In February 2011 the appropriately-named High Earner broke the 12-year-old record of the great Rapid Journey and became highest Australian prize money winner in history. His $553,795 eclipsed Rapid Journey’s mark of $530,995.
Back in 1970 a greyhound claimed by many as the best of any era, Zoom Top, broke down at her last start. She was retired with a then-record $59,032 in prize money, a mark not surpassed for nearly four years. What could she have earned in the modern era of inflated prize money?
Zoom Top raced 136 times between 1967 and 1970 for a-then Australian record of 68 wins. She also ran 25 seconds and 14 thirds.
Her owner-trainer Hec Watt gave a lot of chances away at making even more money with the great fawn bitch by racing her at a host of country tracks in New South Wales, at the request of many racing secretaries.
Zoom Top’s presence usually drew record crowds to tracks such as Taree, Bathurst, Lismore, and Muswellbrook. In all, she raced on 27 tracks and won on 24 from distances of 292 metres to 795 metres.
When Zoom Top raced, the Group system of racing was unknown, and greyhound racing was restricted to the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania, with night racing yet to take place in Queensland. The number of major races with big prize money on offer was therefore restricted.
Zoom Top made 17 major finals and won 11, was second in two, third in two and fourth and fifth in the other pair.
In 74 races on city tracks (that is, Wentworth Park, Harold Park, Sandown Park, Olympic Park and Hobart) she registered 38 wins, 17 seconds, and six thirds. As this is a substantial number, certainly more than most greyhounds race in a career, I will use only these races as the yardstick to measure how much prize money Zoom Top might have earned if she were racing in the modern era.
Her first city start came at the old Harold Park track in a 457 metres (500 yards) Fourth Grade event. She ran a fast-finishing fourth. These days that would have earned her $50.
She then ran second in a 732-metre Third Grade race; this would now be worth about $650. She won her third race, again over 732 metres at Harold Park, and would have collected $3,000 today.
By the time of her 10th city start she had registered three wins and would have accrued $11,650 in prize money.
Four races, and three wins, later this would have rocketed to $43,300 after winning the Wentworth Park Gold Cup.
Her 18th city start saw Zoom Top annex the Association Cup, these days worth $50,000 for first. This would have propelled her to $99,950. In 1968, her overall record was 40 starts for 16 wins at this time, with $11,800 in the bank.
She was beaten at her next six city outings with five seconds and one third, including the final of the Winter Stake.
After being injured in one of these, she resumed and added the Sydney Cup to her list of victories. In 1968, the Sydney Cup win was her 57th race and gave her a new Australian record prize money tally of $17,798. For our purposes, the Sydney Cup win was her 26th city outing and meant she has earned $137,100.
Her 31st city race saw her become the only greyhound ever to complete the set of the four Sydney city staying cups when she snared the Summer Cup at Harold Park and collected another $25,000 (on current figures) to take her earnings to $171,200.
Towards the end of 1968, Zoom Top put together a sequence of eight successive wins and included among these was the NSW St Leger -now called the Paws of Thunder- and worth $100,000 to the victor. Thus, at city start number 33 Zoom Top’s prize money would have rocketed to $274,200.
Her early form in 1969 was below her best. She did run second in the Hobart Thousand, but failed to make the National Futurity final. After running third in the inaugural National Distance Championship she would have passed the $300,000 mark when winning a heat of the Wentworth Park Gold Cup at her 47th city contest.
Zoom Top won the Wentworth Park Gold Cup final to take her then prize money to $37,448. In city races alone, by today she would have accrued $327,750.
After snaring the Olympic Park Distance Championship she returned to win her second Association Cup and this, her 55th city race, propelled her to $409,800. In 1969, the event was her 96th start and 50th win and took her earnings to $46,433.
Sadly, her form fell away a little and injury did little to help matters. A six-week respite saw Zoom Top bounce back and make it into a second Sydney Cup final, but was desperately unlucky to finish fourth. She then won the NCA Cup at Sandown Park, her last win for 1969.
In 1970 she raced for the 70th time at a city track, in an Invitation Stake at Olympic Park, and won, thereby reaching $450,050 in prize money in modern terms.
Sadly, her final four city races were defeats, the last seeing the end of her great career when she broke down at Wentworth Park in a heat of the Gold Cup.
By my calculations, Zoom Top’s 74 city races alone would be worth at least $451,450 in prize money in current standards. Considering she won another 30 races elsewhere, including two Queensland Distance Championships, a Dapto Silver Collar, and Richmond Oaks among others, her career prize money would easily have topped the half million mark, proof yet again of her greatness.
Of the top 10 greyhounds in prize money winnings in Australia as of the beginning of 2012, most have won under the half-million dollar mark and, more importantly, all were sprinters. Only the smart Queenslander Dashing Corsair and the Victorian Mantra Lad were also all-distance stars. Sprint racing is where the big money happens to be; for stayers the rewards have always been less.