Young Victorian trainer Matt Lanigan made a triumphant return to Gippsland on Boxing Day when Weblec Eagle gunned down favourite Waging War to take out the Group 1 Gold FM Sale Cup Final (650m).
While Lanigan is now based in Anakie, where he works for leading trainers Jeff Britton and Angela Langton, who bred and part-owns Weblec Eagle, his family is synonymous with greyhound racing in the region.
“I’ve got a family connection here at Sale,” Lanigan told GRV’s Molly Haines.
“My grandfather is a life member and dad likes to tell me that he was the Trainer of the Year here as well, so this is a race that I’ve always aspired to win and I just can’t believe it’s actually happened. It’s crazy.
“Both dad and my grandfather made the Sale Cup Final but never actually won, so it’s nice to get one up on them, that’s for sure.”
A son of Barcia Bale and Weblec Belle, Weblec Eagle was having his fourth start in succession at Sale, having finished third to Kraken Dust in the Distance Championship and then runner-up to the same dog in his Cup heat.
The complexion of the Cup Final changed dramatically with the race morning scratching of fastest qualifier and favourite Roper River Jake.
In Roper River Jake’s absence, Waging War, trained by Glenn Rounds, started $2.90 favourite from box five, ahead of rails runner Tauwitchere, prepared by Steve White, at $3.90.
Drawn in box two, Weblec Eagle was a $9 chance.
Tauwitchere and Waging War duelled for the lead going into the first turn with Waging War gaining the ascendancy and forging clear in the back straight, as Weblec Eagle moved into second place.
Weblec Eagle set out after Waging War entering the home straight and finished the better, scoring by 1.51 lengths in 37.19s, his seventh win from 23 starts.
“Just gobsmacked, to be honest,” Lanigan said.
“He’s just chasing so hard at the moment and I was praying he was going to get there.
“I could hear the caller say he’d won but I just wanted to wait until his number came up and once it came up I was absolutely over the moon. It’s certainly a special feeling.”
Prominent owner/breeder Ray Borda enjoyed a night to remember, racing a winning treble, highlighted by Aston Nino’s victory in the Dunkley’s Machinery Rising Star Final (440m).
Aston Nino gave Anthony Azzopardi back-to-back Rising Star successes, having won the event in 2018 with Whiskey Riot, which famously went on to win this year’s Melbourne Cup.
Borda’s other two winners were Aston Valetta (Paul Abela) in the Gippsland Festival Of Racing Final (440m) and Aston Lopez (Rodney Clark) in the Cabinet Connections Damsels Dash (440m).
There was a huge upset in the Sale Motor Group Summer Cup Final (520m) with $42.20 outsider Valencia Gem, one of two finalists trained locally by Jenny Gieschen, holding Anthony Azzopardi’s $2.20 favourite Seal The Deal at bay.
It’s the race that Matt Lanigan has always wanted to win – the Group 1 Gold FM Sale Cup – and now he has done it!
By Gerard Guthrie and Molly Haines. Photos by Clint Anderson