by Jeff Collerson
Victorian trained Fernando Bale might be all the rage for Saturday night's National Sprint Championship at Wentworth Park but statistics favour a NSW victory, with this year's home state having snared 19 of the 50 finals.
Victorian-trained greyhounds have won 13 Sprint finals, with Queensland taking out eight, Western Australia five, South Australia four and Busy Vintage, who won at Harold Park in 1984, the sole winner from Tasmania.
But Sweet It Is, last year's winner, and arch rival Lady Toy are favoured to continue Victoria's domination of the stayers' title in Saturday night's National Distance Championship.
Victorian greyhounds have been successful in 22 of the 46 National Distance finals held since 1969, while NSW is next with 11 wins ahead of Queensland (six), South Australia (five) and Western Australia (two).
Lillycette will be attempting to become the first Tasmanian stayer to annexe the National Distance final.
The National Sprint Championship was launched at Sydney's Harold Park in 1965 as greyhound racing's equivalent to harness racing's long-established Inter-Dominion Championships.
Best Sun, trained in the ritzy suburb of Hunter's Hill by Eddie Batiste, won the inaugural final but the inequity of catering only for sprinters was remedied in 1969 when the National Distance Championship was introduced.
First winner was Amerigo Lady at Wentworth Park, who was trained on the NSW south coast by Neville Ballinger for Victorian owner-breeder Charles "Buck'' Buchanan.
Buchanan was also a successful owner of thoroughbreds and raced Lady Sybil, winner of the 1960 group one VRC Oaks at Flemington and Scenic Star, who won SA's biggest sprint, the 1960 Goodwood Handicap.
Obviously it takes a top notch greyhound to win a Nationals final but who could argue with Rapid Journey being ranked the greatest of all the sprint winners.
Rapid Journey, who won the 1998 final for NSW at Perth's Cannington, came from last to defeat SA's Bula Boy and the crack Queenslander Faithful Hawk.
Rapid Journey's owner-trainer Jane Carruthers has always rated her dog's Nationals win as the finest of his many victories, which also included the 1998 Melbourne and Adelaide Cups, 1998 Topgun and 1998 Golden Easter Egg.
"How can any dog come from last and beat a field as good as Rapid Journey toppled in the 1998 National Sprint?'' Carruthers wondered at the time.
"He was so intelligent in a field and had a tremendous will to win,'' she added.
Miata has to be the best of the National Distance final winners after retiring with 42 wins from 51 starts, a truly phenomenal strike rate.
She broke five track records and took out Hobart's 2012 National Distance Championship final for her WA trainer Paul Stuart, defeating Victoria's Irma Bale and Jethro, from Tasmania.
Victoria's Sweet It Is, who won last year's National Distance Championship at Cannington, WA, is chasing back-to-back wins on Saturday night.
If she is successful she will become only the second stayer to win two Distance finals, with Queensland's Boronia Blossom scoring in 1995 at Melbourne's Olympic Park and in 1996 on her home track, Albion Park.
Only sprinter to win two National Sprint finals is WA's Sandi's Me Mum, successful in 1989 at Perth's Cannington and again the following year, this time at Sandown, Melbourne.
But even more remarkable was the achievement of Queensland's Dashing Corsair, who displayed astonishing versatility by winning the 2009 National Sprint Championship at Sandown before coming out two years later to win the National Distance Championship at Brisbane's Albion Park.
And Anthony Azzopardi, who has Jack Kade in this year's Sprint and Magic Earner in the Distance finals, has tasted National Championship success, having landed the 2010 sprint at Adelaide's Angle Park with Smooth Fancy.
Last year's National Sprint Championship winner Chica Destacada took out the 2014 NSW Greyhound of the Year award, emulating Winifred Bale, the 1983 winner, Acclaim Star (1979), Fast Sapphire (1980), Jessica Casey (1991) and Gallant Ruler (1994).
Winifred Bale, who led throughout to defeat Bindall's Hope (NSW) and Lord Tegimi (Q'ld.) at Harold Park, was owned and trained by the late Allen Wheeler, whose son Paul owns current champion Fernando Bale.
National Distance Championship victors who have subsequently been voted NSW Greyhound of the Year include He's Some Boy (1973) and Dotie Wilson (1975).
For what it's worth, here are my rating of the top 10 National Sprint and Distance winners.
Sprint: 1 Rapid Journey (NSW) 2 Flying Amy (Q'ld.) 3 Temlee (Vic.) 4 Xylia Allen (Vic.) 5 Winifred Bale (NSW) 6 Jessica Casey (NSW) 7 Kate's A Scandal (SA) 8 Acclaim Star (NSW) 9 Elite State (Q'ld.) and 10 Fast Sapphire (NSW).
Distance: 1 Miata (WA) 2 Boronia Blossom (Q'ld.) 3 Bayroad Queen (SA) 4 Sweet it Is (Vic.) 5 He's Some Boy (NSW) 6 Boomeroo (Vic.) 7 Dotie Wilson (NSW) 8 Dashing Corsair (Q'ld.) 9 Woolley Wong (NSW) and 10 Amerigo Lady (NSW).