To fill a void in middle distance racing, GRNSW introduced the Dapto Middle Distance Championship in 2019.
The race, with its $25,000 prizemoney, attracted interest from interstate and after four heats, the final field was made up of four Victorians and four locals.
In the final, it was the Andrea Daily Rockstar Prince surging to the front on the turn out of the back straight and going on to win the inaugural championship.
In 2020, Sportsbet came on board as sponsor of the event, and after two thrilling heats, the final drew together a cracking field.
From box 1 it was the Peter Sims-trained Second Exit - so often a minor placegetter in feature races - jumping straight to the lead and giving nothing else a chance.
2020 Winner - Second Exit trained by Peter Sims
The heats of the 2021 Sportsbet Dapto Middle Distance Championships saw impressive performances from Jason Magri's pair Zipping Niseko and Where's Rocky finishing first and second in their respective heats, while David Smith's pair Prim And Proper and Ice Cream Story did likewise in their respective heats.
But while many thought the Zipping Niseko - fresh from a seocnd placing in the Group 1 Topgun Stayers in Melbourne - would be the one to beat in the final, it was Queenslander I'm Explosive leading from boxrise and giving her rivals something to catch. They couldn't catch her and she went on to claim a thoroughly deserved feature race victory.
Middle-distance racing through the GRNSW series have proven popular at Dapto and the Dapto Middle Distance Championship series is a much sought after event.
In 2022 the Lords dominated the final with six of the eight runners between Jodie and Andy. Only Father Rick for Ray Webster and Zipping Novak for Jason Magri were the exceptions.
And it was Jodie snaring the trifecta with Cawbourne Magic defeating Good Odds Emma and Bandit Jane.
Both Good Odds Emma (Megastar) and Cawbourne Magic (Newcastle Cup) would go on to win Group races within the following month.
Cawbourne Magic in full flight
2022 Dapto Middle Distance Championship winner Cawbourne Magic with connections
In 2023, it was the evergreen Father Rick who blew a hot line-up away to claim the race for Ray and Sharron Webster.
Rick clocked a near track record time of 34.03 in the heats (Bandit Jane holds the mark at 33.99) and he gave his rivals no chance in the final with a brilliant front-running display to take out the $25,000 Ladbrokes Middle Distance Champion Final at Dapto.
Father Rick posted yet another slick time, 34.12s (a new race record) with 3¼ lengths back to Sandstorm Rico, with a further 1¼ lengths back to Energizer Miss in third.
“He has been a marvel and he’s an old boy,” said Sharron. “He’s four next month. We couldn’t ask for more of him. We’re so proud of him.
“I’m so happy. And I’m so happy for Ray. He puts in a big effort and I couldn’t be happier for Ray and I’m just so proud of our boy.”
It was a similar feeling from Ray Webster.
“We are feeling ecstatic. This is great. We haven’t had a group winner for quite a number of years and to have it with a dog like him, who is so beautiful, it’s so good,” Ray said.
“I get a sense of achievement when I see him go around and he gives me that achievement. He’s something special and he will have a home on the lounge at home for the rest of his life.”
2023 Ladbrokes Middle Distance Championship winner Father Rick with Ray and Sharron Webster
Father Rick took his career prizemoney tally to more than $158,000 with the win