Like a toddler awaiting the arrival of Santa, for the past few months, ever since this wonderful event was announced, I've been counting the sleeps.
And, it’s so close I can almost touch it. That object of my anticipation is nigh – another Australian first and this time in the sport I have loved since my own childhood, with the running of the world's richest greyhound race, the $1.2 million GRNSW + Ladbrokes Million Dollar Chase.
It seems like only yesterday I listened to Racing Minister Paul Toole and GRNSW Chief Executive Tony Mestrov, announce that NSW would be hosting this new race, a race in which the winner would receive a cheque for $1 million dollars. That, in a sport which in its long history has only ever seen three greyhounds – Fanta Bale, Dyna Double One, and my all-time favourite, Fernando Bale - win more $1 million in earnings. On Saturday night they will be joined by another in the exclusive millionaire’s club, leaping into elite company with just one run of a little less than 30 seconds.
That’s $33,300 and change, per second, over the 520m journey. Simply amazing!
When I first learned of the concept I felt shivers down my spine, a euphoric feeling of pride for my sport, that it had now truly arrived on the sporting – not just racing – landscape. And I guarantee I will have those same shivers tingling my spine and pushing the hairs on my neck to attention come 8.40pm on Saturday evening.
Lawren Leo once wrote: "The secret to excitement is discovering new paths and having the courage to take them." That positive philosophy has been adopted by Greyhound Racing New South Wales who will deliver the finished product this Saturday night at Wentworth Park.
This new path we are travelling has already been an exciting one for us all to venture down, and we are just about to arrive at our destination. From Bathurst to Lismore, down to Wagga Wagga, out to Dubbo and back to Temora, up to Grafton, to Newcastle, Nowra, Maitland, Bulli, and Richmond … what a ride it has been, you almost don’t want it to end. But it’s time.
Four New South Wales-trained chasers will explode from the boxes pitted against four Victorian rivals, in the canine equivalent of an Olympic sprint final.
Local conditioner Andrew Crouch's head must surely still be in the clouds after qualifying two runners for the final - Big Butters and Jamella Jet. While leading Victorian trainer Seona Thompson has an incredible three qualifiers in the quest for this new holy grail - Midnight Starlet, Azkaban and the favourite Poke The Bear.
Will the victor come from outside of that quintet?
NSW mentors Jodie Lagogiane (Mystic Riot) and Vic Sultana (Sky Wave) certainly hope so, along with another ace from south of the border, Dyna Harpa, prepared by Andrea Dailly, the trainer of two of those three members of the Millionaire’s Club, Fernando Bale and Dyna Double One.
But while the spotlight will be blazing on the Million Dollar Chase, the other events are much more than simply making up race numbers.
The Masters Meteor Final worth $100,000 to the winner, the Young Star for the emerging talent, young stars which may in 12 months be chasing a million themselves, the Group 3 Sydney Cup Final for the stayers, and the Million Dollar Chase Consolation.
Don’t sit on the couch, don’t go to the local. Get trackside and witness history in the world’s richest greyhound race and the biggest night the sport has ever seen in this country.
Gates open at 4.30pm with the first race at 6.17pm.
Oh what a night! Not many sleeps to go now.
See you there.