In 2022 GRNSW introduced a new feature event to the racing calendar for middle distance greyhounds.
The race carries prizemoney of $125,000 to the winner, and as such is the richest middle distance greyhound event in the world.
To be known as the Ladbrokes Country Classic, the final will rotate around a number of regional venues, with the Dubbo Greyhound Club given the honour of hosting the inaugural running on March 19, 2022.
A series of heats will be held at eight venues across the State, with the first four in each heat advancing to four semi-finals, before the first two in each semi-final progresses to the final.
Bathurst, Nowra, Gosford, Dapto, Grafton, Temora, Dubbo, and The Gardens are the hosts of heats in the inaugural year, with Dubbo also hosting the semi-finals.
Total prizemoney for the series is $282,000.
The honour of the first winner of the Country Classic went to the John and Minnie Finn-trained Zipping Kyrgios who after camping on the speed early from his box one draw, powered to the lead swinging for home and raced away to collect the $125,000 for his connections.
The win was an emotional one for the Finns and also the dog's owner the Hallinan family whose local track is Dubbo.
“He’s a special dog to John and I, and we wouldn’t swap him for any other dog. He has that much ability but he’s just had bad boxes in big races …. but he’s done it today,” Minnie said.
“The place is rocking tonight, I have never seen so many people on a greyhound track.
“For the Hallinans, they’re local, Camo (Hallinan) brings all his mates here every weekend they will be tearing the place apart (celebrating) tonight. They have been wonderful to train for and we just hope we can keep it going.”
The winner clocked 34.49s taking the trophy ahead of early leader Fantastic Raven who was tenacious, with the Finn’s Zipping Alabama running home strongly to grab third.
The night was a rousing success with a massive crowd on hand and the event was acclaimed by many as their best night on a racetrack.
Inaugural Stockman & Paddock Country Classic Winner Zipping Kyrgios and Minnie Finn
The second ever edition of the race was run and won in 2023 by the John and Julie Smart-trained Showman Jack.
The second favourite for the $125,000 final jumping from Box 1 and making the most of the prized alley to avoid some early traffic problems and take up a spot in running right behind early leader Ailee Bale.
The Mark Delbridge-trained chaser was still in front at the top of the home straight but Showman Jack peeled off her back and pounced on the lead to storm home for his greatest race victory.
The final time was 34.48 and the margin 2.25 lengths to Ailee Bale, with fellow Victorian Jackpot Joan running third for Glenn Dainton.
Trainer John Smart kind of knew what it was like to win a big feature race. Quite a few years back now he had been the strapper for the John Hawkes’ stable and led champion galloper Octagonal back into the winner’s stall after several of his Group 1 victories.
“This is unbelievable. This is what dreams are made of. It’s like in the olden days when I was strapping Octagonal. It was like that a little bit. It’s unreal,” an ecstatic John said after the victory in the $125,000 to the winner event.
“He’s my little Occy. I've been in a couple of Group races but I've never pulled one off, I’ve run second, third, but now … I’ve won one, this is unbelievable. It's a good feeling," Smart said.
GRNSW Country Classic winner Showman Jack with trainers John and Julie Smart and GRNSW CEO Rob Macaulay