Ballarat back on track and set for Western Districts classics

Caption: New Ballarat General Manager Jodie Faralla

By TERRY WILSON

LAST year the Western Districts Derby became a sort of unwanted smash-up race which forced the annual event to be relocated away from its traditional home at Ballarat and moved to Geelong.

Raced for so many years in Ballarat, the Derby and its running partner the Oaks had to be switched to Geelong because of a freak accident that caused considerable damage to the Ballarat kennel block.

The story goes that a runaway vehicle crashed through the property’s fence, somehow missed two big trees on its journey, and ploughed into the back of the kennel block.

Eventually finding a temporary home on Corio Bay, the Derby was raced over 460 metres and was won by Music Event, trained by Michael Carter of Kialla.

Now the Derby ($20,000 to the winner) and the Oaks ($15,000 to the

winner) are back at home where heats are scheduled for February 2 and the finals on February 9.

The Derby was instigated by Sam McNeill, who backed the then-new event to promote western Victoria greyhounds.

Lil Dickie, a long-time administrator, has her name heading the Western Districts Oaks.

The Derby was first raced in 2011 when Stanford Bale won the Group listed event.

The Lil Dickie Oaks had its first staging in 2014 and is also Group listed.

The two classics remain two of Ballarat’s most important events behind the G2 Ballarat Cup.

New Ballarat general manager Jodie Faralla also provided a more comprehensive explanation of events that led the two semi-classics being raced at Geelong last year.

The report was included in the club’s newsletter. It read:

“On Wednesday 10th February, Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club was set to host its second biggest night of racing outside of the Group 2 Ballarat Cup in April.

“The 12-race program was scheduled to showcase the $15,000-to-the-winner Lil Dickie Oaks Final

 (450m) and the $20,000-to-the-winner Western Derby (450m).

“However on the morning of Tuesday 9th February a car crashed into the kennel block.

“Fortunately, the driver of the car escaped unscathed and was taken to hospital.

“However, the accident left the race day kennels with significant damage inside and out.

“Until repairs were signed off, our neighbouring track Geelong Greyhound Racing Club, hosted our regular Monday and Wednesday meetings.

“We thank Ray Bartolo and the Geelong team for their support.

“Greyhound Racing Victoria gave Ballarat a month\’s grace for the clean-up and to announce the timetable for repairs and an expected return to racing.”

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