One of the most exciting announcements GRNSW has made in recent times was the news that in 2022 a new, rich, feature race would be added to racing calendar for stayers.
The $500,000 first-placed prize money sees The Ladbrokes 715 join the Melbourne Cup as the third richest event in Australian greyhound racing, behind only the Million Dollar Chase, and Victoria’s new event the Phoenix.
The first ever running of the race was a memorable one for a few reasons.
Maree Smith was about two thirds of her way from Forbes to Newcastle, and still with about two hours to drive, when the warning signals on her car lit up.
Maree and her passenger, the brilliant greyhound Miss Ezmae, trained by her and husband Jack, were in the tiny rural town of Sandy Hollow and her vehicle had decided it had had enough.
Miss Ezmae was the favourite for the inaugural running of The Ladbrokes 715, and it at one stage it looked like she might not even make it to the track.
“I was going well until a few little signals randomly came on in my car at Sandy Hollow,” Maree explained. “I pulled over (into a service station) and asked someone to take a look at it for me and he said, yes, the motor is cooked you can’t move it.
"After a little cry and pulling myself together, I then accosted this poor young fellow called Jesse Heinz from the Central Coast and asked him where he was going. He said he was going home to the Central Coast so I said: “Can you take my dog and I to the Gardens because we are in the biggest race of our lives?” He said, yes he would.
"Miss Ezmae was fine through all of this. She doesn’t care as long as she’s comfortable and she can have a sleep.”
Four hours later, the final chapter of a remarkable day was written when Miss Ezmae led throughout to win The Ladbrokes 715m, in what turned out to be her final race, with her owner keen to embark on a breeding career.
Clocking 41.65s, Miss Ezmae had a length and a half to spare over the gallant Frank Hurst-trained Sound Of Silence with that pair a further 4¾ lengths in advance of third placegetter, Jodie Lord’s Cawbourne Magic.
In 2023, Minnie and John Finn claimed the second edition of the race with Zipping Orlando.
Nobody was quite sure who had won the race at first with a photo required to separate the fast-finishing Zipping Orlando and long-time leader Nangar Rocket.
Minnie Finn danced her way into the catching pen, already confident of a thrilling victory, but it was close and there were no numbers displayed on the semaphore board.
A lot of people thought the same way as Minnie, but the judge took a bit more convincing, and with every second it took for the winning number to be displayed, the concern grew that maybe Minnie may have gone off a bit early with the celebrations.
It was equally tense for Dennis and Ann Barnes as they waited quietly to see if perhaps Nangar Rocket had held on, for the win, or even for a dead-heat.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the judge made a decision and the number 2 went in the frame. Zipping Orlando had taken out the $500,000 first prize for Minnie, her husband John and owners Marty and Fiona Hallinan.
“Down the back when I could see him coming, I thought well the five (Nangar Rocket) stopped last week, and I know how strong he (Zipping Orlando) is,” Minnie explained.
Asked why she thought she had won, she said: “Well over there (at the 715 start on the opposite side of the track) with all the signs and the truck in the way, I wasn’t sure, but I knew that after the line he was a half in front, so I thought, maybe.”
On the line was the only time Zipping Orlando was in front in the entire 715m journey and Minnie was right, but only just, with both the winner and runner-up recording the identical time of 41.67s, with third placegetter Palawa King storming home to finish just a half-length behind the pair.
It was the 27th start of Zipping Orlando’s career in the 715, and only his sixth trip over the staying distance. He now has 15 wins and six placings and almost $700,000 in prizemoney.
“For the Hallinan family, they bred the mother (Zipping Dharma), they bred the father (Zipping Garth), that's a big achievement and they just keep producing the good dogs,” Minnie said.
“Marty and John said that he was going to be a great stayer after start five. I had my doubts because I thought he was just too brilliant early. But John said don't worry, and Marty said he's going to be a good stayer.
“And he's only a baby. He's got it all ahead of him.”
The Finns have won countless features over the years, but Minnie said this one was special not only for the huge prizemoney.
“This is brilliant. My grand daughter came with me and my daughter in law is here, and they're a big help at home. John doesn't come these days because of the cold weather. I reckon he'd be at home crying. No, he'd be hysterical. He was very confident and so was Marty, but I'm never overconfident.”
Except apparently when she knows she got a the winner in a tight photo.
2023 Ladbrokes 715 winner Zipping Orlando.
2022 Ladbrokes 715 winner Miss Ezmae , Second Sound Of Silence, Third Cawbourne Magic
2022 Ladbrokes 715 winner Miss Ezmae - Trained by Jack and Maree Smith