The Ladbrokes Southern Stars series was conceived to add to feature racing in the Southern region of NSW, and attract not only the best local greyhounds but sprinters from around the State and also Victorian visitors, all chasing the $50,000 to-the-winner prizemoney.
The inaugural series began at three Southern NSW racetracks, with heats at Temora, Wagga and Goulburn, then culminating with the final to be held at Goulburn.
The Temora heats were taken out by Jason Fletcher's Aston Barak and Stuart Hazlett's Crowdza Dazzled. At Wagga the heats went to Victorian chasers Robbie Rotten and a track record performance from the stunning Paua Of Buddy, before at Goulburn, Good Odds Cash for Frank Hurst, Minnie Finn's Group 1 winner Gatlin and John Mellon's Mellcat Big Boy all qualified for the final.
In the $50,000 feature the punters expected it to be a battle between Paua Of Buddy and Good Odds Cash, but spearing to the lead from boxrise, they were and the other finalists were unable to catch the flying Aston Barak.
Aston Barak claimed the first edition of the Ladbrokes Southern Stars in 2022
Aston Barak and trainer Jason Fletcher flanked by Gatlin and Minnie Finn, as well as David Jones and Paua Of Buddy
In 2023, the series was supported by an even stronger contingent of runners from all around NSW, Victoria and even Tasmania.
The Temora heats were taken out by superstar She's A Pearl and her great Southern adversary Salad Dodger, with Royal Nagar also qualifying as the fastest second-placed runner. The Goulburn winners included Screaming Jet, Zipping Remus and Zipping Orlando. While the Wagga leg of the series granted Ralph and Dundee Smokey passage through to the Goulburn-based final.
The decider was taken out by Kiwi Big Daddy, but only after the prodigious youngster was granted late entry to the field following the scratching of kennelmate Salad Dodger.
He took full advantage of the two box, pushing up early to hold the lead and then exploding clear around the home turn, racing away to beat Screaming Jet by three lengths in 24.52s with Royal Nangar another two lengths back in third.
“I eyed it off (the Southern Stars series) with both this dog and Salad Dodger and unfortunately the other fellow couldn’t make it, but this dog got the job done,” Azzopardi said.
“It’s a great feeling coming back home, this always will be home, and to pull off a good race it’s very satisfying.
“This place (Goulburn) has been really good to me and I’ll keep coming back here. It’s only just across the border, in arms reach and this region is great for Victorians.”
Big Daddy alongside placegetters Royal Nangar and Screaming Jet