A Melbourne Cup Like No Other For Jan Wheeler

The Group 1 TAB Melbourne Cup is particularly special to the Wheeler family which is no surprise given the significant success they've enjoyed.

Peter Davis

25 November 2021

The TAB Melbourne Cup is very special to the Wheeler family.

Just two years after Paul Wheeler changed tack and switched his racing team from New South Wales to Victoria, Kantarn Bale, in 1999, kick-started a remarkable run of success in a race many consider the toughest Group 1 to win in the country.

Superstar Fernando Bale and Dyna Double One clashed in the 2015 decider and the latter prevailed in a surging thrust to the wire. The drive to the line was chilling and Sandown’s gathered throng erupted.

The Dyna Double One win was Paul and Jan Wheeler’s fourth in the cup after, only 12 months earlier, Dyna Villa had prevailed while in 2011, Dyna Tron saluted in the most remarkable feature race of any code in this country’s rich racing history.

Seven of the eight finalists – all heat winners seven days earlier – were bred, reared and owned by the Wheeler family and they queued up at the finish with Gary Ennis’ Enry Walt finishing at the tail.

On Friday, Tiberia Bale and Kinson Bale take a place in the $500,000 to-the-winner Cup, the 66th edition, yet the sons of super sire Barcia Bale will be outsiders – as was Knicks Bale in her Hume Cup assignment on November 1 – the evening of Paul Wheeler’s funeral service – and she defied all to snare that Group 1 600m contest at The Meadows.

“As strange as this is, it saddens me that we have two dogs in the cup because Paul is not here,” a broken hearted Jan Wheeler said.

“It’s nearly six weeks since Paul died and I’m still struggling badly from day to day. The family has been wonderful and so many friends have been great support but I’m just not coping well at all.

“Ï can’t plan, can’t focus and everything in the house and at the property reminds me of Paul. Even walking into the office (where he died) is chilling.

“I was only in the next room and could hear his mobile phone ringing and not being answered which was quite unusual … after it had rung a third time, I went in and it was all too late.

“It bothers me that I could have done something if he was with me or that I was in the office with him at the time.

“Unfortunately, there was no autopsy done. The coroner felt there was enough family history and predisposed conditions to suggest Paul died of a massive heart attack but we just don’t know.”

Life at Murringo has changed very little for the rearing and breeding operation which Brendan Wheeler has taken full control of yet Paul was always a sounding board.

“Brendan is just devastated by his dad’s death and is also trying to come to terms with it yet his resourcefulness and strength is remarkable,” Jan said.

“He has stepped up to completely manage the day to day running of the property midst his own significant grief.

“He wants to go to Sandown on Friday with (wife) Nichole and the two girls to honour his dad.

“Brendan rarely attends race meetings but this is important to all of us and it might just help with a little closure.

“Both of the dogs are considered outsiders in the Cup but hope springs eternal.

“We will carry on as best we can – Paul would have wanted that and it’s what we must do to honour his dedication to us and the greyhounds he so loved.”

This Melbourne Cup is unlikely to be won by a Wheeler bred dog but racing is fickle and, at times, the extraordinary does happen.

For now, days are being stacked one-by-one by Jan Wheeler.

Hadeel Bale, a Silver Bullet Finalist at The Meadows in 2019, whelped her second litter by caesarean on November 1 – the evening of Paul’s funeral service – and another six bitches will whelp before the end of the year, each mated prior to Paul’s passing.

In fact, Ivoria Bale is due to whelp (to Barcia Bale) on Cup night and there’s every chance Jan Wheeler will be distracted and with ‘one of her girls’ in the whelping room rather than watching Sky Racing when the race is decided.

Short term, some exciting youngsters by Feral Franky, Konomi and Fernando Bale will step for the first time for the Wheeler family.

Paul’s legacy is apparent at the sprawling 3000-acre property some 25 kilometres east of Young and his mark on the greyhound racing landscape of cast in stone.

Five of the eight Melbourne Cup hopefuls are by Wheeler-bred sires – a constant which is set to endure.