By Neil Brown & Michael Sharkie
greyhound that went straight into the AGRA
Hall of Fame on retirement was perhaps the
greatest Greyhound of the ‘90's, Rapid Journey. The New
South Wales owned and bred super star took
all before him in the eighteen months he graced the tracks across Australia
, winning no fewer than eleven feature races
including five group ones. Here is the story of how Rapid Journey went from
city class sprinter to Australian champion and the highest stake winner in the
Bred by Jane
and John Curruthers, Rapid Journey or “Carl” (after Carl Lewis) as he is affectionately
known by his owners, was from the smart sire Amerigo Magic, out of a bitch that
Jane's mother owned called Miss Courtney.
was by one of the leading sires of the early nineties, Amerigo Man, who had
produced Hall of Fame inductee Flying Amy among others. Both sire and dam had
quality bloodlines that include blood of the champion Temlee. I asked Jane if
they had sent Miss Courtney to Amerigo Magic with a view to produce an outstanding
Miss Courtney, and we had Amerigo Magic, he was a really smart dog but had a
bad wrist. When Miss Courtney came on season we sent her to him, like any breeding
we hoped the pups would turn out alright.” Curruthers said.
litter of eight pups were whelped on the 30 th of
May 1995 , but three more pups were lost overnight.
Miss Courtney developed septicemia and was rushed to the local Vet by Jane's
mother, and a full hysterectomy was performed. Unfortunately the bitch later
passed away. Amerigo Magic lived to a ripe old age of twelve and a half, “Not
too bad for such a big dog.” Curruthers said. He died of a heart attack late
As well as
breeding Carl, Jane and John also roughly broke him in, but he was very slow
to show anything.
really take their time, just like their dad did. Carl was never a dog we thought
was exceptional, he was a very late maturer like the rest of the litter.” Curruthers
early part of Rapid Journey's career was spent on country tracks like most young
dogs that are learning the caper. Although he went on to be a champion, his
early efforts hardly set the world on fire. After wins at Taree, Dubbo and Orange
in March, May and June respectively, he headed to
where he won his first start in a time of 30.66.
After 6 more starts for mixed results at Wenty', Carl headed to Appin on the
country circuit to try and emulate his father.
Magic won the Anniversary Cup at Appin, that was his race, that's why we took
Rapid Journey there, to try and win it as well. I thought he did quite well.”
he did not win the Anniversary Cup, Carl was still fulfilling the dreams of
Jane's mother who just wanted to have a dog to win in the city. He was yet to
hit his peak, but was showing signs he could be a handy city performer. With
a best time of 30.38 at Wentworth Park
under his belt, Curruthers decided to have a crack
at the Group one Adelaide Cup in January 1998.
STONE TO STARDOM
started at odds of 7-1 in his heat, the longest odds he would start at for the
rest of his career. He won his heat in outstanding style in a time of 29.76,
easily the quickest time he had recorded anywhere in his career. It wasn't just
the time that was impressive it was the way in which he breezed home, it was
as if he was keeping something in reserve.
night he had the expectations of many people, experts and punters alike on his
back. In an absolutely awe inspiring display, Rapid Journey won the 1998 Adelaide
Cup in a blistering time of 29.34, winning by nine - and - half lengths from
Plumb Bob and Brookside Cindy.
It was a
night of mixed emotions for Jane and her family only two days earlier Jane's
mum Kathleen had lost her battle with cancer.
the dogs as much as I do and I know she would have been rapt to see Rapid Journey
win. I felt two extremes of emotions that night, but I know it's something mum
would have wanted us to do.” Curruthers said. The way the champion won the Adelaide
Cup that night one wonders whether Rapid Journey had an inkling of the personal
tragedy suffered by his popular trainer. One thing was for sure and certain
it seemed that the Australian Greyhound racing scene had a new rising star.
the Adelaide Cup, Rapid Journey went to Orange in country New South Wales for
the Orange Cup in February, which he won by the slender margin of half a length.
Then it was onto the Golden Easter Egg. After winning his heat then running
second in his semi, Carl was sent out a warm 6/4 favourite. He won the final
by two - and - a half-length, in a good time of 30.18 – his personal best at
to that point. Even though he was winning these major
races, Rapid Journey was not getting the respect he deserved.
wasn't highly regarded. The experts seemed to overlook him; the media did anyway.
I remember we were pretty excited when we won the Easter Egg, so we rushed out
to buy the greyhound recorder for the write up. We flicked through every page
and not a word about him; the write up was on the very back page! We couldn't
believe it. It was unbelievable! ” Curruthers remembers with a chuckle.
that Rapid Journey was not beating good dogs. He was running in what is probably
best described as a vintage era of greyhounds. Dogs like Awesome Assassin, Reggemite,
Poetic Reward, Billy Cruise and Cerin Bale to name a few were his opposition.
Not many slouches among them. It didn't matter who he lined up against he beat
them. Curruthers said she never thought that at the time he was doing anything
just the opposition at the time. They were all good dogs, and now they are all
at stud. I am a pessimist though, and every time he lined up I would think ‘ooh
he goes ok, and look at what she's done, it will be hard tonight Carl' but he
kept winning. It was like a never ending dream, I only realised the enormity
of it all much later.” Curruthers explained.
the Egg it was off to Perth
for their Cup. After breezing through his heats, Carl won the final by seven
and three quarter lengths, beating a strong field. Although this seemed like
another major notch on his belt, his big goal was yet to come.
“He had an
injury set back before the Nationals, so we took him to Penrith for the Penrith
cup. We used it as a guide and a stepping stone for the Nationals, we wanted
to see if he was on track.” Curruthers said.
won the cup by three lengths then was beaten at Cranbourne of all places. In
the scheme of things this defeat was a small drop in a massive ocean as Carl
went in cherry ripe for the New South Wales National Sprint series in August.
started at 7/2 on in his heat and duly saluted, then blew away NSW's best sprinters
by eight – and – a – half-lengths in a time of 30.09, then it was off to Perth
for the final.
To hear Jane
Curruthers speak about the National Sprint Final is truly something special.
The way, in which she marvels at the feat of her dog, it's a true indication
of the family's love and the respect they hold for their superstar. You can
almost hear the smile on her face as she described the victory.
Sprint is easily my favourite win. How do you come from last to beat a field
as good as that and to win so well? How does any dog do that? I still to this
day do not know how he did it, he's just so intelligent and had a tremendous
will to win. It was phenomenal. The size of his heart … gee to come through
all those obstacles time and time again just to get to the front, I don't know
how he did it. The Adelaide Cup heat was a great effort but the National Final,
what a win, unbelievable, phenomenal.” Jane reminisced adoringly.
It was at
this stage in the middle of his career that Rapid Journey had peaked, he was
truly unbeatable. Curruthers believes that his dominance may have something
to do with his post win “treat”.
“I take all
my winning dogs to McDonalds for an ice-cream.” She explained.
take Carl too long to suss it out, when he won he'd be so keyed up, he'd stand
up all the way to McDonalds, and he knew the big yellow ‘M'. When he saw that
M he'd get even more excited. I'd give him his ice cream and he'd scoff it,
then he would lie down and go to sleep. He was very intelligent and he liked
ice cream.” She said.
wins at Albion Park
and a win in the Lismore Cup in September, he seemed
tuned up for a tilt at the Melbourne
summer carnival, kicking off in the Melbourne Cup.
's new super-dog won his Melbourne Cup heat by three
lengths in a quick time of 29.92. He then shaved a hundredth of a second off
that time in winning the final in November, again by three lengths. It seemed
that Rapid Journey had a mortgage on the 1998 TAB Topgun, the jewel in the crown
of Melbourne Greyhound racing. A race that would prove to be his swansong. On
a special December evening, Rapid Journey scorched around Sandown
then held off late challenges defiantly to win the Topgun by a head, beating
Reggemite and Poetic Reward in a sensational time of 29.85. Truly an outstanding
way for a champion dog to farewell racing, doing it with the dominance and class
that he had displayed throughout his career.
Journey left the track in December 1998 as the winner of $530, 995 and as Australian
greyhound racing's highest ever money earner. The record stakes still stands
as the current world record as well. America 's
current record holder is 2000-2001 superstar Be My Bubba whose record earning
are $365,734, after the conversion from American to Australian Dollars it falls
well short of Rapid Journey's figures.
record stands at 54 starts for 33 wins, 6 seconds and 5 thirds. “Carl” took
all before him in the time he graced the Australian greyhound racing scene,
captivating audiences of punters wherever and whenever he raced. Perhaps his
ability and tremendous strength and will to win is matched only by the affection
shown to him by his trainer. Anyone that has had the opportunity of spending
time speaking to either Jane or John Curruthers, about Rapid Journey you quickly
understand how much this dog means to them. The affection they feel for him
is felt as they answers questions and relay stories of the most exciting time
of their lives. Many participants and journalists since his retirement have
referred to Rapid Journey as a greyhound with freakish ability a title Jane
likes to correct.
“Mmmm I don't
like to think of him as a freak,” Jane explains thoughtfully. “Freak is a word
you use to describe a one off occurrence. I think he was more than that, he
was a true champion. I am just realising how much he has achieved. We are delighted
with the way he has performed at stud and would love to hope that as a sire
he could produce more pups as good as him, or better, he deserves it.”
went to stud on his retirement with a stud fee set at $1400 the fee at the time
raised some industry eyebrows as being a little expensive. When one considers
what has taken place in the stud scene since those days it seems rather tame.
The other thing I wondered about is what sort of offers would have been made
for the dog if he raced in 2004. He has enjoyed quite a bit of success at stud
and at nine and half years old is still going strong, when pups started to race
in 2001, 2002 he was siring at least 20 winners a week across the country.
He has thrown
many topliners the best being Toll Security a Vic Peters winner and Topgun runner
up, Thunder Creek, Big Bad Katherine, plus Brisbane Cup winner Tricky Creek.
Journey is also the first Australian Stud dog to be used as a shuttle sire he
stood for a stint in Ireland
before returning to Curruthers Castlereagh property last year. Jane and daughter
Courtney went to Ireland to make sure “ Carl “ settled in well in his overseas
home, but couldn't bear to be away from him for to long. Rapid Journey served
about 60 bitches in Ireland
and to date has served between 250 and 300 bitches here in Australia
and at time of writing (Dec 2004) remained in the
top 10 on the Australian wide sires list.
member of the AGRA Hall of Fame his record is hard to top and may well stand
for many years to come. Current trends seem to be against racing the best dogs
for any great length of time with the lure of the stud market finding many of
them dogs retired early. Sometimes they are retired before they are fully tested
against all comers on a variety of conditions. A situation that was never the
case when we make reference to the mighty RAPID JOURNEY .
President Mike Ahern, Induction Dinner M.C. Neil Brown, sponsor John Hutchinson
with Jane Curruthers at the Launceston Casino.
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