The Sandown Cup is one of greyhound racing’s most storied races, but one of the most famous was no race at all.
The 2007 Sandown Cup made national and international news when Don Hazzard stumbled after boxing his greyhound, releasing the field before the lure began and resulting in greyhound racing’s most famous ‘no race.’
Channel 10 reports on the 2007 Sandown Cup
On the eve of the 10 year anniversary of the most famous race that never was, I had the pleasure of catching up with the spritely 88 year old at his Glenroy home. Hazzard, a carpenter by trade, built the house himself 65 years ago and has lived there ever since.
While his dodgy knees limit his movement, his mind remains sharp and his story telling colourful and vibrant. His house is adorned with memorabilia from days at the track and on the football field. His love of the dogs – footballing and racing – remains as strong as ever.
Hazzard is a life member of the Footscray Football Club. He joined the club in 1955 – the year after their first premiership – and spent the next 22 years working as a trainer and running messages for legends including EJ Whitten and Charlie Sutton.
“The Footscray Football Club meant a lot to me in those days,” said ‘Snowy’.
“You become attached to the players. They mightn’t have been the best football team but they were the best club. Geez I had some wonderful times with Footscray.”
His introduction to greyhounds came via a mate, and Don is quick to admit to his naivety in those early days. Fortunately, he had developed some excellent connections and was a fast learner.
A 50 cent bet landed him a $839 quadrella at Olympic Park.
“I had a mate who had been in the army with me, he had greyhounds and I said I’ll get one, pick one out for me.
“I didn’t know anything about dogs, so I had this pup and treated him like a pet. My mate came around and said you’ve got to get it to a farm. Every Saturday or Sunday I went down to the farm at Tarneit and they had big acreage, so I’d play with the dog and we’d have it running and chasing sticks.
“I went to George Schofield and said I needed someone to train it for me. No one was interested in training the dog, so he said to me ‘why don’t you train it yourself? I’ll sign a form saying you’ve helped train the dogs – which I never did – and that’s how you’ll get a trainer’s a license.
“I think I won seven races in a row with him, he was a good dog.”
Good dog is somewhat of an understatement. Hazzard spent $300 of his quaddie win on the greyhound, which raced as Haphazard, and won $4000 in his career (pictured left).
His increasing passion for racing dogs meant he no longer had time to commit to the footballing variety, and Don embarked on a successful greyhound training career.
Fast forward 30 years, and Hazzard found himself with one of the country’s rising staying stars in the final of the country’s premier staying race. With an overall record of 8 wins from 31 career starts, Sky Hazzard had excelled since stepping up in distance, winning twice and being placed three times in five staying starts. He qualified for the Sandown Cup by running a fast finishing second in his heat and was widely regarded as a good each way chance in the $60,000 to the winner final.
After being introduced to the big crowd, the field headed to the 715m boxes. Set to jump from box 4 in the final, Sky Hazzard was one of the last to be loaded. Don takes up the story.
“I’d boxed him, and being nearly 80 then, it was a bloody effort to get up. I put my hand up to try and get up and… the dogs went. Oh geez! Everything happened, and I didn’t know what had happened. Then I realised what I’d had done. It was a shocking feeling. The lure hadn’t gone or anything. No one wanted to speak to me.
“We got our dogs and we got back to the kennels and were all in the room with the stewards and everyone was having their say. Then I said ‘I’d like to have my say now.’ I said firstly it was an accident and a shocking thing, and I’m putting my cue in the rack, I’m finishing.
“John Stephens told me to shut my mouth, ‘you’re not putting the cue in the rack so forget it, say no more.’ To this day I think of John Stephens.”
10 years on, no hard feelings – key players reflect on the 2007 Sandown Cup
A number of options for the race were discussed, and a proposition was made to re-run the race the following Thursday night. However with a number of trainers committed to racing in the group 1 series in Brisbane, the 2007 Sandown Cup was declared a no race and the $86,000 in prize money evenly distributed to connections.
Hazzard heeded John Stephens’ advice and continued to train greyhounds. In fact, Sky Hazzard would go on to win back-to-back group 2 Distance Championships at The Meadows, as well as the four-dog Super Stayers Invitational at Queensland’s Albion Park, a win that he regards the best of his training career.
Don still gets emotional talking about ‘the one bad memory’ he has in greyhound racing, but showed what a great sport he is by starring with race caller Rob Testa in the club’s popular 2008 Sandown Cup advertising campaign.
The 2008 RSN Sandown Cup advertisment
And he would return that year with Sky Hazzard for another tilt at the Sandown Cup. While he didn’t reach the final, he did win the consolation and met a couple of promising young footballers – Jarryd Roughead and Jordan Lewis.
“I made a fool of myself that night,” he recalled.
“They asked if it would be alright if a couple of footballers could come out and have their photo taken with Sky Hazzard. They came out and introduced themselves, they were only young then, and they said ‘you’re with Footscray’ and I said yeah. I said, ‘listen, I still know a lot over there, if you let me file your teeth down I might be able to get you a run in the thirds!”
While still competitive, it was getting harder to find suitable races for Sky Hazzard.
“I rang the Board and they said you’ll have to go interstate. I said me? I’m in my bloody 80s, why do I want to go interstate for! Then they said if you don’t want to go interstate, just look for special events. So there was a special event at Geelong and he won that. Then there was a special event at Bendigo and he won that. The a couple of weeks after that there was a special event at Horsham and he won that too. Then on the way home, I thought ‘Snowy, it’s time to retire him.’ And I did.”
From 79 career starts, Sky Hazzard finished with 26 wins and close to $200,000 in prize money.
Hazzard would eventually hang up the collar and lead in February 2012. His final runner, Surf Hazard, still lives by Don’s side. While no longer training, he is still a keen follower of the dogs.
“I don’t bet on them, but I love to see people I know win. Greyhound racing has been great to me and I’ve met a lot of great people.”
There are a lot of great people in greyhound racing, but few as great as Don Hazzard.
Don Hazzard at home with ‘Lizzie’