By Gary Clark
The Ladbrokes Goulburn Cup has been a race that has attracted some of the best available sprinters over a long period of time and as the club looks to stage their cup for the ninth decade, one local trainer in particular will be in pursuit of the $25,000 first prize.
The cup started with a very minimal winner’s purse back in the 1930s with just a few pounds for the winner, but by the 1980s it had finally hit four figures with $1,000 to the victor before increasing to $5,000 after 2000.
Back then Goulburn was a country grass track, but still the race, which was open to the best eight nominated greyhounds, consistently had a city class field.
Invitation Harold Park sprinter, November Prince, was able to win successive cups back in the late eighties for Christine Oldfield and since then only one greyhound has been able to complete the double in the same way.
Oldfield had to wait nearly 20 years before she was able to win the cup again in 2006 with November Louis.
Awesome Hustler a former track record holder of the 457m at Goulburn won the race in 2007 and 2008.
Another three trainers have been able to win the race twice in the past 11 years. Jason Magri took the honours when Loathsome in 2011 and Clock’s Ticking in 2016 won the cup.
Anthony Azzopardi, now domiciled in Victoria, won it with Let It Develop in 2015 running a race and track record for the current distance of 440m.
Leading NSW trainers Andy and Jodie Lord collected the cup in 2017 with Champion Model.
The most successful trainer in the past decade has been Mark Wilcox, who through his marvellous brood bitch, Winning Shiraz (now deceased), produced his three cup winners in litter brothers, Knocka’s Return ( 2013) and Natural Player (2014) then half brother Scientific man in 2018.
Natural Player was a Goulburn champion having won the GOTY in the same year and also broke the track record.
Wilcox will most likely have Cosmic Blend as strong chance to get him another cup finalist this year and one of the last of the Winning Shiraz line.
The Victorians won their first Goulburn Cup in 1994 with Heading West for Mark Hardy and in recent years have travelled north, going close until last year when David Geal took the race with Emerald Rainbow.
It was Geal’s second year at Goulburn and the decision paid off for him.
The wins in 2009 and 2010 of Shamus O’Shaw and Joey Gez respectively is significant coming into this year’s cup, with the final on Sunday, October 25.
Both were trained by Ruth Matic, who had been trying to win her local race for 20 years and as it turns out, you win one and the next comes very quickly.
For Ruth and her late husband, Matt, along with daughter, Danielle, have been strong supporters of their home track and will play a major role in 2020.
Based at Cannyonleigh, just 30 minutes north of Goulburn, Ruth has a highly impressive chaser working his way to the top at the moment in Poppy Jack.
No stranger to winning Group races, Ruth has given Poppy Jack the chance at the TAB Million Dollar series and was a strong third in the regional final last month at Goulburn and will now be looking for a grand final berth when he competes in the semis at Wentworth Park this month.
“Pending on what happens with the Million Dollar series, the cup is the next assignment all being well,” Ruth explained.
Poppy Jack has established himself already as a top-class chaser at Goulburn. He has had 16 career starts for nine wins and four minor placings.
He has run a scorching 22.16 at Bulli over 400m, breaking the old track record before Pindari Express got hold of it.
Poppy Jack has run 19.67, 19.62 and 19.50 at Goulburn over 350m, the latter time just two lengths off the record. Then last month he recorded a blistering 24.56, just two tenths of a second off Let It Develop and Good Odds Harada’s track record.
That is the sign of a future top-class chaser and with his local track knowledge and stats, Poppy Jack is an outstanding chance to give the Matics their third Cup.
Ruth has an outstanding CV having trained nine Group winners and six Group seconds in her career, but winning her local cup is still very special.
This year’s race won’t have a Victorian input, but that won’t detract from the class line-up that will take place.
Previous winning trainers will be attempting another place on the honour roll and it all starts with the heats on Tuesday October 20 and the final on Sunday October 25.
Nominations for the race close on Friday October 16 and the popular supporting race the Fireball over 350m with an $8,000 first price will also have heats on the 20.
Caption: Poppy Jack in a recent Goulburn win (Photo: Lachlan Naidu – Redden video and photography)