Now It Continues

26 Jul

So  the  greyhound  trainer  who  walked  into  the  pub  was   Les  Slattery   ,  he had taken early retirement    from   Vic  Rail  and  was  training  greyhounds  on  his  60  acre  property  on  the  Rochester  Road  just  outside  of  Heathcote ,  Victoria .  His  front  gate  was  an  old  railway  gate  , the big  old  wooden  type  , like  the  one’s  that  used  to  be  on  the  Upfield  railway  line.  His driveway  snaked  up  past  the house  and  around  the  back  to  the Kennels.  I  had  never  been  to  a  greyhound  farm  before  and  i  didn’t  know  what  to  expect .

As  i  stepped  from  the  car  i  was  met with  a  cacophony  of  barking  dogs ,  there  seemed  to  be  dogs  everywhere  , long  runs  ,  short  runs a  kennel  block  that held  9  dogs  ,  there  were  3  Jack  Russells  yapping  at  my  feet ,  then  from  around  the  corner  came  two  greyhounds  running  loose  ,  i  thought  here  we  go  again  ,  more   escapees  ,  but  Les  said  they  were  the  brood  bitches and and  he  was  giving  them  a  break  from  their  pups.  After  a  short  look  around  ,  it   was  a  compact  set  up  ,  a little  rough  around  the  edges ,  but    manageable.  There  were  just  over  30  dogs  in total  of  various  ages   and  all  were  out  of  the  2  broodies that  were  running  loose .  Those  bitches  were  Dollar Style and  Missy.  There  was  another  greyhound  on  the  property  and  her  name  was  Lady  Pandie  , she was  in  another  set  of  4  kennels set  aside  from  the  racing  kennels  for  brood bitches  on  season  or  a  quarantine  area .  Pandie  was  in there  as  she  had  just  been  returned  from  another  trainer  who  leased  her  to  race  and  Les was  going  to  breed  with  her  as  she  was   on  season. * see pawnote  for more on Lady Pandie

Les  had  a  few  dogs  that  he  leased  out  to  other  trainers  and  he  had  also  leased  a  brood  bitch  to  another  breeder  on  a  pup share  basis ,  but  the  bitch  had  had  only  1  pup  so  under  the  lease  agreement  the  whelper  keeps  the  pup.  After  that  had  happened  Les  had  decided  that  he  wouldn’t  lease  or  sell  another  dog  to anyone .

Les  offered  me  room  and  board  in  return  for  help  with  the  dogs  and  driving  him  to  the  track   on  race night  ,   he  also  said  i  could  also  pick  up  some  other  work  if  i  wanted  too  ,   which  i  did  a few  weeks  later   as  a laborer  for  a  local  contractor.   Over  the  next  few  weeks  i  learned  the  basics  of  greyhound  handling ,  feeding  , breaking  puppies  into  the  lead .  Every  morning  we  would  head  out  onto  either  the  Northern Highway or  the  Rochester Road  ,  me  with  4  greyhounds  , 2  in  each  hand  ,  Les  had  5  the  3  Jack  Russells  joined  us  on  the  walks  as  well ,  they  would  scout  ahead  of  the  pack  flushing  up  small  birds  ,  and  some   rabbits . as  the  greyhounds  had  grown  up  with  the  Jack Russells  there  was  never  a  problem  if  the  little  dogs  came  too  close  to  the  race dogs.  The  little  dogs  were  also  handy  as  they   scared  off   any  kangaroos  that  were  around  before  the  greyhounds  had  a  chance  to  see  them  ,   if  you  think  that  hanging  onto  1  dog  when  it  sees  a cat  is  challenging  ,  wait  until  you  have  4  of  them,  and  huge  bouncing  rabbit  like  beast  comes  hopping  along  ,   talk  about  feeling   inspector gadget  !  They  just  go  right  off  !

After  racing  for  the  first  few  times  at  Bendigo  and  Shepparton  and  with  placings  being  the  best  results we  headed  off  to  Cranbourne  one  Saturday night  and  those  were  the  days  when that  was  over  a  3  hour  drive  from  Heathcote  as  you  had  to  contend  with  traffic  from  the  football  at  the  M.C.G  and  also  from  Waverley  Park .  The  South  Eastern  freeway  also  stopped   at  Warrigul  road and  continued  through  the  intersection  and  became  the  Mulgrave  Freeway.  Traffic  was  banked  up  nearly  all  the  way  back  to  the  city  trying  to  get  through  there .  Les  had  a  bit  of  reasoning   in  taking   the  dogs  to  Cranbourne ,  as  the  track  was  inside  both  the  harness  and  thoroughbred  race tracks  it  was  a  long  way  from  the  crowds  and  this  would  help  them  with  their  shyness  of  strangers .   Yes  there were  crowds  back  then.  This  particular  night  Orthodox  was racing  and  as  he  was  the  shyest  but   also  the  strongest  and    we  thought  he  had  a  good  chance .  Orthodox  was  named  after  a  horse  that  Les  strapped  in  a  Melbourne  Cup  sometime  in  the  1950’s .  I  was  going  to  have  $20  each  way  on  him  but   changed  my  bet  and  had  a  box  trifecta  with  Orthodox  to  win and  the  field  for  2nd  & 3rd .  He  jumped  slowly  at  the  start  and  heading  into  the  1st  bend  was  last  but  on  the  rails .  As  can  happen  over  the  520  metres  at  Cranbourne  there  can be  big  interference on  the  1st  bend.  This  time there  was  and  Orthodox  was  in front  going  through  the  catching  pen  and  the  favorite  was  checked  badly.  He  was  15/1  but  the  trifecta   paid  $1200  a  lot  more   than  having  an  e/w  bet .

I used  $500  to  purchase  a  Shinning  Chariot  pup  as  my  first  investment  in  the  industry and  as  anybody in  any  of  the racing  industries   knows ,  the  drive  home  after  a  winning  time  at  the  track  is  always  the  best  and it  was  no  different  that  night  as  my  mind  was  racing  as i  needed     to  be  more  involved  in  this  sport ,  but  i  had  so  much  to  learn .  By  the  end  of  the  year  i  had  moved  back  to  Melbourne  where  i  stayed  until  October 1990.  That  was  when  i  started  working  for  Graeme  Bate  as  a  full-time kennel assistant , but  that’s  for  another  time .

*Pawnote  Lady Pandie ,  was  mated  with  City Skopos  that  first  time  ,  but  it  was  her   litter to  Queensland  sire  New  Tears  that  produced Les’s  best  greyhound ,  Our  Girl  Olivia  , won  about  16 races  with feature  and  metro wins  among  them .  The  whole  litter  was  very  successful  and  Olivia  was  mated  to  Head  Honcho  and  Les  was  inundated  with  offers  to  buy  the  resultant   pups  but  for  so  long  he  had  stuck  to  that  rule  he  knocked  backed  all  offers. For  whatever   reason  Les  eventually  sold some  pups  and  1  of  the  pups  sold  was  an  outright  Champion .  The  dog   was  Carlisle Jack  and  he  won  the  2002 Golden  Easter  Egg  in  Sydney  and  collected  $120,000  first prize .  From  such  humble  beginnings  !


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