By Paul Dolan
In February this year, I penned a story in this newspaper concerning what it was like to experience greyhound racing at the former Gabba track in Brisbane.
I’m still amazed about the number of people who like to chat about those days. So, let’s take a look at what happened on the Gabba’s final night of racing.
It was Thursday night February 4, 1993, and around 3,000 people turned up to say they were there on that somewhat historic occasion. The State Government of the day, led by Labor premier Wayne Goss along with Racing Minister Bob Gibbs had made the decision to relocate greyhound racing from the Gabba to Albion Park. The Gabba was to be upgraded to the high standard which AFL and cricket followers enjoy there to this day.
Races were named for outgoing track record holders plus some Queensland greyhounds of the year.
Race one was the Coonowrin Bess Stake, named for the Ray Gatti trained bitch who won over each of the Gabba’s four race distances of 420, 558, 704 and 895 metres. Tokyo de Ville at 6 to 1 or $7 scored for John Reimer from box four. Seven nights later, at Albion Park’s opening night, Tokyo De Ville again won the first race, this time from box seven.
The Tickety Boo Stake was race two, named for Tony Zammit’s 558 metres record holder. Steve Kavanagh scored with $5.50 chance Chris Mac from box five.
Race three was the Genuine Crown Sprint over 420 metres, named for Mike O’Byrne’s record holder of that sprint distance. As had been the case for many years, box one was a huge advantage from the 420 metres start which was on a bend near the famous Gabba fig tree hill. $3.50 chance Bogen Flash for Jim Margetts scored from the red alley.
The Pretty Fearless Stake was named for Reg and Mary Crawford’s 1987 Queensland GOTY. Kev MacIntosh won with Mr. Fruit Fly from box five at $6.50.
The Amanda Flash Stake was named for Mike O’Byrne’s 1985 Qld. GOTY. The winner was Coonowrin Jessie, a daughter of Coonowrin Bess, for Ray Gatti from box six at $6.00.
John Reimer chalked up his second winner for the night when $7 chance Tokyo Capers won the Don’t Cry Stake from box five. Don’t Cry was the Gabba 895 metres record holder for Jeff ‘The Northside Legend’ Ahern.
The feature event, the Goodbye Gabba Trophy over 558 metres, saw Worth a Packet for Don Gammon of Ipswich take it out at $5.50 from box seven.
The continuation of winners from what would be deemed awkward or tricky box draws continued when the Brian Bretherton-trained Sweet Gum at $11 won the Hopeful Doll Stake over 704 metres from box three. The Mike O’Byrne trained Hopeful Doll was the outgoing 704 metres record holder.
The Wallowa Flash Stake was the penultimate race, named for Margaret Quarrell’s 1991 Qld GOTY. Opal King from box one gave John Reimer a treble for the night. Opal King’s fluctuations were $14 into $9 so perhaps Reimer had placed some of his earlier winnings on this dog.
Racing concluded with the Cool Marvel Stake, named for Tony Zammit’s 1990 Qld GOTY. Box one stood up to be counted again, this time the Annette Ritchie-owned Don Gammon trained Pretty Boy Buddy, as the $2.75 favourite. That completed a double for the Ritchie – Gammon combination, and it concluded 21 years of racing at the Gabba venue.
With only one favourite successful from the ten races, many punters were probably happy to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gabba.
For the record, the last greyhound across the line in the last race was Ennis Road, trained by Jeff ‘Don Bradman’ King. A trophy was provided for the last dog to cross the line and King was totally rapt to receive that trophy.
Many people claimed pieces of the Gabba turf and various items as mementos of that swansong occasion.