2015 was a tumultuous year for greyhound racing, but 2016 has begun with a timely reminder of why so many people love this great sport.
Greyhound racing’s first Group 1 of the year – the $145,000 Group 1 Silver Chief Classic (525m) – took place at The Meadows on Saturday night (January 2), with the race being won by an underdog, $41.00 chance Midwinter (pictured above – far left).
Trainer Andy Stewart was left in disbelief as his greyhound, whom he bred, owns and trains in conjunction with wife Judy, stormed over the top of his opposition to claim the $100,000 first prize.
Australians love an underdog, and the greyhound racing community love it when a hobby trainer wins a major event, as evidenced when Stewart returned to the dining area after the race to the applause of everyone in the room.
Despite 18 years experience training greyhounds, Stewart isn’t a regular in group racing circles, and this was his first Group 1 finalist.
In fact, entering Midwinter (Cosmic Rumble – Tania Two Shoes) for the Silver Chief was more of an after-thought than a well laid plan.
“He is more of a 600m greyhound, and he may even end up a stayer,” Stewart said.
“The Silver Chief wasn’t even on our radar a few weeks ago, but (wife) Judy said it’s an age-restricted race so Midwinter only gets one chance to go for it” – ANDY STEWART
“The Silver Chief wasn’t even on our radar a few weeks ago, but (wife) Judy said it’s an age-restricted race so Midwinter only gets one chance to go for it.”
“So we put him in and he ran 2nd in his heat and his semi, but he showed excellent track sense in those runs and I felt that if he was within a few lengths of the leaders down the back straight in the final he’d be hard to hold out, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Midwinter again showed outstanding track sense in the final, as he ran down Harlon and Marley Bale in 29.992sec in a heart-stopping display.
Prior to the Silver Chief series Midwinter had won little more than $12,000 from his 21 career starts. His stats now read at eight wins from 24 starts and $117,000 in prize money.
Stewart, 70, has led an interesting life. He was coach of the gold medal winning Australian culinary Olympic team and is an A-grade table tennis player.
However, training the Group 1 Silver Chief winner has brought an incredible sense of achievement to a husband and wife team that “only ever have a couple of dogs at a time.”
The win was also a great story for the town of Melton, which boasts a popular straight track facility used by hundreds of greyhound trainers for trialling, and also by the National Coursing Association.
Melton Greyhound Racing Club President John McFarlane, on track to support Midwinter, joked early on in the night that there was a storm brewing in from the west, and as it turned out he was right.
Silver Chief night was also the first of GRV’s ‘Little Big Day Out’ campaign, which will see Victoria’s 13 TAB greyhound race tracks each host a huge day or night of kids entertainment between January and April (images below courtesy BlueStream Pictures).
WATCH: Midwinter (3) storms home to take out the 2015 Silver Chief Classic.