Paul Dolan: ‘From The Caller’s Box’

Caption: The Gabba was certainly a popular venue for greyhound racing.

The Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club is staging its postponed 50th anniversary race meeting on Thursday, June 2.

It promises to be a top night, somebody will win a $30,000 car.

The Gabba GRC commenced racing in April, 1972, and became the Brisbane GRC when moved to Albion Park in February, 1993.

Some readers, particularly those residing outside Queensland, may ask the question – why the Gabba? It’s an abbreviation of the Brisbane suburb of Woollongabba where the greyhound track was situated around the famous cricket ground and nowadays AFL arena. There are various suggestions as to what the word Woolloongabba actually means. That area was originally a swamp and it seems that Woolloongabba could be an aboriginal term for a body of water.

When the subject of the best greyhounds to race at the Gabba is discussed, the name of Top Simbi always surfaces. He was the track’s first superstar. I didn’t call any of Top Simbi’s races, but was very fortunate to have the opportunity of calling some other spectacular winners around the unusually shaped Gabba track. Here are some of my favourites.

The first feature winner I called was the Reg and Mary Crawford trained Pretty Fearless in the 1986 Coca-Cola Cup. It was the Gabba’s richest race at the time, worth $25,000 to the Crawfords. Pretty Fearless was just twenty months of age, had to cope with box six and managed to beat an outstanding field of seasoned sprinters.

The many wins of the Mike O’Byrne-trained Hopeful Doll stick in my mind because she wasn’t a front-runner. She would get back, whether it was 558 or 704 metres races, and usually stage a spectacular finishing burst to win.

The 1992 Christmas Trophy is a win I rate highly. Tasmanian bitch Iceni Princess, trained by Peter Gilmore, was the $1.90 favourite from box eight.  She got back in the field and looked no hope. But she stormed home to score, beating the Maureen Culey- trained Sea Mission and Tony Zammit’s Head Turner into the placings. First prize for that group one win was $45,000.

There were 16 runnings of the Christmas Trophy at the Gabba, a race also known as the XXXX Trophy. The fastest winner was that wonderful Victorian bitch Highly Blessed, trained by Doug Ferremi. That was in 1990. She ran 32.47 for the 558 metres course, more than two lengths quicker than any other winner of the race. She pinged the lids from box five and the issue was never in doubt. The official winning margin was ten lengths. I can’t remember whether I got that correct in the race call. It’s doubtful that there would be many group one winners in the history of the sport to have scored by such a margin.

The semaphore board at the Gabba was a large structure, situated on what was called ‘The Hill’ near the stately old cricket scoreboard. The large digits on the semaphore board really stood out at night.

The Gabba Gold Cup over 704 metres on Thursday, June 22, 1989, was memorable. The record was held by the Dennis Reid trained bitch Whip Tip at 41.13, a figure which had stood for 16 months.

Nobody thought the Gold Cup winner that night would break that record. The Harry Sarkis trained Kirsty’s Charity had other ideas. The fawn daughter of Ballarat Prince romped home and the time went up as 40.83. I immediately thought it was a mistake, and refrained from announcing it until confirmation was received from the judge. It just didn’t look right. But the time was correct, three tenths of a second inside Whip Tip’s figure. Kirsty’s Charity held that record until the night the Gabba closed three and a half years later.

There’s any number of Gabba superstars that I had the privilege of calling. Dancing Gamble, Tickety Boo, Kirsty’s First, Coin Spot Pride, Gotta Be Solid, Genuine Crown, the list goes on. What a great era it was.

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