HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: STRAND BELLE
CATEGORY: BREEDING GREYHOUND
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: STRAND BELLE
Breeding: Takiri x La Romantique
Whelped: November 1968
Owner: Maurie Sheehan, Fred Garbutt
By Gerard Guthrie
The potent ‘Mepunga’ line has been among greyhound racing’s most prominent bloodlines over the last two decades, with the dynasty’s origins tracing back half a century, to when Maurie Sheehan fatefully offered Strand Belle to good friend and young breeding buff, Barry Smith.
Born in 1968, Strand Belle was among the most talented stayers of an era that featured the likes of Zoom Top, Bunyip Bint, Paul’s Thunder and Tara Flash, with her feature race victories including the 1971 Wentworth Park Gold Cup and 1971 Sir Joseph Banks Cup.
But it’s in the breeding barn that Strand Belle has made a lasting impact, with her influence still felt strongly today.
“Maurie (Sheehan) raced Strand Belle and bred one litter out of her, to Pied Rebel,” Barry Smith recalled.
“But he lived in Essendon and found it too much to breed a litter in town so he offered her to me for breeding, which was a big boost to me.
“I’d probably only been into it for two or three years when Maurie offered her to me. We took her and went on from there!
“It’s 50 years ago now but I know she was a top class sprinter and stayer and she was a very small dog from memory. I think she would’ve only been about 22 or 24 kilograms – very small.
“She won the Gold Cup up in Sydney at Wentworth Park over the distance and she could match it with any dog going at that time.”
WATCH: Mepunga Nicky (8) wins the 2011 Adelaide Cup.
After being handed a gift that just keeps giving, Smith selected Newmore King for Strand Belle’s first mating and the litter included a number of talented distance types.
The standouts included Mystic Strand, which Barry recalls as being in the “top three or four stayers in Melbourne”, marathon winner La Derriere and Strand Mead.
Strand Belle’s next mating was with the great Temlee.
This litter included Mystic Mulga, which can be seen in the pedigree of Smith’s modern day stars, headlined by 2011 G1 Adelaide Cup heroine Mepunga Nicky and her brilliant son Mepunga Blazer, winner of the 2017 G1 Maturity Classic and now one of Australia’s most exciting stud dogs.
“I gave Mystic Mulga 15 starts and she was a country performer but the lines were there and that line has just bred on and on,” said Smith.
“That’s where it all began, with the Temlee line and the Newmore King line, and we just bred down from there to where we are today!
“Of course, we all know what ‘Nicky’ did. She was brilliant on the race track and as a brood matron and then Mepunga Blazer and Mepunga Cruzer came from ‘Nicky’, so you’re looking at 50 years of breeding with the line.”
With Strand Belle the catalyst, Smith has celebrated many feature race conquests with his ‘Mepunga’ line, in partnership with trainer Jeff Britton, and it continues unabated to the present day.
WATCH: Former great Strand Belle was immortalised at the ‘virtual’ 2021 Victorian Greyhound Awards for her achievements as a broodmatron which include producing the sensational ‘Mepunga’ bloodline.
But Strand Belle’s impact is by no means restricted to the ‘Mepunga’ breed.
Strand Belle’s daughters produced 1982 Australian Cup winner Royal Rumpus (Strand Miss) and 1987 National Distance champion Mystic Hope (Mystic Strand), while her granddaughter Monalee Strand was the mother of 1987 Melbourne Cup winner Speedy Mick.
“She’s got to be up there with the best,” said Smith.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s been a gem to me and she still is at the moment. Without her I probably wouldn’t have had the class dogs that we’ve been lucky enough to have over the years.”
Smith has only one regret about Strand Belle’s deserved Hall of Fame accolade.
“I am really sad that Maurie isn’t around to see her induction,” Smith offered.
“He absolutely loved Strand Belle and he would have been so proud to see her inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Mepunga Blazer won the Group 1 Maturity Classic in 2017 and is now making a name for himself at stud.
GRV's Hall of Fame
About GRV’s Hall of Fame: The people and greyhounds inducted into the Victorian greyhound racing Hall of Fame have been recognised for their excellence, integrity, consistency, longevity and overall contribution to the industry. For more information, click here.
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