Tears, smiles as memories flood back to 2016 Sapphire Crown


Group 1 Sapphire Crown (515m)

Best 32 females nominated

Heats May 13. Final May 21

$100,000 to the winner


Group 1 Sandown Cup (715m)

Best 32 nominated

Heats May 13. Final May 21

$175,000 to the winner


Group 1 Harrison Dawson (515m)

Best 32 males nominated

Heats May 13. Final May 21

$100,000 to the winner


WHEN the time comes late this month for the cream of race bitches to settle into the starting boxes for the Group 1 Sapphire Crown at Sandown, Linda Gray will be a good deal sad but still with fond memories.

Back in 2016, Linda and her two sons Liam and Jordan shared in the victory by home-bred Narralee (Aston Galilee-Prince\’s Faye) in the Sapphire Crown.

The sadness surrounds the fact Narralee, or Nellie as she was known to those closest to her, died after an operation late in January.

\”She had to have an operation to repair infection of the uterus,\” said Linda.

\”It was so sad because she was about to come home to us and I was going to spoil her rotten as a house pet. I was devastated it happened.\”

Good things do happen to ‘little people’ as Linda says.

Narralee was given the kennel name of Nellie after the stable name of legend thoroughbred Black Caviar.

Narralee was a brilliant sprinter under the guidance of trainer Steve Creighton and had already made the G2 Warragul Cup final as a pup.

Creighton set his sights on the Sapphire Crown after a couple of wins at Sale and Traralgon. She, however, only got a start in the heats as a reserve after a scratching gave her a chance in the race off box eight, her favoured box draw.

\”She won the heat and then came up with the two in the final,\” said Linda.

And she had to take on such racetrack stars as Folio Bale, Cash In Motion, Mepunga Flame, Star Torana, Shared Equity and the likes.

\”She had lots of early speed and that\’s what won her the race,\” said Linda.

\”We were not long back in greyhounds,\” she said. \”I\’d got the mother, Prince\’s Faye, who had been a four-times winner in 47 starts. Steve Creighton designed the mating and I kept a dog and a bitch.\”

Creighton designed a fabulous cross 3×3 to the virtual brothers Elite State and Nobody\’s Fool. It worked to Group 1 level. Narralee\’s litter brother Hogganaught was a finalist in the G1 Maturity.

It is the same damline that produced champion Boomeroo.

Linda\’s uncle Arthur Gray had been a successful trainer in Victoria, winning the first running of the Warrnambool Classic before moving to Adelaide.

\”I can remember all those years ago tagging along as a kid going greyhound racing at Warragul,\” said Linda, 57. \”I can still remember the winter nights when those old kero heaters were blazing away around the track.

\”As a kid, they always gave me the old dogs to walk.

\”When I was in my twenties, I used to race whippets. In those days we ran a lot of races in between greyhound races at many of the tracks. It was good fun. I\’ve still got a whippet as a pet at home.

\”It is so sad Nellie could not come home to be just as spoilt.\”

Narralee was raced by Linda and her boys Liam and Jordan to keep them close as a family. It worked.

These days the boys still take a close interest in Linda\’s greyhound racing exploits.

Liam works for a pool company and Jordan is studying to be a school teacher.

The Sapphire Crown victory was a complete surprise. Narralee started $11 as one of the outsiders, but led throughout to beat the hot favourite Folio Bale.

\”It was incredibly exciting for us all,\” said Linda. \”You don\’t expect to win those races.\”

It was Narralee\’s swansong.

\”She broke down not long after in a trial preparing for the Taralgon Cup heats,\” said Linda.

So off Narralee went to stud. Steve Creighton bred her to Buck Fever, but then Linda sent her on to Justin Bowman who has bred litters by Barcia Bale, Fernando Bale and My Redeemer from her. Several have won city races.

\”I\’ve kept a couple here and there, four from the Fernando Bale litter and one by My Redeemer,\” said Linda.

\”At the moment I\’m waiting to see if there are any bitches from her pups worth breeding with.

\”My boys still come racing when they see we have a starter.

\”I have not been able to keep any more. There is only so much work I can do to keep myself in greyhounds.\”

Linda says Narralee was always a ready-made race dog.

\”Steve reared her and said she always showed plenty of ability,\” said Linda. \”She was a greyhound who always knew her job.\”

That job was to provide Linda Gray, her young sons, and her trainer Steve Creighton with their first and only, to this stage, Group 1 victory against all odds.

As Linda said: \”It was incredibly exciting\”.



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