Caption: Zari and Jason Newman and Melissa Freitag with Departure Gate, one of three locals in Sunday’s Mount Gambier Cup.
By GRSA’s DAVID LEWIS
Leading Victorian greyhound trainer Angela Langton’s big day at Tara Raceway yesterday now has her well placed to collect a Greyhound Racing SA Murray Bridge Cup/Mount Gambier Cup bonus.
GRSA linked the incentive-based bonuses when the first Murray Bridge Cup was first run in 2019 in a bid to entice owners and trainers to then support the Mount Gambier Cup which is run several weeks later.
The bonuses include $5000 if the same greyhound can win both cups. In addition, there is also a $5000 bonus if the same trainer is able to win both cups (SA or interstate or different dogs).
The Anakie-based Langton won last month’s Murray Bridge Cup (455 metres) with box eight runner Weblec Ranger who has drawn box eight again in Sunday’s Carlin & Gazzard MG Mount Gambier Cup final (512 m).
Raced by the Weblang Syndicate, which includes Murray Bridge Greyhound Racing Club president Neville Loechel and Jeff Weber, the son of Kinloch Brae and Weblec Rose also drew box eight in yesterday’s sixth and final heat.
Weblec Ranger chased Quinlan Bale throughout, eventually going down by a length in 29.60 seconds. However, his second placing was quick enough to gain him a start on Sunday and he’s one of four finalists for Langton.
Box eight runner Keep It Black gave Langton her first finalist when settling in third spot behind Midnight Blast in the second heat before finishing strongly to grab second spot in 29.54 seconds.
Raced by the Champagne Partners Syndicate, which comprises Langton and her mother Sue Smith, Keep It Black is by Fernando Bale out of former smart bitch Art Noveau.
Later in the day, litter brother Keep It Blue – raced in the same interests – carved out a best of day 29.52 seconds. Chasing the speedy Rio Hato until the home turn, he then took up the running before going on to a 2¾ length win over Rhonda Lily.
Langton’s other finalist is Blazing Times, also raced by the Champagne Partners Syndicate. Despite using plenty of the track, the son of Mepunga Blazer x Times Square got up to defeat Moth Rocks by a head in 29.83 seconds.
And it was certainly a luckless day for Toolong owner-trainer Phil Lenehan and his three Zambora Brockie x Lektra Viki littermates in Lektra Rhino, Moth Rocks and Toolong Tiger.
Avalon trainer Daniel Gibbons also didn’t have much luck with his well-fancied pair of Titan Blazer and McKeon Bale but things turned around in the final heat with Quinlan Bale.
The June 2020 son of Feral Franky and Ethla Allen was having only his fifth race start and will go into the final as the youngest dog in the race.
There are three local greyhounds through to the final – Departure Gate, Midnight Blast and Whole Way. The box draw certainly hasn’t done them too many favours and their Victorian opposition should be better after having seen the track.
Departure Gate, currently leading in the Mount Gambier Greyhound of the Year, is trained at Moorak by Jason Newman who will be rugging up his first Mount Gambier Cup finalist after having led in his first winner in mid-2020.
And the Champagne Partners Syndicate certainly holds a fair amount of sway over the cup field, Smith and Langton also having bred Departure Gate!
The Nineofus Syndicate and Allendale East trainer David Peckham will be hoping Midnight Blast can finally deliver them a Mount Gambier Cup. As will Compton-based Tracie Price, trainer of Whole Way who, as a $61 chance, caused one of the biggest upsets in Mount Gambier Cup history when winning his heat.
Meanwhile, it’s fair to say the Mount Gambier Cup has certainly come a fair way since its first running back in 1981 out at Glenburnie.
Greyhound racing in Mount Gambier had been operational for only two years when Joan Cruise and Newman McDonnell’s Tara Topar (Luska Dubh x Front Rank) defeated Cindy’s Range and Autumn Print in a time of 29.83 seconds for the 479 metre event.
This year marks the 42nd consecutive running of the Mount Gambier Cup, sponsored in 2022 by Carlin & Gazzard MG.
The event was granted Group Listed status in 2018 and carried total prizemoney of $22,000 when won by Brian Weis’ Xtreme Caution. The following year Steve Bartholomew’s Galactic Athena was successful.
In 2020, the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club staved off cancellation due to Covid with the cup eventually being conducted at the end of August. While still run as a Listed event, prizemoney was decreased – and again in 2021.
But a joint push for Group 3 status resulted in the Murray Bridge Greyhound Racing Club and the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club having their cups being granted Group 3 status as from 2022.
Total prizemoney is now $36,000. For sure, a far cry from that Monday afternoon in May 1981 when the Mount Gambier Cup final was run on the Adelaide Cup public holiday.
Certainly less prizemoney back in those days when on-course bookmakers operated and there was no off-course betting. But this was still one weekend not to be missed – the cup heats and supporting events run on the Saturday afternoon.
Then on the Saturday night was the social function where a steward from Adelaide would attend and oversee the drawing of all events for the Monday meeting.
And leading into the weekend was the traditional Calcutta. This was a legacy of the coursing days and in place for the first Mount Gambier Cup when conducted in a farmer’s woolshed on Jubilee Highway. Apparently, Tara Topar was purchased by a bookmaker for $100.
On-course bookmaker Darren Guthridge will be fielding at Sunday’s Mount Gambier Cup final in conjunction with the TAB. Incidentally, Guthridge is the son of Kevin, trainer of Cindy’s Range who finished second behind Tara Topar in that inaugural cup.