It was the most famous Sandown Cup never run. The 2007 edition of Australia’s most sought after staying race was declared a no race after trainer Don Hazzard stumbled after loading his runner and releasing the field before the lure was in motion.
Click here for Don’s recollections of that famous night.
On the 10 year anniversary of the 2007 Sandown Cup, we speak to three men that were front and center of one of the most famous ‘no race’ in the history of the sport.
Member of one of the country’s leading greyhound kennels
George Dailly was the man closest to the action, boxing the even money favourite Flashing Floods on behalf of his brother-in-law, Gerald Cunnold, into box 2.
“I was loading the dog into the boxes and I could actually see what was happening. The poor bloke, like all of us we are getting old, he went to get up and didn’t realise what he was doing and grabbed hold of the lever and released the boxes.
“I had her halfway in and next thing she just took off, but I did see him getting up. I knew what had happened but it’s just one of those things.”
Dailly described the feeling of disbelief and general confusion after the race, but despite having the hot favourite in the country’s most sought after staying event, he harbours no ill-feeling over the event. In fact, Dailly himself wasn’t that confident of winning the race.
“She was even money favourite and she was such a good bitch, she led nearly every start. And I don’t know why but I thought to myself that she was going to get beaten that night.
“It’s unfortunate but there’s more significant things to worry about than the lids opening early. It would have been nice to run the race and win, but it’s not the end of the world is it.”
Sandown chief race caller since 2007
Rob Testa had only taken over the race calling duties at headquarters in February that year and the RSN Sandown Cup was his first group 1 call since landing the gig.
“You get a little on edge calling the big races, and for some reason they seemed to take forever to get in the boxes,” he recalled.
“From the time the first line started to go in to the second line going in, I don’t know if it was me being antsy – ‘let’s get this on the road’ – but it seemed to take forever for them to go in so I did what I normally do and looked at the tote screen. So the first line went in and I called a few of the approximates, then I look up and see the lids up and the dogs at the ‘We Love The Dogs sign.’
“It was like I was in suspended animation. My first thought that went into my head was ‘mate, you imbecile, how could you miss the start of a race like this? What am I going to say to all the people hanging shit on me for missing the start!’
“They got to the turn past the tower and I knew they didn’t look right. I knew the way they were chasing that this doesn’t look right. If you listen to the call you can hear that I’m really hesitant. Then they went past me and I saw the pen gate closed and realised I couldn’t hear the lure. Then you see the replay and realise what happened.
“Even now I think there’s so many things that fell in to place, at the end of the day it’s just a dog race. He could have drawn another box and it wouldn’t have affected the race.
“It was an unforgettable experience.”
While viewers around the country watched on, Rob’s thoughts immediately switched to Don.
“He handled it pretty well. He had some good people around him and was well looked after.”
Rob starred with Don in the 2008 RSN Sandown Cup advertising campaign.
Sandown GRC CEO 2005-2010
Sandown’s CEO at the time was Matt Corby. Despite having the best seat in the house, Corby admits he missed the start of the ‘race.’
“I was in the grandstand at the top of the tiers and was making a last minute change to the presentation notes when I heard Rob Testa start his call. Rob Testa’s one of the best callers in the business and the call from the start didn’t sound right. I actually thought there might have been an issue with the box until I had a look at the dogs and saw them only going at three quarter pace.”
With the big crowd buzzing, the first task for the CEO was to find what had happened.
“I went down to the catching pen to see the grounds foreman Paul Curran and all he could say was ‘there was no lure.’ He was white a ghost – I think he was worried about whether he did the right thing but he handled it absolutely perfectly.
“At that stage I actually thought we could save the race, but while the dogs had only done three quarters of a lap at half pace, so re-running it was never a realistic option.
“The hardest part of the night was heading back upstairs and discussing it with the committee. They were quite emotional about it, the Sandown Cup is one of the biggest and most significant races in the sport. We wanted to maintain the continuity on the honour roll by running a $25,000 one off event up the following week but we needed to get the agreement of all of the connections, but a few had already made a commitment to the Gold Cup in Queensland so it wasn’t to be.”
Now the CEO of Greyhound Racing South Australia, Corby did concede one positive to come out of the ‘race.’
“The ‘Hazzard Guard’,” he said with a laugh.
“It seems silly to think of it now, but whole thing could have been avoided with a $30 basket from Bunnings to shield the manual lever.
“He was a great sport about it Don, coming back the following year and filming an ad to help promote the 2008 Cup. A lot of people in the same situation would have walked away from the sport especially at his age, but it’s great that he stuck at it.”