Australia’s Top Stayer Amity Bale Breaks Down
Written By Kevin Pitstock Thursday 3rd December 2009
Racing last night in the Group 3 Newcastle Cup at The Gardens, Australia’s top ranked stayer was always struggling and fell back sharply at the point of the home corner, dropping out quickly.
Subsequent veterinary inspection revealed a fractured hock for the Graeme Bate trained staying star.
Owned by the New South Wales based Wheeler family, who were in attendance at last nights racing, it was immediately announced she would return directly to the Wheeler property and be retired as a brood bitch.
Last night’s tragedy ended what has been a freakish run of dominance in the staying ranks for the past six months for the diminutive black daughter of Sonic Flight ~ Evonne Bale (Light Of Fire ~ Frosty Bale), who has raced in all three eastern states on six different tracks while taking almost all before her.
Amity Bale officially retires with 72 career race starts for 31 wins and 24 placings and total career earnings of $275,195. But it wasn’t until switched up to the staying journey that she really excelled.
As a youngster Amity Bale managed two wins at the Geelong 450m in a best of 25.58, five wins at The Meadows 525m with a personal best of 30.04, four wins at Sandown 515m with a best of 28.89, and wins at Horsham (27.26) and Cranbourne (30.21). Those efforts saw her rewarded with her first group final, the controversial 2008 Group 1 Melbourne Cup final, finishing 6th behind Surgeon.
After nearly 50 starts as a sprinter Amity Bale was stepped up over a middle distance in late May 2009 and although failing at her first start over 600m at The Meadows, she quickly made amends winning the 5th grade final one week later in 34.50 and beating classy group performer Flash of Light.
The next 23 starts in almost exactly 6 months would see Amity Bale dominate Australia staying races, winning 17 of those starts and running 4 more placings against the best in the country. Along the way she picked up six group wins and two track records, and would have people mentioning her name in the same breath as the immortal Hall Of Fame greyhound National Lass.
Amity Bale trounced her rivals in her first staying attempt at Sandown over the 715m trip, winning by 8.25 lengths and breaking the 42 second barrier running 41.96, the fourth fastest time ever record at Sandown, and only a little over 2 lengths off Total Denial’s 41.80 track record.
After a come from behind win at The Meadows over the 725 metres in 42.52, Amity Bale tackled the 2009 Group 2 McKenna Memorial heats winning her heat in 42.13, but she had to settle for second in the final behind Mantra Lad, after getting held up in the run.
From there she went to Brisbane’s Albion Park just one week later for the the Hawkins Media Superstayers Invitational, a Sandown Shootout style race for the stayers; where again Mantra Lad would prove to good for her, but her time was about to come.
Returning to The Meadows, Amity Bale won both heat and final of the 2009 Group 2 AWM Distance Championship, and then proceeding to again put her name in the top ten fastest wins ever recorded at Sandown, running 41.99 in winning a heat of the Victorian National Distance Championship. Unfortunately, she finished only fourth in the final, depriving her of what would end up being her only chance to win a Group 1 staying final.
Just eight days later though, any thoughts of Amity Bale not being 100% right were quickly dispelled when she set new figures for the Geelong 700m journey, smashing the previous record by almost 3 lengths and setting the new time standard at 40.32.
After another Meadows win in 42.55 in a Free For All, Amity Bale headed North for her first look at Wentworth Park and just did enough to qualify for the 2009 Group 3 Chairmans Cup final, running second in 42.69. The benefit of a look at the track proved the difference, with Amity Bale putting the final result beyond doubt winning in 42.38 and beating her nearest rival by over 5 lengths.
With the 2009 Group 2 Sydney Cup heats starting just a week later, Amity Bale made short work of both heat and final, running 42.19 in the heat and taking the Group 2 final in 42.41 coming from behind the early pace.
Just five days later Amity was at it again. In the heats of the 2009 Group 2 Sir John Dillon Memorial, she broke the magical 42 second barrier again at Sandown running 41.99 and winning by over 8 lengths from her nearest rival. The Sir John Dillon Memorial final result was never really in doubt despite the fact she got back closer last than first at one stage, but a characteristic charge to the line saw her reel in the leader winning her fourth group race by 2.5 lengths in 42.24.
Nine days later Amity was back in action in the 2009 Group 2 Hume Cup wining her heat, coming from off the pace in 42.65 and blitzing the final with an all the way effort that crippled her rivals, winning by more than 9 lengths in 42.27. The time was the fastest ever recorded at The Meadows, taking .01 of a second off the previous track record and annexing Amity Bale’s second track record.
A trip to New South Wales ensued and with the space of five days she registered what would be her fastest Wentworth Park 720m win, running 42.14 in winning her heat of the Group 2 Summer Cup before winning her ninth straight race in the space of just eight weeks in taking out the final in 42.45. It would prove to be her last win.
Amity Bale returned to Sandown five days later for the Group 2 Bold Trease Carnival Cup and after getting back in the field failed to flatter in the run to the line when her customary strong finish was missing from her arsenal, despite finding her favourite running down on the rail.
Her last race would be in the Group 3 Newcastle Cup at another track she’d never seen before, The Gardens. Despite racing competitively, the little black champion was struggling all the way and finally she gave out just as heads turned for home.
Amity Bale was immediately retired for breeding by the Wheeler family, but despite her racing career ending early, she will still be a very strong chance of picking up at least two more awards, The Victorian Greyhound Of The Year, an award for which she will be long odds on to pick up; and the Australian Greyhound Of The Year.
But whatever is left to come in the shape of awards or in the breeding arena, she retires as one of the best stayers in recent decades, and certainly the best stayer to never win a Group 1 race; only for the fact that when her star was burning brightest, there were no Group 1 staying races scheduled. The highest ranked races were Group 2, and she won them all.
The stars that burn brightest, burn fastest.
Amity Bale’s Career Highlight
- 2008 Group 1 Melbourne Cup – finalist
- 2009 Group 2 McKenna Memorial – second
- 2009 Superstayers Invitational – second
- 2009 Group 2 AWM Distance Championship – winner
- 2009 Victorian National Distance Championship – finalist
- 2009 Group 3 Chairmans Cup – winner
- 2009 Group 2 Sydney Cup – winner
- 2009 Group 2 Sir John Dillon Memorial – winner
- 2009 Group 2 Hume Cup – winner
- 2009 Group 2 Summer Cup – winner
- 2009 Group 2 Bold Trease Carnival Cup – third
- Geelong 700m track record – 40.32
- The Meadows 725m track record – 42.27
- Recorded three of the top ten fastest 715m wins ever at Sandown