Most years at around this time I write a piece reflecting on the racing year that was. But 2019 is no normal year – it’s the end of a decade.
So this time this column is going bigger – we’re naming a Greyhound of the Decade!
Now many people say you shouldn’t compare greyhounds from different eras. Tracks and lures and training methods etc etc have changed, the racing now is different to how it was then. Can’t we just appreciate the good ones for what that are?
Sure we can… but that makes for a pretty dull column!
Narrowing the list to five was a tough ask, and was even harder to settle on the overall top dog. The last 10 years has seen greyhounds win more prize money and earn more accolades than at any time in the history of the sport. Names like Sweet It Is, El Grand Senor, Astron Dee Bee, Up Hill Jill, Striker Light and Tornado Tears – champions each and every one – but none make the list which shows just how good this top 5 is.
Between all of the sprinters and stayers, group race winners and track record holders, the brilliant and the durable, here’s my top five greyhounds of the 20teens.
5. Dyna Double One
54 starts, 31-9-6
Four group 1 wins
If Dyna Double One was born six months earlier or six months later, he could well be remembered as one of the all time greats. Unfortunately, he started his career around the time Fernando Bale began his headline stealing career. ‘DD1’ was stronger than his higher profile kennelmate as shown by the fact that he still holds the middle distance track records at both Sandown and the Meadows. He had been defeated by Fernando Bale in their first seven encounters before getting the upper hand in one of the greatest ever TAB Melbourne Cup finals that saw DD1 win the world’s greatest greyhound race in a race record time. It was his first success in six group finals and set him off on a run that saw him annex the Brisbane Cup, Rookie Rebel and Australian Cup, becoming the second greyhound to win Victoria’s two premier sprint races. He was named the 2015/16 Australian Greyhound of the Year.
Dyna Double One’s four group 1 wins
4. Xylia Allen
83 starts, 40-13-12
$743,730 (then record)
Four group 1 wins
Australian Hall of Fame inductee
If there was an underrated greyhound of the decade, Xylia Allen could well be it. As brilliant as she was versatile, she won over distances from 460m to 725m including group 1s over both the sprint and staying trip (as well as a group 2 over the middle distance), won group races in four different states and held four track records. She won on 12 different tracks across her career and won on multiple occasions from each box. She remains the only female to win the Shootout – in a race record time to boot – and has become a very good producer being the mother of NZ champion Dyna Weslyn and Laurels finalist Welsly Bale. She was named Australian Greyhound of the Year in 2013/14, the Sandown Greyhound of the Year in 2013, and won the Australian Run of the Year for her group 1 Sapphire Crown victory before being inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame.
Xylia Allen breaks the 720m Wentworth Park track record
51 starts, 42-2-4
$715,508 (then record)
Five group 1 wins
Australian Hall of Fame inductee
Unwanted as a pup – she was the only member of her 9 pup litter that couldn’t find a buyer – the ‘Mighty Miata’ went on to become one of the most popular greyhounds ever seen. She burst onto the racing scene by winning a qually at Cannington in 30.26 by more than 12 lengths, followed by her maiden final in 30.18. She then broke the track record at her 3rd, 4th and 5th career starts as she won her first career starts by an average of 11.75 legnths. As brilliant as she was over the sprint trip, it was over the distance where she made her name, winning five times at the top level including her home town Galaxy twice. She was the 2012 and 2012/13 Australian Greyhound of the Year, 2012 WA Greyhound of the Year, and was inducted into the WA Racing Hall of Fame in 2014 before taking her place in the Australian Hall of Fame.
Sky Racing’s beautiful tribute to the great Miata
2. Fanta Bale
63 starts, 42-9-5
Nine group 1 wins
By unfashionable sire David Bale out of an American dam Ucme Typhoon, Fanta Bale became Australia’s highest earning greyhound. While not the fastest greyhound we’ve ever seen – she never broke a track record during her career – she was one of the great big race performers, winning nine of the 10 group 1 finals she contested and finished second in the other. She was the first – and only – greyhound to win at the top level over all three distances, making a total of 22 group races across her decorated career. She spent almost two years at the top of the sport, winning the Australian Greyhound of the Year in 2016/17 and 2017/18 and Victorian Greyhound of the Year in the same years. She is a certain future inductee to both the Victorian and Australian Halls of Fame.
Fanta Bale’s 9 group 1 wins
1. Fernando Bale
44 starts, 35-3-2
$1,299,370 (then record)
Eight group 1 wins
‘Flying Fernando’ was the epitome of brilliance. Amazingly, the greatest greyhound of the decade – possibly ever – was well beaten a total of 27 lengths in his first two start and had an unremarkable record of three wins and a placing after his first seven career starts. He would go on to miss place just once in his final 37 starts (5th in the Ballarat Cup in his penultimate career start), including record equalling stretch of 16 consecutive victories. He won eight group 1 races, his only defeat at the highest level coming in the final of the TAB Melbourne Cup where he missed the start and was nabbed on the line by kennelmate Dyna Double One, with many regarding that performance the finest of his career. He became the first greyhound to surpass $1m in prize money when he won the Adelaide Cup in front of one of the biggest crowds seen at Angle Park. He started favourite in all but three starts, and started an odds on quote in his final 26 starts, 18 of which were $1.35 of shorter. He not only won, but consistently showed excellent early speed and ran brilliant times, including 28.98 at Sandown Park, 29.50 at The Meadows, 29.26 at Wentworth Park and 29.20 at Angle Park. He won the 2014/15 Australian Greyhound of the Year, the 2015/16 Victorian Greyhound of the Year, and the 2015 Run of the Year capping off the finest 12 months of racing seen since Rapid Journey’s remarkable 1998 campaign. He retired at the end of 2015 three months shy of his third birthday at a time most greyhounds are at the peak of their careers. He’s a member of the Victorian Hall Of Fame with a place in the Australian hall a certainty. At stud, his progeny include at least 13 individual group 1 winners including the last two Melbourne Cups, earning almost $25m since commencing stud duties in 2016.
When Fanta Bale retired I wrote a column stating she was the greatest of all time (even titled it ‘Fanta Bale is the GOAT’), and for what she achieved on the track I honestly believe will never be seen again. But on further reflection, what Fernando Bale did against in an era of outstanding sprinters, his consistency at the highest level over the most competitive distance, his early speed, his track records, his marketability, his appeal to an audience outside of greyhound diehards, the crowds he’d pull and his continued influence beyond the track, it’s hard to go past Fernando Bale.
He has become the benchmark against which all other sprinters are compared, and for that alone Fernando Bale is not just the greyhound of this decade, but maybe the greatest ever.
Fernando Bale’s Sandown show reel is something to behold!