THE Apple Isle’s most prestigious series, the Group One Hobart Thousand, is fast approaching.
For many years, the one-turn classic was the premier race in Australia, it was briefly the richest race in the 1940s and remained one of the most valuable as the group racing era commenced.
In 2000, the race was taken out by Tasmanian champion, Top Shiraz.
Legana breeder Pat McClenaghan had struck pay dirt when he mated Helena’s Fine with Black Shiraz. The nine-pup litter produced an outstanding crop, but most importantly two superstars in Top Shiraz and Fine Horizon, both in time, deservingly inducted into the Tasmanian Greyhound Hall of Fame.
Whelped in February 1997, Top Shiraz was owned and trained by McClenaghan and commenced racing in July 1998 at the age of 19 months. This was in a heat of the prestigious Breeders Classic at Hobart, winning his heat in 26.73.
Running second in the semi to King Lamoni after striking trouble, the talent of Top Shiraz was discovered with a spectacular eight and a half length victory in the final running 26.24.
Just two starts later Top Shiraz headed to Devonport contesting the Johnston Puppy Championship.
He claimed victory in the heats before a luckless fourth in the final.
Four wins on the trot followed, including a five-length gold collar heat win.
Top Shiraz secured a string of major race victories, the first in April 1999 when as a six to one on favourite he won a heat of the Illingworth Classic at Launceston before a three-length victory in the final.
Returning to White City to contest the Tasmanian Derby, Top Shiraz won his derby heat at fives on, backing up with an all the way victory in the final in a best of night 30.93.
The red-brindle champion’s ability went to new heights following a track record performance in the State Sprint Final at White City, smashing the 522-metre course record in a sizzling 30.53.
He finished a gallant fourth to Henry Hand in the National Sprint Championship at Wentworth Park.
Resuming in September he completed three consecutive wins including the Devonport Cup, making it a one act affair where he led Proper Lass for a three and three-quarter length victory in 25.54.
The Hobart Thousand was next on Top Shiraz’s list, winning his heat and semi-final, before a rare blunder at the start saw him finish fifth to Latest Lad in the final.
In the 2000 Launceston Cup Series Top Shiraz won his heat by a mere twenty lengths – he was to then finish third in a semi-final.
Pat McClenaghan’s litter landed the Cup with Fine Horizon, while Top Shiraz was awesome in winning the consolation.
Now three and a half years old, Top Shiraz was looking to be in the twilight form of his great career.
Lining up yet again in a Hobart Thousand, Top Shiraz downed Victorian-trained Trigger by six and a half lengths in a fast 25.92.
Lifting the bar again, he won a semi-final in 25.90, leading into a memorable December 21, 2000, where Top Shiraz sped to Group One glory beating the legendary Brett lee by a length in a slick 25.91.
Pat McClenaghan would look to give his champion one last crack at the Launceston Cup and in February 2001, at four years old, Top Shiraz began his final assault.
In a fairy tale finish to his career, Top Shiraz annihilated a quality field, leading every step of the way to score by a six and half-length cup final victory in a fast 30.79.
In his amazing 65 start career he won 45 times with 9 minors, earning prizemoney of $95.646.
Noted highly in his list of achievements was an invitation to the Topgun at Sandown Park in 2000.
Tragically, Top Shiraz was never given the opportunity to prove his worth at stud, cut down in his prime due to a veterinary mishap.