Alford and Lazarus

7 Sep

Another Harness Racing season in Victoria has just finished. I could easily talk about great horses, trainers and the many other highlights of the season, for me there were 2 standouts for the year! One was the performance of Lazarus at his first start in America! Well before he graced Hoosier Park, Indiana ,42 miles or 67 kilometres, an hour’s drive from that other veledrome of horse-power Indianapolis Motor Speedway the local drums were beating, not many pundits were prepared to declare him a dominant winner nor were any prepared to say he couldn’t measure up.
The race was due to be run just before midday Australian east coast time, not long before the Saturday Thoroughbred Metro meetings were due to start. Prime Time for a racing audience.
Many viewers tuned in to watch, participants of all 3 racing codes had kept beating the same tune, Just do your best Laz.
Collectively harness fans down under (both sides of the ditch) were holding their breath that he wouldn’t let them down!
No fear of that happening as he left the mobile barrier seeking a forward position from the outside gate and took up an early lead and that’s where he stayed going on to win The Dan Patch with relative ease! Falling by the wayside after the race were many of its details, a $US 325,000 stake celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Hoosier Park named after one of the sports greatest horses.
An 1896 foaling, yes 1896,Dan Patch was that dominant rivals were impossible to come by so connection took to the road with him as a traveling freak show, performing at fairs competing in time trials and earning millions through gate receipts alone! This race has prestige attached!
Lazarus will next race in Canada and will attempt to become only the 2nd horse ever to win at the highest level in 4 countries in one year! Young Quinn was the first. *Update Lazarus ran 2nd in the Canadian Pacing Derby to the wickedly good Mcwicked.

The other highlight of the season took place over the whole length of it. It was Chris Alford’s remarkable record breaking season of 457 wins from 1641 drives with a win % of 27.85 and overall 56.53% of all his drives finishing in the first 3.
Chris’s drives earned $4,636,613 in prize money, 83 of those wins came at Metro level along with $2,720,809 in earnings! This is a sensational effort, well done Chris you’re like a bottle of good wine, gets better with age! Enjoy your well earned break!

So now we look forward to the 2018/19 season. With several of the stars of last season missing either injured or being sold to race in America, fans of harness racing are looking forward to seeing which horse steps up to fill the breech!

One thing I found interesting is how the influencers in Harness Racing were happy by an 18% rise in turnover on Breeders Crown final night after its move from Sunday afternoon to a Saturday night timeslot. From all reports I’ve seen crowd numbers were down which doesn’t seem to be a major concern of HRV so long as turnover rises. I’d like to think otherwise but I’m not seeing it as yet!
During the week in the lead up to final night I found it very surprising that @TheTrots twitter account and its Facebook page were very subdued in their promotion of the night. I do wonder if they have the correct strategy on social media?
Combined these accounts have 15,000+ followers and obviously the potential to reach many more through the sharing of content!
I’m of the belief that creating a narrative that captures and just as importantly engages an audience is ultra important.
That social media reach has the opportunity to turn harness punters from churn punters into regular harness bettors.
The “”build it and they will come saying can easily be achieved by a lot more relevant content and follow up engagement on social media.
Take some time to browse through Tweets/Replies on HRV’s Twitter account to see for yourself the lack of follow up. Without engaging with your audience you become no more than a Preaching Account, this lack of interaction with an audience can be seen as an arrogant approach. An approach HRV cannot afford!
Thankfully there are many fans quite prepared to post content on their own accounts and engaging with fellow fans!

I have to give credit where I see it and that kudos goes to the change in the racing calendar!
Metropolitan Harness Racing in Victoria has re-found a regular home on Saturday night, it’s back in sync with metro meetings from Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide!
This is a much better approach knowing that Saturday night The Trots will be at Melton, whether you like the venue or not, it’s Home.

Short and sweet this time around.
Look forward to posting more harness content now my passion for the game has reignited.


Staff Shortage

3 Aug

There’s been plenty of talk lately about staff shortages in racing. I’ll stay out of the Jockey’s dispute, make a small reference to track riders but mostly concentrate on ground staff, the grunts of the industry.

Just quickly on track riders, rare breed indeed, overall I think they are under paid but not from a per ride fee perspective. $15-20 per ride for a non employee rider isn’t that poor, that’s up to $60 per hour or 70 mins. Some horses are a dream ride and that fee is easy money, but when required to ride a pig of a horse then no money is just reward. Most of those independent track riders are sole traders meaning all the associated insurances, tax and superannuation have to come out of that fee. Then there are those riders lucky enough to be an employee where all those charges are covered by the employer, many also only do morning work having the luxury of not having to return in the afternoon. Then there are the visa workers, who are very well paid under conditions of their visa although they usually are required for afternoons and strap horses on raceday!

As for groundstaff, well the majority are full time. Fulltime groundstaff are required both morning and afternoons, raceday and nights, often hanging back for farriers or vets to complete their tasks. That stablehand hours go something like this, keep in mind that unlike most other industries overtime IS compulsory. A normal work schedule

Day1-13 Monday 4am start 9-10am finish return for 2-3 hours afternoon shift. One afternoon off per week. You might think that’s great, but what that afternoon off does is leave you a few hours of non overtime work on a Saturday morning. For that standard 38 hour week you get $739 gross for a Stablehand Grade1 or $768 for Grade 2 stablehands, then the 2nd week you add on 8-9 hours of overtime of which the 1st three of those is time and a half. About $300 gross extra.

Day 14 Full day off.

Just to highlight some disadvantages and how it can affect staff

4am starts- waking up at that time really messes with your circadian rhythm. It’s proven dangerous and unhealthy to workers who do it regularly. Affects social/family life like it does for any shift worker.

Split shift- Doubles your daily travel distance and naturally your fuel bill, eating into what’s left of that wage!

One Full day off per fortnight- Self explanatory really, destroys social/family and quality of life!

It’s also an outdoors job, not weather dependent like many outdoor jobs, weather inclusive, as the U.S postal service motto goes,
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds

So to do ‘The Grunts’ of the Australian racing industry!

Other factors include and I’m going off personal experience and from former co-workers agreement is living and working in the city is not ideal for true country people, you know the people who’ve more than likely had experience with farm animals including horses. The city is no place for horses to live is my belief.

Spouse’s, huh! Like any relationship you have your ups and downs, but for horse racing participants Single is best, get to more on that later, partnering with other horse workers you get an understanding from each other of the hours worked and commitment needed. Negatives can be too much time with your spouse, at work, at home and socially. Then there’s partners that do not work in the industry simply don’t get it or why you do it.

Touching more on the single is best, Staff Houses! Cheap rent, free rent turns that poor wage into pure disposable income, one large establishment had workers sharing apartments at The Quest $65 a week deducted from wage and feed yourself.

I have some thoughts on ways to overcome some of these issues.

Firstly, get rid of city training tracks, especially in Melbourne and Sydney. I’m not picking on these 2 cities, it’s just that I have more knowledge of these two than any others. I’ll focus on Melbourne though, for the same reason, I know it better.

Move Caulfield trainers east to Cranbourne and Pakenham or build another greenfields training hub. Plenty of land and that’s one way Melbourne’s population is heading in record numbers.

Flemington could have moved its trainers to Werribee but they missed the boat there as land surrounding the racecourse is all housing, so that leaves a greenfield site ranging from Werribee in an arc to Craigieburn. Coincidentally this arc is the planned route for an outer ring road through Diggers Rest, Bulla, Mickleham to the Hume Highway. These are also recognised growth corridors.

Secondly, Employment Pathways where Stablehands can upskill themselves with courses in say animal husbandry, animal nutrition, vet nursing, phlebotomy, even to acquiring a truck licence. Accompany these skills with a wage rise, as you may have noted earlier I mentioned Grade1 and Grade 2 stablehands, these are the only 2 kevels, with the difference being after 3 months work Grade 1 becomes Grade 2. That’s it. No other competency required. Now in this game and in life there’s those that cruise through doing as little as possible and those that are prepared to go that little bit further, there needs to be another Grade where those with the extra skills or qualifications, or go the extra yard can be justly renumerated without having to become a foreman!

Thirdly. Split the staff in half, have half start their week on a Monday-Saturday the other on a Tuesday-Sunday. This gives trainers a full complement of staff for the never ever miss unless you are dead Saturday morning shift. This gives the staff a 6 day week every week. You can also rotate the splits throughout the year so every one gets a go at Sunday’s off.

Another thought is to use more casual labour, and in a casual sense, no use getting casuals in just for 6 mornings a week, it only upsets the full timers, use casuals for 2 or 3 shifts per week. Ideally the industry should have temp work sourced through a specialist labour hire firm, where if a trainer needs staff due to illness or holidays they can call in the ‘temps’.

Just a quick word on the foreman/person position, I seen a comment on Facebook where it was mentioned forepersons are running sattelite or pre-training barns, their financial reward $98 a week more than a Grade1 stablehand.

The pay rates I’ve mentioned are the minimum that has to be paid under industry award, there are some great employers out there who do pay more and they are the lucky ones, both of them, employee and employer I mean, not that there’s only 2 great employers out there.

The industries attitude towards employees needs to change, you still hear of people being roared at by trainers for making mistakes, the night racing and early start situation needs a thorough going over, as it stands staff having to turn up at 4am after finishing any time from 8pm onwards after a night meet is workplace abuse. I wouldn’t want to be the employer of someone that had an accident on the way home or returning to work after a couple of hours off between shifts. Nor be the employer whose staff suffers a workplace injury due to tiredness after working so late the previous night.

Now to take us somewhere many don’t think of, bare with me here, many not all horses are owned by syndicate’s, if they are the syndicate promoter needs an AFSL authorised licencee to provide these services, the purchased horse (The Investment) is then placed into the care of a trainer who pays their staff the equivalent of Australia’s minimum wage, to care for The Investment. If this isn’t taken into consideration by potential investors then you’re not really showing due diligence in how The Investment is handled. Just my thoughts, may have no bearing at all, I just think its worth consideration and if more people did so and cared as much for the hard working staff as they do The Investment then it may just be possible to change the way things have always been in racing.

I like that there’s been talk about the staffing crisis, reading between the lines of those employers that came out so aggressively against a Jockey’s payrise, I know these same people hold the same disregard for their staff, but at the moment it’s only that Talk! I noticed no politicians spoke about it, no unions got behind the workers.

I’ll finish up now, hope you enjoyed reading until next time may your punting deity bring you good fortune and deliver some rain to our drought ravaged farmers! If not the feed bills will only go higher.


Black Type

15 Feb

As a greyhound handler I can say I’ve handled the winners or placegetter of 3 Group1 races, the Silver Chief and The Hobart Thousand, a 3rd in China Trips 1st Australian Cup a couple of group 2 country cups wins and placings.
Some of the other good dogs in the Bate kennel at the time like Immortal Flash a son of Ned Bryant’s 1985 Melbourne Cup quinella, his mother Sydney Dingaan beat home a future top stud dog in Shining Chariot.
Flash was a magnificent railer and a city Free For All winner was runner up in a Maturity and made the state final of The National Sprint Championship.
One night he was entered into a FFA at Bendigo drew box 1. I didn’t handle him that night I had a few runners in other events and I got one of our trusty handlers to box him, the other reason is I wanted to have a decent bet on him if the odds were there. He opened at 5-4 and as I wanted to take no chance that anyone else jumped I laid the ears back, rushed in and had $500 on him at……. 4-5 concession. Yeah I chickened a bit, I was about to have the biggest bet I’d ever had to that night, 10 times more than I’d ever bet before so I took the insurance of money back if he placed and not won.
I was shaking, palms sweaty, I looked at the squiggle on the bookies ticket IF 900 I could just make sense of it.
As the lids went up, still shaking and now I had this knot in my stomach, Flash had pinged straight on the lure and won the race like the class dog he was.

Not that I ever remember seeing them, somewhere on the walk to the kennels those 2 little devils the one Good on the left shoulder and Bad one on my right had their battle over me. Some might say the bad devil won. I like to think not! for right there and then I knew working with animals was the life I wanted.
I was fortunate enough to race against some of the best Greyhounds in Australia
Dogs like Highly Blessed, Head Honcho, China Trip. Two other dogs that I raced against that I have good memories about were litter brother and sister Iceni Princess and Frightful Flash. Iceni Princess could produce some remarkable efforts to overcome the trouble she found herself in, on the other hand Frightful Flash was just very good compared to his sister more importantly though was his consistency, what I really remember him for is his stud deeds in Ireland. He just clicked with those Irish bitches, he was the trailblazer for what was to become a host of Australian bred greyhounds standing at stud succesfully over there.

Without spoiling future posts some other Black Type events I have had the honour of presenting to race were:
1985 Inter Dominion with New Zealand visitor Zebec trained by Wilfred Arthur Slater and driven by Robin Butt unplaced to the great Scotch Notch.
In 2002 I post race paraded trotting Inter Dominion winner Game Bid while trainer Brent Lilley collected the trophy.
Sires Stakes Final 2yo fillies with Full Pleasure
Lady Joy mother of triple Derby winner Captain Joy, she is the fastest horse I’ve ever sat behind, paced a final furlong of a mile workout in under 13 seconds

I also attended to Makybe Diva’s 3/4 brother Musket at 2 of his last Melbourne Spring Carnival runs, Kidnapped who won a South Australian Derby although I didn’t travel to Adelaide to strap him, now we come to my favourite all time racetrack experience.
A 3rd place with Rarefied in the 2009 Group 2 Danehill Stakes won by the immortal Black Caviar at her 4th start. Wanted ran second in that race.

Harness Racing

6 Feb

Currently I feel Harness Racing in Australia is dire straits.
I’m writing this without any knowledge of any official data from wagering, *yearling sale averages or HR own KPI’s this is my gut feel.
At a time when we have some sensational horses providing sensational racing and individual performances, with one (Lazarus) even being compared with immortals of era’s past, prompting passionate debate, all of these positives for the sport can’t gain traction becausevof the ongoing race fixing scandals. Even the punt on anything brigade are turning their nose’s up at betting on harness! Obviously this will decimate turnover figures, in turn stiffling any prize money increase while also keeping hands un-raised at yearling sales.
*I have since heard the averages were down at Melbourne sale. Unofficially at time of writing.

All I’ll mention about the integrity issues is they need to be dealt with swiftly, by Harness Racing Authorities before waiting until the civil judicial process is heard.
Breaking the rules of harness racing themselves is not breaking the law.
Then apply penalties to make any other contemplating doing wrong to think better of it!
As for the scandals overall damage one only has to look at the Greyhound industry and what nearly happened to it. Don’t think HR is too big to be allowed to fail!
Take solace in the greyhound industry’s ability to overcome the adversity it faced!
Greyhound racing in Victoria had a helping hand from within by having over 10,000 registered participants at the time, GRV offered an easy avenue to increase these numbers by allowing interested parties a simple and free online application process to become a registered participant!

The Industry needs to be better served by its Broadcast Partner Sky Channel. The coverage of last week’s Hunter Cup was poor. They had all the harness media on course so why didn’t they use them better? The time allowed to Jason Bonnington in his pre race stable interviews wasn’t long enough for him to interview connections of more competitors!
I have tweeted suggestions about using social media platforms such as Facebook Live or Twitter’s Periscope to offer a hosting panel with time to hear from more connections.
I’m obviously unaware if there are broadcast stipulations that prevent this from being done.

I was initially critical of the marketing of the Cup but on review that wasn’t just!

The marketing of the race during the week was extensive on FM Radio stations and in mainstream print media, it was obviously sufficient enough to attract, what was it? 5,900 on course spectators. It was the coverage on the night that needs tinkering with, another medium to engage with those the pre-race marketing has reached but were unable to participate with their presence on the night.
Another thought on the presentation of the racing product is use of Go-Pro type cameras in the actual race! The footage doesn’t have to be broadcast live although that would be better, it can certainly be used in reviews of the race and in possible stewards investigation’s including protest hearings.

Another way I think could re-invigorate the Harness Racing economy overall is having more participants, HR needs facilities to offer a lower cost alternative to having to invest in your own training property. Shared facilities within a designated training hub.

Inside all these big stables are some very talented horsemen and women working as stablehands and foremen. Now if these people had the opportunity to set themselves up as trainers they would be more than capable of doing so! Starting with a few horses they’ll attract investment from family, friends and supporters, to survive they can offer pre-training services or breaking in depending on their skill set and contacts.
In my time on harness training farms in America these farms were run as a business some with 40-50 maybe more registered trainers, some with a very small team could actually share a barn to suit their numbers. As a business an empty barn earns no money! all the facilities were there for their use, at a cost of course. Day paddocks could be rented in morning afternoon or in all day periods, use of the pool or water Walker, feed suppliers delivered weekly with just the right amount of feed per horse per day charged at a daily rate, farriers were abundant it was a whole community within a community.
There would only need to be one of these to start with, ideally being adjacent to a existing track would be beneficial but there are other options, a property within half an hour drive of towns like Horsham, Hamilton, St.Arnaud Charlton or even as far out as Birchip. Towns like these offer affordable housing with mediums under $200,000 and rents are also commensurate with the lower house prices.
Increases in populations to these towns also benefit the township overall, there could also be some government incentives some of which are already available for rural relocation and 1st home buyers grants, so im sure if you did the figures 10 trainers could provide up to 100 horses to the racing pool with an accompanying increase in participants to the racing, these participants get a chance to establish a foothold in the game and can set roots in a township/community instead of being itinerant workers, taking them here and there to the next best job offer.
The industry could also help by programming more claiming races across all grades and claiming prices giving new trainers an option to purchase already racing stock for new owners and for other owners to turnover their charges even for themselves to take that chance to reinvigorate an old crock thus showing off their training talents!

How many registered participants does harness racing have? The Dale Monteith audit stated that over a period 4 years 2010-14 Harness Racing Victoria lost over 200 trainers nearly 15%

I’m intelligent enough to know these ideas are not without flaws, coming from a half mad sometimes narky nearly old fool. However you are quite welcome to point these flaws out through the comment section or on twitter @wrouty


I can say that in 6 years when I’m 55 and looking for a tree change I could not think of anything better than trotting off to my stable every morning and being as one with an equine athlete!

Twitter Interactions

31 Jul

On the night Fernando Bale competed and won his heat of the National Sprint Championship I had a lot of Twitter interactions with a few of my followers. I realised there are a lot of greyhound fans out there that don’t really know that much about the dogs they are betting on or even following, aside from reading a form guide, that’s not to say they are ignorant or don’t want to know. There are so many different scenarios that can affect a dog’s performance on the night. It’s not just about how they ran last start or what box they have. Queries were brought up as to the state of a wet track, the wind that was blowing on this particular night, the best size for a race dog and whether a male dog or a bitch are better to bet or easier to train.

So I’ll try and answer some of the questions as they were asked of me.

First off was the weight of a dog, as most should know a greyhound weight cannot vary more or less than 1kg between starts unless it’s last start was more than a month previous and a new weight is declared. I commented that for a circle track I would prefer a dog weighing no more than 34kg, this is my personal choice and by no means a dog larger than that couldn’t win on a circle track. A general rule with stayers is they should be lighter than when their careers first started off as sprinters. The theory is the less weight a dog has to carry (its own weight that is) the less effort that dog needs to exert to run out a 700m+ distance. For sprinters it’s the opposite, a heavily muscled large dog ( think disgraced Olympic Sprinter Ben Johnson) is no hindrance up to 500m. So when looking at weight variations which are released after all dogs have been kenneled it’s worth remembering these tips. Sprinters up in weight or the same should not be a concern and stayers down in weight or the same again should be no concern. The actual weight variations for me personally week to week should be no more or less than ½ a kilo variant.

Another query was whether bitches were less consistent than male dogs. I would say no. When looking back through some of the greats that I’ve seen from Sandi’s Me Mum, Highly Blessed, Miata, Xylia Allen, Sweet It Is to name just a few you couldn’t say they were inconsistent. The main hassle of training a bitch is her seasonal habits, an old school rule of thumb was if a bitch came on season under 2 years of she would come on season on average every 6 months and if she held on over 2 years of age she would be a 12 month cyclical bitch. In some cases a trainer may be lucky enough to have his girl not come on at all while racing. There are legal medications that can be used to keep a bitch off season but if used incorrectly they could lead to a positive swab for excessive hormone levels. Myself I prefer not to use any hormones on my bitches in case I wish to breed with them. I also don’t mind a bitch having a season as it’s a maturing process a canine goes through similar to a girl having a menstrual cycle thus turning her into a woman. The hassle with seasons for racing purposes is a bitch can bleed for up to 21 days and with a swollen vulva it is hard to get a bitch over the vets table in this condition, as it’s also against the rules of racing. She can continue to be worked and once her season is over there is a short time frame she can race before her mammary glands start to fill with milk due to the expectation she is having pups to feed, to run a bitch in milk can be dangerous as she can rupture her glands and do damage to herself.

Now to the track condition query, I’ll start by asking you a question, If you were to go for a jog on the beach where would it be easier to jog? Obviously not in the thick dry sand away from the water’s edge and not in the actual water either, it would be on the part the wave has covered in water and then receded back into the ocean. In theory a track is similar apply enough water and the track should race perfectly, even if light showers persist during the night and the track curator can get their machinery on to groom it there should also be no real change in condition. Now if it’s been pouring all night and the grooming cannot be done between races the paw-prints can’t be filled which would lead to a track downgrade, add to this a very windy night and times should be considerably slower.

I will add one more comment that wasn’t asked that I would like to explain. In another form of Greyhound racing which is called Lure Coursing as opposed to the still practiced Live Lure Coursing in Ireland, is 2 dogs compete against each other up a straight track with the lure dragged along the ground. These races are knock out rounds and the winner of the final will have 3 runs in the 1 day. Generally the runs of these dogs, on average 400m, the dogs run quicker as the day progresses. This shows the versatility of the Greyhound as well as their recovery rate.

So thanks Jack, Joel and Last_selections for your queries during the night and I hope this goes someway to help answer those queries, if you have any more questions you know where to find me on twitter @wrouty550WalkHardAction

Tasmania and Beyond

29 Dec

Sorry to all that I haven’t posted in awhile, 2015 I hope to change that, but as many who write know finding inspiration and mindset to do so becomes complicated when things are not going the way you want them too.

Having been poached or recruited in  what at the time seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my career I packed up and flew to Hobart, Tasmania. The kennels were located in New Norfolk, there were a total of 16 kennels and 5 dogs ready and waiting for my expertise. I brought with me 3 dogs of my own so I  had 8 ready to go runners. We had 2 working runs and what is still at this stage one of the best straight tracks I have used  at my disposal. One of the dogs already located there was a well performed dog in Free For All company who was a brilliant beginner but struggled to run out a strong 457metre race. He also had a litter brother there who was struggling in any race. After a 2 weeks of strong conditioning work including being slipped up the straight every 2nd day under his own steam. That meaning handslipping without chasing the a lure, just somebody up the other end calling him up and waving a plastic bag, I entered him in a race he was eligible for which just happened to be the Easter Cup over the 457m distance at the Hobart showgrounds.

I was eager on race day to get the daily paper to see read the comments about him. He was  given no hope against what were Tassies best dogs at the time. Every one had an opinion and they were all similar, my dog had no chance, wasn’t strong enough at the end to win. So off to the start we go, I was as nervous as I had ever been placing a dog into the boxes. The last time I placed a dog into these boxes was the best dog i’d ever handled, Bomber Gleeson and that was in the final of the Group 1 Hobart Thousand which he won.

So Sonic Silver was placed into his box, the lure started rolling and I started shaking, lids up and Silver pinged the lids and led by 5 lengths around the bend and turning into the straight  he was still leading by the same distance and I like everyone else was waiting for him to stop, of course this was a fairytale beginning and Ol’ Silver kept going to win the race at the juicy odds of 50/1. Wow just Wow was all I could say. Perfect start. Silver won a couple of more races for me and his brother sonic Special joined the party on another occasion giving me my first double.

I was offered a couple of dogs including a hurdler, now are they fun to have around, although this one was a nightmare, I set the galloping runs at home up with construction orange bunding about a foot high and every time the hurdler worked he jumped over these little hurdles. He was a natural, so anyway off to Hobart trials we go with a warning that he tries to jump everything to keep following the lure as he knew it stopped in the back straight. I let a friend box the dog as I wanted to see what he did in the catching pen for myself to make sure he didn’t escape and become a nuisance of himself . It was a four dog hurdle trial and he began well and powered away for an easy trial win, as the lure pulled away and the dogs were entering the catching pen this boy hadn’t eased up one bit, into the pen fell speed, with everyone waving their arms and yelling for him to stop he put in an almighty leap and cleared the catching pen gate and proceeded to follow the lure to where it stops up the back straight.

A moment I’ll never forget and the excitement as I ran up to collect him was soon tempered as he was standing at the lure with his leg in the air, with his almighty  leap over the catching pen gate he must of landed awkwardly and unfortunately had a broken wrist. So a hurdle winner he was not to be nor me as a trainer.

After 3 months in Tasmania I had trained 15 winners, unfortunately this was all about to come to an end, the person I was in partnership had been embarrassed by my success and devised an argument to have with me and my anger came to the fore and we decided going separate ways was the only option. I moved down the road to the tiny township of Magra and set up camp there, the facilities were ok but they did’t have the working runs I needed to suit my training style. I battled to keep my charges fit although one dog in particular continued to keep improving, we were good mates Billy and I. Billy was owned by 3 race callers from Melbourne, Ron Hawkswell, David Raphael and Rob Testa. I took him up to Launceston the only track he hadn’t won at in Tasmania and he duly saluted giving me enough cash to board the boat and return home to Melbourne. So ending my Tasmanian sojourn.

After returning to Melbourne I entered Billy in a maiden  coursing event at Lang Lang. He won that also. I knew I could train but had no property to train from that suited my style. I waited a few years and during that time I worked on the city link project at the Tullamarine end of the project. I was leading hand on the crew that placed  all the barriers in the middle of tollway  and at the sides as well. they are all still standing today. A very proud achievement for a greyhound trainer.

More From Anakie

29 Dec

I settled in well at Anakie, there was Graeme his wife Bev 100 dogs and myself, as well as working 100 dogs from 3 sets of kennels. One Gaeme’s one for Bev and a set for myself we had 30 break ins and ran a public trial track 4 mornings a week. It was busy but like all top operations we were all as important as each other and the system Graeme used made it easy than most would imagine.

There were 3 pairs of 100 metre long by 10 metres wide runs The runs are 10 metres apart with a walkway down the middle of them. In the morning all dogs would be worked in their normal pairings. The left hand side run was for dogs and the right hand side for bitches. Dogs are released into each run and will usually wait for their partner before taking off for a gallop. With both dogs released they gallop off eyeing each other off a few barks to stir each other up. A good working pair could work up to 1k in the runs of free galloping. Stress free galloping a frolic if you will. Some dogs were keener than others and could run themselves into the ground if you let them. This is where discretion and your skill as a trainer is required, to know when a dog has had enough work. While the dogs are working you keep your eye on them for soundness issues and keenness. Once the dogs have emptied and have their breathing under control, they are returned to the kennels fed an easy breakfast of bread or a 2×4 biscuit. and rested until 3pm when the same procedure is repeated. The only difference is dogs racing that evening are let loose into the runs by themselves, once emptied they are placed into the trailer and taken to the races. For the rest not racing the work continues. There is no day off for greyhounds even after they race, the next morning they will work with their partner and again observation is key in detecting any abnormalities.

Normal racing weeks went like this. Monday night Olympic Park or Bendigo

Tuesday Horsham or Geelong trials

Wednesday Morning Olympic Park trials, evening Ballarat, occasionally Warnambool

Thursday Shepparton or Sandown  

Friday night home track at Geelong. Saturday night we would sometimes venture to Cranbourne but as Saturday and Sunday mornings were public trial mornings we concentrated on that on weekends as well as some fishing in Corio Bay. The trial track was an important tool in feeding Graeme kennels with a constant supply of race dogs, graduating from break in class to others with chasing issues. 

Muscle checking was done by Graeme himself and i’m forever grateful to Graeme for teaching me this skill. It has saved me 1000’s of dollars in wasted trips to another muscle man or vet to confirm what I already knew.

After 3 years at Anakie I was enticed by an owner to train for myself and I packed my bags and headed off to the Apple Isle to forge out my own identity as a trainer. That will be in my next post, until then have a safe New Years eve and may 2014 bring you success in what you do.

Until then. 


Call to Arms

25 Oct

G’day Shane.

I read your latest spring carnival blog and I have to agree that something needs to be done to  engage new participants and just as importantly it must  also re-engage with a lost generation. While reading your post I realised by definition I am a stalker. For all these years I thought I had a relationship with racing, alas racing doesn’t know or want to know I exist. It doesn’t know when I attend and what I spend my cash on or even what it needs to do to continue this relationship. You see I fall outside the targeted demographic of 18-39 age group.

Now classed in the 40-54 demographic our age group still remembers the glory days of racing when being at the track was a must. The crowd was “captured” by the racing and the event.  Not to attend regular Saturday’s meant you were only a casual race goer and not a serious follower of the sport. This same age group has seen racing fall from those lofty heights, a sport now attended by gambling degenerates and drunks, at sparsely attended racecourses, well past their use by date both on-course and off. It has now witnessed this industry become disposable, 7 day a week meetings that roll into each other and have little purpose, aside from a betting medium  . Even if this is not entirely true, guilt by association rules peoples thoughts of this once great sport.

If the racing industry is to capture any demographic as regular race goers, it has to offer a lot more than it currently does. A new experience, more modern ,more streamlined and as you state take some risks , try different things and importantly listen to people and  admit any  failings.

Shane, you are being heard by those that want change. You shouldn’t be the lone voice, we as participants should stand alongside you and demand racing administrators stop this sport sliding into an abyss from which there is no return.

What else can be done for administrators to hear us?

Regards David.


Kyneton Party pies?

11 Oct

Hello Racing Fans

I haven’t written for a while as I wanted to concentrate this blog as a story of my life in racing.

At this time I don’t think sharing that is as important as other things I have on my mind.

My concern is Racings culture.

What do people expect from a day at the track?

What amenities and facilities and to what standards should a Race Club offer?

What grandstand activities should clubs provide?

Each of these questions contain a myriad of questions themselves the further you delve.

The answers to those questions are there but is there anyone from racings authorities asking them?

One thing for certain is there is no quality control of the product provided.

Today I attended the Kyneton and Hanging Rock Race Club Meet @ Kyneton.

I attended as it is now my local club, living at Macedon the club controls 2 racetracks within a 20 minute drive of me.

It was purely a day out for myself on a sunny spring day. Warm enough mid afternoon to wear a tee shirt.

Glancing at the track after paying my entrance fee, why do I have to purchase a ticket off 1 person walk less than 4 steps and hand that ticket to another is beyond me, anyway back to the track it looked sensational obviously the track staff were well informed that the Club were holding their 1st meeting of the racing season. The rest of the course suffered in comparison.

As you enter the course there’s a small cafeteria next to a children’s playground, not today CLOSED. Onwards we go past about 30-40 disused tote windows that run along the backside of the course, by the looks no more than 20 years old. EMPTY I keep going fully expected a tumble weed to blow by, it doesn’t it’s too early in the season of spring for them, I get to the Bar under the grandstand also CLOSED. Honestly if it were not for the fact that I had paid admission, had driven past horse floats and could see people in the betting ring I could of sworn I had attended on a trial day. Ok quick they’re nearly off for the 1 st. through the mugs in the betting ring and watch the first. It was won in Ultra fine style by Tear Gas. So back behind I go in the search of refreshments. There is coffee available out the back of a Van next to the betting ring and a food caravan beyond that. As I approach the caravan it is obvious they are not set up and no food is available. Shall we cut them some slack because it’s only early and the first race has just been run and won. NO WAY it’s 1 PM. LUNCHTIME.So I spy the crowd and think FOOD..DRINK… I have arrived at the Mounting Yard Bar, lucky I’m not an alcoholic, or for that matter an older kid asked by his unsuspecting parents to acquire soft drinks for their siblings or self, IN A BAR that serves alcohol, anyway as I approach the bar and I ask what they have to eat? OH great… you have what? Party Pies and Sausage Rolls. Party Pies and what oh leave me out of that. as my twitter mate Jack later commented ” no fairy bread”? I’LL PASS.

I head out back to the parade ring to inspect the runners for the 2 nd. Nothing stands out so I head back to the food caravan, I smell something, well it’s about… not food but oil heating up, damn Wait 5 minutes .Time check 1:25pm 10 mins to race. 5 more minutes pass and food is available. A Cup of Hot chips, again I pass, then proceed to watch the race. As soon as the horses crossed the line I turned and headed for the car park, drove into town acquired food, drove back to the track. I ate the food in the car park then re entered the course and re started the day.

The rest of the day passed as I had expected it to. A peaceful day at the track on a sunny spring day. The equine athletes lived up to their part and provided a great spectacle. For the record I didn’t have a bet. For me racing is more than the PUNT. Therein lies the problem, the race course is well equipped and prepared if you like a bet or a drink of alcohol, now I am not a wowser as I do both just not what I was looking to do today. Ok I’ve asked the questions and provided a personal experience of a failure from a race club to provide acceptable facilities, now I’ll put my head on the chopping block and subject myself to ridicule for some of the following suggestions. I’m no marketing expert but I’ll give it a crack based solely on today’s experience. I am the clubs new marketing manager with free reign to create a new raceday experience. Remember it is a Friday. Here Goes.

1.Come and see The Cup .

A request to the VRC to have The Melbourne Cup on course has been approved.

2. Come and celebrate SPRING At Kyneton’s First Race Meeting of the Racing Season.

Confirmed local businesses attending are Hardware Store with their range of garden tools and other spring garden ideas also mowers including ride ons.

The Farm Supply Store is bringing a larger tractor with slasher and other equipment to display and as he is a club sponsor he can have the largest space available to accommodate his needs.

The Female Clothing Store and The Male Clothing Store will have their latest range of fashion for the upcoming Spring Racing Season

4 local food stores are setting up pop up eateries for guests to sample their wares. The towns rotary club is will have their standard sausage sizzle.

The CFA will have a fire fighting unit onsite with fire safety tips for the upcoming fire season.

In conjunction with NMIT and RVL the 2 local high school’s Year 12 students will have a careers day with a talk from an apprentice jockey, a senior rider and a trainer as well as career advisors from NMIT.

Entry Will Be FREE.

I think you get my drift.

How is that sounding so far? The only extravagant request I have made here is for the attendance of The Melbourne Cup otherwise the scenario I have just put forward is not that far fetched, it’s relatively risk free for the club financially. A little imagination goes a long way.

At the very least have a food facility open before the first race.

Feel feel to leave a comment here or on twitter @wrouty

Bye for now. Big D

2012 Melbourne Cup tall tale

6 Nov

I was hunting with a Zabeelionaire it was Maluckyday as we were joined by an Americain Cavalryman . He was handy to have as he had set a Precedence in his pursuit of the elusive Jackleberry in the Mount Athos region of Ethiopia .
Galileo’s Choice of weapon was a Winchester, we were glad he had it because after just passing the Tac De Boistron a ferocious Fiorente burst out of the Kelinni scrub with a Red Cadeaux in his mouth. With only the Lights Of Heaven to see the Unusual Suspect bolt off back into the scrub.
Niwot I asked ? Dunaden , Mourayan replied.
So with the Green Moon rising we opened our Voila Ici , threw some Sanagas on the fire and in My Quest For Peace I dreamt of the infamous Glencadam Gold heist. The End