By DAVID BRASCH
HALL of Fame greyhound journo Jeff Collerson remembers back in 1990 thinking the name, the Golden Easter Egg for a glamour race at Wentworth Park, was a “bit silly, corny even”.
It has grown on him since.
That’s because “The Egg” has become one of the world’s greatest greyhound races, won by legends most years, but a race everyone wants to win.
Collerson turned 77 on Valentine’s Day and never misses a Wentworth Park race meeting. He has seen every running of the Easter Egg.
“The name has grown on everyone, and the race has grown so much in importance,” Jeff said. “Actually, Golden Easter Egg is a nice change from the traditional race names like The Derby, The St Leger, all of them coming from English thoroughbred racing.”
The first running of The Egg in 1990 was won by Jim and Christine Coleman’s Ultra Sense.
“It was the very first $100,000-to-the-winner greyhound race run in Australia,” Jeff said.
“Since then, Victorians have won 16, NSW 12, two from Queensland one from WA.”
Like all greyhound followers, Collerson has watched in awe at some of the greats to have won the race … Highly Blessed, Tenthill Doll, Rapid Journey, Brett Lee, Paua To Burn, right down to Fernando Bale and last year’s race record winning Tommy Shelby.
“The best performance I have ever seen in an Easter Egg final was from Zipping Bailey in 2019,” Jeff said. “She was a clear last going around the first turn and still only third coming to the home turn.
“Her run to win was phenomenal. And, remember, she put up such a performance in an Easter Egg.”
He rates the battle between Paua To Burn and runner-up Eiffella in 2005 the most exciting.
“They went head and head for most of the race before Paua To Burn got up to win by three-quarters of a length on the line,” he said.
“And, the next year Ken Wright, who had trained Eiffella, won the race with Edie Beauchamp in 29.80, then a race record.”
No discussion of the history of the Golden Easter Egg can go by without Brett Lee and Fernando Bale coming to the fore.
“Brett Lee was awesome, a flying machine,” Jeff said. “Brilliant early, just like Fernando Bale.
“It was uncanny the way Fernando Bale would begin. Wenty bookie Mark Merlino, who is still on the rails at the horses these days, said he had watched Fernando Bale every time he raced at Wentworth Park and how he began.
“He said to me one night, watch how he is standing up in the boxes until the lure starts up and he immediately gets into a crouch. When the lids go up, he propels himself forward.”
Tentill Doll’s win in 1996 is another “great story” of an Easter Egg victory.
“Ray Richards and a mate bought her from Queensland for $20,000 and gave her to Harry Sarkis to train,” Jeff said.
“Harry did a marvellous job with her. She was the first greyhound to break 30 seconds on the sand around Wentworth Park.
“They bought her out of Jim Gallaway’s kennel in Queensland. Jim’s still training today at Grafton and is 86. I saw him at Wentworth Park recently and mentioned Tenthill Doll.
“‘Oh no,’ said Jim, ‘don’t remind me of that’.”
Collerson said the stories of battlers winning the race have been foremost for many.
“Rod McDonald was a battling trainer who was working in the abattoir near Cowra when he won the Easter Egg with Dana Beatrice,” he said. “Rod is still training and I believe has only recently left the abattoir.”
Sid Swain’s win in 2003 with Cyrus The Virus too was memorable.
“Sid is one of the sport’s great characters and is still training today,” Jeff said.
“Another like Sid is Ron Seymour who won the 1993 Easter Egg with Billy Binjang who at 30.70 was the slowest Egg winner ever. Ron is in his 80s these days and still training a dog or two.
“Ken Paull won in 2000 with Stately Bird and until Bessy Boo came along and won 34 races at the track. Stately Bird was the winningest greyhound at Wentworth Park.
“Of course, Sunburnt Highway has since toppled them both.”
Jeff Collerson is 77 and cannot imagine not going greyhound racing.
“Because I go to every Wentworth Park meeting, I’m always asked if I ever go on holidays or not,” he said.
“I did miss one Wednesday meeting a little while ago. My wife and I were babysitting our grandkids and by the time they had left, I had had it.
“I’d organised to meet up with John Dart for a drink but didn’t make it.
“By race two, Charlie Gatt had sent me a text wanting to know if everything was OK. Mick Hardman did the same.
“Halfway through the meeting I was regretting not having gone.
“I’m always the first to arrive at Wentworth Park and the last to leave. I love greyhound people. They are wonderful.
“Yes, I’m 77 but that’s just a number and I don’t feel my age.”
When races like the Golden Easter Egg are coming up … Jeff Collerson has much more important things on his mind.