Unique Tweed Heads Galaxy may return

\"\"Caption: John Dart with Pierino after winning the final Tweed Galaxy in 2013

By TERRY WILSON

A NUMBER of past winning trainers are warming to the possibility of the Border Park Galaxy being resurrected.
There is still a long way to go before anything can happen but confirmation of the Tweed Heads Coursing Club finalising a $2.1 million deal for a parcel of land just south of the Queensland border is exciting news for many in the industry.
Among them are Dennis Reid, Mick Zammit, John and Glenda Dart and Tony Brett, who have all tasted success in the once sought-after Galaxy and would delight if the event can be reinvented at the new track.
The Galaxy was first run in 1971 and was won by King Doolittle.
The event was soon to become Australia’s richest provincial classic under its format of heats on the Saturday and finals on the Monday of the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.
The event quickly attracted interest from far and wide and some of the nation’s premier trainers and greyhounds were attracted to the old Tweed track at Border Park.
It was a carnival atmosphere with a dozen or so bookmakers offering pre-heats betting and the Monday racing was outstanding fare.
Tweed club president Rod Collins said final payment on the land, sited at Chinderah, ended three years of searching for a suitable property to house a brand new greyhound racing complex.
Now it is on to getting the actual track up and running as the club attempts to tick all areas necessary through the council, government and GRNSW processes.
But if and when that happens, expect a return of the Galaxy – and with Group 1 status to boot.
“We haven’t discussed it yet (a Galaxy return in some shape or form), but as far as I’m concerned it’s a no-brainer,” said Collins.
“It was a popular and traditional event and even though it was never the highest prizemoney race, a lot of the top trainers wanted to win it.
Collins said the late Harry Pledger, who reigned supreme at the old Border Park track for decades, would be champing at the bit if he was still alive.
“If Harry was here now he’d want to get the Galaxy up and running again, and I’m sure we can do it.
“But there’s a long way to go.”
The Darts, Reid, Brett and Zammit acknowledge that progress has to be made to get the new track constructed.
Zammit won the Galaxy with Mr Kent in 1995 and said the major hurdle is to get the new track up and running.
“That’s the big hurdle,” he said. “If there is no track the big races don’t happen.
“But I definitely like the idea.
“The Tweed was a bit strange, like Capalaba on a Saturday back then with a heap of friendly people and having a great day out.
“Knowing club manager Steve McGrath like I do – he is pretty dogged in his ways – so if the powers that be let it go then it can happen.”
John and Glenda Dart rugged up the last Galaxy winner, Pierino in 2013, after preparing Tasmanian performer Lillipilli Power for victory in 2005.
Lillipilli Power’s win highlighted just what the Galaxy long weekend was all about.
With no TAB betting back then, and with a heap of bookmakers offering pre-heat odds, the Darts secured 14-1 about the Tasmanian saluting in the final.
“Yes, bring it on (a new Galaxy), anything would be good, but just get the track done,” John said.
One of the most successful Galaxy trainers was Casino-based Dennis Reid, who won the race three times and finished second a number of times.
Reid’s winners were Travelling Ghost (1994), Golden Clover (1996) and Gotta Be Gold (1998).
Reid stated the obvious when asked if he would like to see the Galaxy return in some shape or form
“Hell yeah,” he said of racing at the old Border Park.
“I have a lot of fond memories there – it was just the weekend with people coming from all over Australia.
“It was a fantastic race and I’d love to be able to have another crack at it.
“But first we have to see the track go ahead and I’d love them to build a beautiful one up there.”
Tony Brett’s late father Dave tried many times to win the Galaxy, but never cracked it for one.
His son Tony eventually landed the prize with Never Surrender on a wet and wild day in 2008.
“Dad had a few tries at it and always loved going there,” said Tony.
“One thing with the Galaxy was there was always a lot of pre-post betting and there was always plenty of money before the race.
“It was a great atmosphere and a lot of it was talk about who had trialled what and when.
“I’d love to see the Galaxy return because back in those days it wasn’t massive money for a non-TAB track but it was a lot more about prestige.
“I’m very proud to have trained a winner of that race.
“They came from near and far to have a crack and everybody had a great weekend.
“They’d have a state of origin golf game, usually just before the heats.”
The old Border Park Galaxy was part of a three-track triple crown of dog racing.
It was usually followed by the Gold Coast Cup (at Stephens Paceway, then Parkwood) in Southport, then the Queensland Cup at Beenleigh.
If plans for the new track come to fruition the race distances being looked at are 457m, something between 500m and 510m, plus a 650m distance.
It is a positive for Collins and the club committee that the new complex is being looked at closely by Greyhound Racing New South Wales as an elite complex in the far north of the state.
“There has been talk of GRNSW looking into a centre of excellence – that’s no secret,” said Collins.
The Galaxy was a very hard race to win, especially under the format of heats on the Saturday and the final two days later.
The classic produced only two dual winners, they being Ebony King (1974-75) and Mint Magic (1999-2000).

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