early 2000’s and Ray Fewings authored a book “Chasing A Dream” that encapsulated the last half a century.
Races on the program were named after some of South Australia’s greyhound pioneers such as Howard Ashton, Doug Payne and Brian Johnstone – all of whom have been inducted into the Australian Greyhound Hall of Fame. Other races named after some of the best dogs to ever go around Angle Park like Bristol Miss, Brett Lee and Fernando Bale who broke the one million dollar prizemoney barrier when he won the 2015 Adelaide Cup.
The main two features of the night were the SA Distance Championship – being run first – and then the big one, the 2022 50th Anniversary Cup with $50,000 first prize up for grabs.
The distance final produced a full field of eight and a finish that was described by racecaller Brenton Yates as “a ripper!”
It was a very open affair with three dogs battling for favouritism, including Victa Haydn who jumped to an early lead. Another fancied runner, Weblec Star was caught deep early from the wide draw and couldn’t ever get to the rail for the entire 730m trip.
Down the back Haydn cleared out but Weblec Star just kept grinding and up the home straight the last time the little girl dug deep and found enough to collar Haydn right on the post giving her the SA Distance crown and five wins on the bounce.
Trained by Neville Loechel, it’s definitely a family affair for the retired farmer from Caloote with wife Judith always by his side along with their daughters, granddaughters and brother Robin who always boxes their local dogs.
Robin described the win “as her best yet” and was clearly emotional after the run.
Weblec Star is raced by the Weblang Syndicate managed by Angel Langton, and the win made it her 16th from 63 starts and the bank balance sits around $63,000.
It was then on to the second feature final of the night – the 2022 50th Anniversary Cup. All the handlers looked mickey mouse in their dinner suits adding to the appeal of the night, and the field was just as hot!
Interstate visitor, Auspicious Queen for Paul Abela was the public elect at $3.00 after drawing the red, with local star Fantastic Victor hot on his heels at $4.00.
At the box rise, it was one of the outsiders, Threaten, starting at $21, who led early – as he did when winning his heat – and gave the field something to think about. He pulled away down the back, but the challengers were coming – in the form of Auspicious Queen and Mallee Magic.
Off the back straight Mallee Magic found an extra gear and shot past Threaten with Auspicious Queen doing her best to go with him, but the 2021 SA Derby winner proved too strong, hitting the line in front by 2.5 lengths in a best of the night performance of 30:32.
The win capped off a big month for the brindle son of Worm Burner giving him four wins from his five outings in April and a purse of nearly $60k for just that month.
Mallee Magic is owned by Cameron Butcher and trained by Tony Rasmussen, who was all praise for the dog after coming back from a shoulder injury in September last year. Rasmussen was also quick to thank his family and all his helpers without whom “none of this would be possible”
The win notched up Mallee Magic’s 14th from 28 career starts and prizemoney now totalling around $117,000.
Brett Lee statue unveiled
Another highlight of the night was the unveiling of the highly anticipated Brett Lee statue – and there was a good chunk of emotion on show when the sheet came back and there he was!
The statue was the work of renowned local sculptor Ken Martin, who also did the Makybe Diva and Malcolm Blight statues. He’s done a top notch job capturing the essence of the only dog to ever break the 29 second barrier over the, now retired, 515 metres at Angle Park.
Kathy Johnstone, who was entrusted with the care of the little champ for his 2001 Adelaide Cup campaign, was on course for the big reveal – and when the sheet came off her eyes lit up!
“He gave me some of the best moments of my life,” said a beaming Kathy. “It’s so good to remember some of the champs from the past. It’s like he’s still here now!”
And just like the old days, she was quick to give her champ a kiss!
In the daylight you can really see how much detail has gone into the statue … it’s pretty epic.
So much work must have gone into the eyes alone – and sculptor Ken Martin, has even given them colour (that you didn’t really notice at night time)
Well worth a look if you’re ever in the neighbourhood!
Fantastic Victor-y at Murray Bridge
Fantastic Victor has been in a rich vein of form of late with 9 wins from his last 14 starts including the Eastar Match Race Series and he continued his outstanding run of results in the Murray Bridge Straight Track Cup.
After comfortably winning his heat the previous week at his first look at the track, he proved it was no fluke when he beat defending champion Aston Olenna in the final by nearly three lengths.
Jumping from the yellow box, he was given a small advantage when another fancied runner – Major Cyclone – was a late scratching from the adjacent six box. With plenty of early burn Victor was able to lead early and from there he was able to do his own thing without any trouble to score a comfortable win.
Trainer Ossie Chegia was pretty pleased with his star chaser.
“The scratching probably helped but we always knew he was going to improve after his first look and we weren’t worried about the squeeze box,” he said. “He tends to jump and hold his line so we were reasonably confident he could lead and then it was a case of catch me if you can.”
Asked about future plans Ossie was … well Ossie: “We’ll take him home tonight and feed him!
“We haven’t really looked too far ahead but we might target the Nationals coming up. If we do we’ll go for the circle track, not the straight. I think the final is at Wentworth Park this year and he did a lot of his early racing there, so he knows the track.”
His win in the Straight Track Cup was his 29th from 64 career starts and his prizemoney now sits at just over $101,000.