The mighty Half Your Luck still the best box dog I have ever seen.
Jeff Collerson remarked – When he raced in Sydney he was a star but another Victorian called New Mariner had the edge on him on the big Harold Park course.
Didn’t beat him in the famous match race at Sandown. One of the great match races in history. Never forget it, packed house at Sandown. Half Your Luck one of my all-time favourites still the best beginner I have ever seen. They bet 7/4 had I my week’s pay on him, straight to the front LAW won by two. Superstar.
In 2011 the GRV Hall of Fame admitted Half Your Luck, one of the most consistent and arguably one of the greatest sprinters ever to race in Victoria, into its hallowed ranks.
By Worthing out of Mini Note, Half Your Luck was a white and black dog whelped in December 1970. He was owned and trained throughout his two-year career by Ted Redpath, a grocer from the Gippsland town of Meeniyan. Redpath was in the twilight of his training career and the 33-kilo Half Your Luck would prove to be easily the best greyhound he ever owned or trained.
His first start came over 400 yards (366 metres) at Sale on 22 April 1972. The 16-month-old puppy ran a one-length second, but a week later returned to the Sale course and scored by eight lengths.
His next race start came on 5 June, this time over 560 yards (512 metres) at Olympic Park, in a Juvenile. From box four, Half Your Luck led all the way to score by three lengths.
He ran a one-length third over 430 yards (394 metres) at Warragul at his next start but then made amends with a four-lengths victory at the same course on 23 June. Just three days later Half Your Luck scored by 12 lengths at Olympic Park.
He was set for the Silver Chief Classic and made his way into the 24 July final with a nine-length victory in his semi-final. In the final, Half Your Luck was outclassed and finished a well-beaten fourth behind Getaway, his first unplaced run in 10 career starts. The Little Gent, later a top class wide running sprinter, was sixth in the same event.
In August, Half Your Luck raced four times for a five-length victory at Wangaratta (420 yards; 384 metres) and two second placings at his first couple of starts at Sandown Park (555 yards; 508 metres).
Four races in September saw Redpath’s sprinter notch a win at Warragul and his maiden success at Sandown Park, as well as another second placing. His early speed meant that in spite of drawing poorly on occasions, he was usually in the leading bunch in the early stages of a race, making him a formidable contender in any event he contested.
From five starts in October, Half Your Luck scored twice (at Warragul and Sandown) and ran two seconds, including a narrow defeat at Olympic Park to the flying Miss Baines where his tendency to race in the middle of the track proved the difference between victory and defeat.
The 23-start veteran was given a crack at the Melbourne Cup and won his way through to the final with a strong five lengths victory in his heat on 9 November.
In the final he drew well in box two but was unwanted in the betting, starting a 20/1 outsider. Although he began well he was outpaced by Gold Grotto and Benny McGrath and badly hampered at the first turn when Miss Baines fell and jammed up the field. Nonetheless, Half Your Luck battled on well to finish third, 10 lengths adrift of the brilliant Gold Grotto who downed New South Wales star Benny McGrath in a race record 30.6/16.
He raced five more times in 1972 and picked up two strong victories at Sandown over the star Northern Territory sprinter Fountain Hall as well as closing out the year with a win over 585 yards (535 metres) in his first start at Bendigo.
With 15 wins, seven seconds and three thirds from 30 starts in 1972, Half Your Luck had proven himself a consistent if unspectacular competitor. Within a year he would be acclaimed as one of Victoria’s greats.
Australia embraced the metric system in January 1973 and Half Your Luck’s first race took place on 6 January when he scored by five lengths over 366 metres at Bendigo.
Five days later he was sent out an odds-on favourite for the inaugural Shepparton meeting, but he was unable to run down Mighty Thunder over 440 metres.
Three consecutive victories followed: two at Warragul (494 metres) in a heat and final of the Victorian Country Championship and then he made amends at Shepparton. In the Sandown Park final of the Victorian Country Championship he was sent out favourite but found severe interference and ran sixth, beaten five lengths by Dionola. This would be the worst finishing position of his entire career.
Half Your Luck more recovered his fan base by winning his next seven races on end. The first two of these were the heat and final of the Australian Cup. In his heat he downed the classy Garron Court and then, drawn nicely in box one for the final, he held out Miss Baines (box two) in the run to the first turn to lead all the way and score by one and a half lengths from her. Third home was The Little Gent.
Wins at Olympic Park, Sandown Park (from Fountain Hall), Olympic Park (from The Little Gent) and then the heat and final of the Warragul Cup followed.
The sequence was broken when he found trouble at Olympic Park and had to settle for second.
Half Your Luck then contested the Olympic Park Sprint Championships series, winning his heat narrowly from The Little Gent before taking out the final on 7 May by three lengths from Blue Allen.
After before placings behind the imported sprinter Luska Dubh and Getaway at his next two starts, on 24 May, he led all the way at Sandown to defeat Gold Grotto. Four days later he could only finish fourth behind that greyhound at Olympic Park. After the race Half Your Luck was found to be injured. He did not race again for 52 days.
When he resumed racing on 19 July, Half Your Luck again rattled off seven consecutive wins. He downed Cosmic Gem by seven lengths at Sandown Park and then scored four in a row at Olympic Park beating, in succession, Roo Power, Woolley Wilson, Roo Power (again) and the rising star New Mariner.
New Mariner’s second placing (beaten just half a length) was the closest the 37-kilo fawn sprinter had finished in three starts against Half Your Luck. They would meet again a further eight times in what became one of greyhound racing’s most celebrated rivalries.
Set for the National Sprint Championship, Half Your Luck downed New Mariner by four and a half lengths in a round-robin heat at Sandown Park on 30 August and then won his Olympic Park heat by four lengths on 3 September. New Mariner finished second in his heat at Olympic Park, but this meant he formed part of the team to head north into New South Wales to contest the semi-finals at Harold Park and Wentworth Park.
The semis took place on 15 September over 457 metres at Harold Park and Half Your Luck found early trouble from box seven before running a strong length and half second behind Dusty Trail. New Mariner found Harold Park to his liking and won his semi by six lengths.
The second series of semi-finals took place over 530 metres at Wentworth Park and once again New Mariner shone, scoring in a strong 31.33. Half Your Luck drew perfectly in box eight for his semi-final and scored an easy four lengths victory over Silent Wonder in a sizzling 31.04.
The National Sprint Championship final was run at Harold Park on 29 September and although Half Your Luck began well from box six, he was outpaced by New Mariner (box two) who powered away to score by four lengths from Redpath’s sprinter, running a fast 26.28.
Half Your Luck and New Mariner clashed again in the heats of the Lord Mayor’s Trophy at Olympic Park on 15 October. Half Your Luck drew well in box eight while New Mariner was beautifully placed in box one. Beginning well, Half Your Luck made every post a winner as he cruised to a four and a half lengths win over the fast finishing New Mariner to set up another clash between the pair in the final.
While New Mariner came up with box two, Half Your Luck was slated out of box six, but punters stuck with Redpath’s champion and he didn’t let them down, leading quickly and downing his rival by just over a length.
Half Your Luck made it three straight against New Mariner when he downed him by five lengths at Sandown Park, just three days after his Lord Mayor’s Trophy win. The pair had raced each other eight times to this point with Half Your Luck victorious in seven outings while New Mariner had been runner-up five times.
Their rivalry was so intense a match race had been organised by agreement between Ted Redpath and New Mariner’s trainer Ray Jennings. The match took place over 513 metres at Sandown Park on 1 November and attracted a huge crowd. As a spectacle it was somewhat of a disappointment as Half Your Luck (box three) speared out of the boxes to easily lead New Mariner (box one). He set up a five-length break in the back straight and kept going to beat his rival by three lengths and earn $1,000. In a generous gesture, Ted Redpath donated his prizemoney to the Royal Children’s Hospital and Ray Jennings did the same with the $500 New Mariner had picked up for finishing second.
The rivals then moved on to contest the Melbourne Cup series a week later. Half Your Luck won his heat by six and a half lengths from Tasmanian star Mountain Rock and New Mariner overcome box five take out his run-off and set up yet another clash between the two champions.
New Mariner drew the coveted rails while Half Your Luck wore the pink. Heavy rain made the track a bog and at box rise it looked as though Half Your Luck was again going to down his rival. The white and black sprinter began well and was close to the lead going into the first turn. New Mariner had stepped slowly but then drove hard along the rails into the first bend. Using all his 37-kilos to advantage, New Mariner shouldered his rivals out of the way and railed to an unbeatable lead. He went on to score by seven lengths from Half Your Luck in a slow 31.49.
Four days later, on 19 November, the pair met for the 11th and final time. Contesting an Invitation Stake at Olympic Park, Half Your Luck was again well drawn in box eight while New Mariner exited box two. In a roughly run race New Mariner came from fifth at the first turn to score by two and a half lengths from Diro’s Daughter with Half Your Luck a further four and a half lengths away third after being checked repeatedly in the run.
So, in their 11 clashes Half Your Luck finished with eight victories and two seconds to New Mariner’s three wins and six seconds. Their rivalry arguably remains the most famous in the history of Australian greyhound racing.
Ted Redpath’s champion raced only once more, on 13 December at Sandown Park when he finished fifth from box two. After the race he was found to be injured and Redpath decided his champion had done enough and retired him to stud.
Although he did not become a hugely successful sire, Half Your Luck did have an impact in that he was the maternal grandsire of the great stayer Pharaoh’s Mask (Roy Trease x Forever Eaton).
In almost any other year Half Your Luck would have been a ‘moral’ to take out the Victorian Greyhound of the Year award, having won 27 times from just 38 starts in 1973, and being placed a further eight times. But 1973 was no ordinary year as it was dominated by the great Lizrene, the Victorian superstar stayer whose 28 wins and 15 placings from just 44 outings gave her a narrow victory in the points-based title.
Half Your Luck won at eight of the nine tracks on which he raced, and on the one where he failed to score he finished second in both starts against some of the best sprinters in the nation. He won from every box, at least three times, and was especially brilliant from alleys three (seven wins and one second from eight attempts) and six (six wins and two seconds from eight runs).
He contested nine major races and won four, was runner-up in two and third in one other. His average winning margin was 3.70 lengths, similar to Head Honcho.
Punters backed him into odds-on favourite in 30 of his races and he rewarded them with 20 wins.
The Gold Guide gives his statistics as 68 starts for 42 wins, 13 seconds, and five thirds. His prize money tally is more around the $47,000 mark, which, at the time of his retirement in December 1973, put him as the third highest prize money winner of all time, behind Zoom Top and Lizrene.
By Duncan Stearn