Graham and Bernadette Long are reflecting on their once-in-a-lifetime journey with Regal Thyme after their proudly home-bred two-time Group 1 winner sadly passed away last week at 13 years of age.
Regal Thyme took the Longs, who hail from Bendigo, on the ride of their greyhound racing lives, winning the Group 1 Silver Chief Classic, Group 1 Topgun and Group 3 Silver Bullet in 2008, all at his favourite venue, The Meadows.
A son of the great Bombastic Shiraz and Thyme Travel, whelped in November 2005, Regal Thyme won 23 of his 57 starts, was named The Meadows Greyhound of the Year and was a Victorian Greyhound of the Year finalist.
The Meadows was very much his happy hunting ground, with Regal Thyme winning 8 from 20 over 525m and three from six over 600m, also running second in the Group 3 New Year’s Cup over the middle distance.
“I look at it this way,” Graham, a former school teacher, explained.
“We bred ‘Bazza’ (Regal Thyme), of course, and he spent nearly two years getting ready to be a race dog. Then he spent 18 months racing and 12 months as a stud dog, unsuccessfully, but he still served a lot of bitches.
“After that he spent nine years as a pet. And he was a good pet too. He was a very intelligent dog. I reckon he was smarter than a lot of the kids I taught!”
While Regal Thyme leaves the Longs with many wonderful memories, Graham rates his all-the-way victory in the Silver Chief as a $14.90 outsider as the highlight, as the Topgun was won in controversial and less than ideal circumstances.
Regal Thyme was originally a reserve for the invitation-only Topgun and after being elevated into the field he ran second to El Galo, which was later disqualified, leaving Regal Thyme as the winner.
“I would say winning the Silver Chief was the highlight because we won the Topgun by default,” Long offered.
“Winning the Topgun was the best I’ve ever felt because we won the Topgun but it was also the worst I’ve ever felt because of the way we won it. If that makes sense?
“The prizemoney was nice but we didn’t have a presentation, for starters, and it always leaves me feeling a bit empty.
“On the wall we’ve got the coat from the Silver Chief and the coat from the Silver Bullet but the Topgun coat is in a wardrobe somewhere. I think that sums it up.
“Going back through his career, just about every good dog that was around in his era he beat. He was just a good beginner and very hard to run down.”
Bernadette echoed Graham’s sentiments about their pride and joy.
“He wasn’t a speed machine, he just loved to race,” said Bernadette.
“He loved The Meadows. He just pranced around there like he owned the place but even though he won his heat and semi-final of the Silver Chief he was the second-longest odds in the race.
“Recently, with Graham being wheelchair-bound, I had a lot more to do with Bazza. He would always greet you at the gate with a wag of his tail when you got home and as Graham said, he was very intelligent, the whole litter was. I think that came from their mother.”
The Longs were, by their own admission, greyhound racing novices, when Regal Thyme and his outstanding litter, the result of an ‘accidental’ but fateful foray into breeding with bargain buy brood bitch Thyme Travel, catapulted them into the spotlight.
“It was just a magnificent litter, especially for people who didn’t know what they were doing!” Graham laughed.
“It wasn’t a very well-planned litter.
“We were waiting for a Brett Lee straw but we needed the straw that day and I ended up hopping in the car and driving up to Heathcote where Bobby Douglas had a Bombastic Shiraz straw we were able to use.
“It sort of happened by accident but the litter won 117 races. The whole eight of them won, five won in Melbourne and another, Appointed Thyme won in Auckland, so six won in the city. Why does it happen? I don’t know.
“Appointed Thyme was the quickest of the lot but we had to send her to New Zealand. I think what happened was that she trialled so quick and was winning by four or five lengths and they were bashing her up in the catching pen so she wouldn’t run into the pen.
“When she went to New Zealand she won her first nine in a row and she also ran second in the Auckland Cup. She won $80,000 odd in prizemoney and we didn’t know it at the time but she was a bit of a legend over there.
“Rhyme Time, another dog from the litter, was the most consistent Meadows dog you’d ever see. He had 11 starts over the 600m there and only won once but was placed in the other ten.
“I won the Trainer of the Year at Bendigo – I think I received a bottle of wine – and every single point I got was from the litter. And Bazza hardly ever raced there.
“It was a ride made in heaven.”