Back in Melbourne for the Australian Cup in March, the burning question was could the champion create history by winning the treble. His handicap of eight yards saw him concede up to six yards to some runners in the series.
Rookie Rebel, started 10/9 on favorite, and brilliantly took out the final of the 2700-pound Australian Cup at North Melbourne .
There was no element of fluke or favour in his success, it was achieved by sheer brilliance.
At the Judge with a full lap to go. Ivoria Boy (50/1,14) was leading from The Deaner (100/1, 13), Magic Babe (2/1, 11) and Rookie Rebel.
Ivoria Boy led by five lengths at the tower, where Rookie Rebel moved up to join The Deaner, with Magic Babe fourth.
There was a roar of consternation when The Deaner, boring out, bumped Rookie Rebel off balance temporarily and Ivoria Boy gained a six lengths break.
However the champion would not acknowledge defeat, and with a powerful drive he caught the runaway leader at the home turn.
The applause was deafening as Rookie Rebel raced away to beat Magic Babe by four lengths in 36 and 2/16ths for the 675 yards equalling the record time he had set in his heat, with Idle Mate (25/1, 12) finishing on to take third placing from Ivoria Boy.
Rookie, having won the Melbourne Cup, the Hobart Thousand and the Australian Cup, had become the highest stake-winning greyhound ever to race in Australia and was acknowledged as being at least equal to the best dog anyone had ever seen.
The Minister for Lands. Mr. Turnbull in presenting the 800-pound cheque and trophy to Rookie 's lessee-trainer, W ally Hooper, gave full credit to t he champion's performance and also congratulated the MGRA directors on the conduct of the meeting.
The champ ran the fastest times in each of the three stages of the Cup and his 36 and 2/16ths seconds recorded in his heat and final were both track record runs for the distance.
Moomba Queen, Miss Norma Jones, added a nice touch of glamour when after decorating Rookie Rebel with a sash, paraded with him and Wally around the perimeter of the track.
I estimate Rookie Rebel had only another 20 or so starts before being retired to stud in September of 1958. During that latter part of his career he equalled Farrago's 1951, 580 yard track record at Wentworth Park recording a win in 31.5/10ths. He also set a new record at Sandown over the 555 yards in running 30 and 14/16ths when he defeated Lucky Bingo raced by Stan Cleverley in an Invitation.
The 64-pound white and fawn dog's race record stood at 67 starts for 36 wins, 17 seconds and six thirds. Rookie Rebel stood at stud for Ray Webb at Mont Albert, in suburban Victoria at a fee of 50 Guineas plus freight. His first pups were whelped in November 1958 with three litters to Blonde Dawn, Crown Signal and Tiny Jet. In a stud career that spanned the next four years he severed some 72 bitches and it's fair to say he had limited success. However he did produce some handy pups, the best being Bybrae the 1961 Melbourne Cup winner. Bybrae came from a very good litter from a bitch called Byasta, the litter also contained top-notch galloper Rookon.
However at stud he did live in the shadow of his litter brother Sunview who produced many outstanding greyhounds and as mentioned earlier he sired duel Melbourne Cup winners Saskagay and Saskaview and the immortal stud super sire Shan's View.
To finish the Rookie Rebel story and get a handle on just how good he was, in those days there was a limit to how many features races you could win, they numbered only six and “Rookie” was able to win three of them.
Perhaps as a gauge to his of status, I'll quote three highly respected judges of the code, firstly the late Jack Woodward who reported on greyhound racing for almost 40 years, he wrote in 1958.
“I doubt whether we have seen one better, if he is not the best he is certainly equal to any I have ever seen race.”
Secondly 86-year-old George Schofield a legendary muscleman (who checked the champ), former bookmaker, feared punter, studmaster and administrator said.
” Rookie Rebel is the best dog in a field I've ever seen, it was as if he looked up over them to plan a run, an amazing dog.” Schofield should know; he trained his first double in 1936.
Finally the late Bill Pearson founder of the Gold Form Guide 40 years ago and follower of the sport since the early 30's told me.
“As far as the best stayers I've seen race, I could never split Zoom Top, Bunyip Bint and Rookie Rebel.” Not bad company to be mentioned with.
There's one thing for sure and certain, Rookie Rebel is a worthy member of the AGRA Australian Greyhound Hall Of Fame