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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.


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. 



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

What i want from a day at the Track !

2 Aug

Having  viewed  races  from  various  vantage  points  on  a  racetrack  ,  from  hanging  over  a  fence  ,  from behind the   starting  boxes of  greyhound  races  to  reserved  seats  in  the  grandstand  and  even  right  on  the  finish  line  at  some  city  racetracks  a  place  where  owners  can’t  even  stand i  have  realised  that  access  to  a  T.V  screen  is  a  must.   Whether  that  screen  is  a  large  center   of  the  track  type  or an   on course  monitor  around  a  bar , try  viewing  a  race  nowadays  without  one .  Even jockeys  use  them  during  the  run  to  the  line   to  judge  how  far  in  front  they  are .  So  long  as  you  can  see  a  T.V  it  doesn’t  matter  where  you  are  situated on  course , you  don’t  even have  to  be  on  course  any more ,  to  see  the  action .   So what  would  be  needed  get  me back  to the  track  as  a regular  well  here  are  some  of  my   thoughts .

I  would  like  free  racecourse  admission    for  a start  , and   if  i  am  to  pay  an  entrance  fee  then  i  think   dollar  4  dollar  betting  vouchers  should be  issued  to  entice me to bet .  With out  betting  turnover there  is  no  racing  but   i  don’t  need to  get  into  that  here .

I  also  think  on  course  dividends  should  be  a  small percentage  higher  than  off course  TAB dividends and  it  should only  take  a  small % cut  in  the  on course  take for  this to happen .

I  don’t  mind  the  idea  of  paying  for  a  reserved   seat  for  optimum  viewing  or  for  dinning  packages  but  i  certainly  don’t  think  that  race club membership  is  good  value  unless  you  intend  to  go  to  all  the  main  carnival  race days  and a few extra race days as well .

I  would  like  to  see  a  more  modern  lounge type  punters  room  or  even  a  pub  like  set  up where  you  can  reserve  your  table  or  cubicle   and  have  a  touch screen  betting  terminal  where  i  can  place  bets  and order  food  and  drinks  and  pay  for  it  all  with  the  swipe  of  an  on course royalties  debit  card.

I  would  also  like  to  be  able  to  purchase  food  at  a  reasonable  price  and  to  pick  from  a  simple  menu  known  for  its  value ,  something  like  which  ,     is  offered  by  the  off course   but  trackside and club  owned   Tabaret  venues.

As  far  as  on  course  entertainment goes  i  personally  don’t  like  the current  punters  club  idea  and  if  it  is   to  be  continued  then  it  could   be  an   inter- active  on  course  T.V  channel ,  with  pictures  of  horses  competing that day , upon  entering  stable  area  and  then   is  up loaded  with  its  current  form  to  on track  betting  booths  and  available  to  smart phones  through  a race course  app.  Lets  capture  the  E  generation .  Lets  also  have  better  wi-fi  coverage  even  if  it  is  limited  to  apps  that  the  betting  companies    or  race club have  available .  Surely  some  sponsorship   could  offset  running  costs .  I’m no  E  genius  but    it  can’t  be  all  too  hard  to  implement.

These  are  just  little  things , simple  things   they  are  not  costed and  i  don’t  know  if  they  are  practicable  but  after  attending  race tracks for   30 years i  also  know  that  they  are  not  unique  as   all  have  been  mentioned   in  conversations   over  that  time   as  ways  of  improving  a  Punters  day  at  the track  ,   year  round  and   not  just  something  for  the  carnival cowboys  and their  once  a  year  ride.


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  !

How It Started

18 Jul

It started like any other day , i was 14 and walking to school through Moonee Valley horse float car park .

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until i heard a voice yell ” stop that horse ” , i turned to see a horse running straight at me , i could still hear someone yelling ” wave your arms ” so i did . The horse slowed and then stopped. He let me walk up to him and i grabbed the lead that was hanging from his headstall / halter. The trainer came over and thanked me for stopping the horse escaping.

Moonee Valley Racetrack

Can you guess what happens next ? No ! Well it’s a blog so i may as well tell you ! I went back the next day at the same time to see if that horse had escaped again , he hadn’t but the trainer was all too happy for me to help him. By the end of the week i was washing that horse and by the end of the month i was driving him in a sulky at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Harness Racing Track.

In fact within a short time i was driving a couple of horses in the morning , before i would arrive at school. I started arriving late for my first class every day , which was Maths , i was reading the form guide and not doing Maths, so the teacher came up with a deal , if i didn’t disturb the rest of the class he would let me do the form , he figured some math was better than none. I passed Math with a borderline pass.

My school work was really suffering and as we resumed the new year i really wanted nothing but to be working in a stable , so at 15 i left school and started working for Jim Doolan an elderly trainer who was very successful at the old Showgrounds track. I would work mornings for $60 a week and then i hooked up with another trainer John Wade who also operated a stud farm. John had suffered from polio as a child and walked with a severe limp , he would often joke about needing a new farrier/blacksmith because of the way he swung his leg when walking . John needed help handling his stallion so for a few extra dollars a week plus lunch , i became a stallion handler . The stallion , named Waratah Valley was a lovely looking horse but was a complete dud at stud , there was no way he could have been successful as the mares he served , like him , were very ordinarily bred and had performed poorly on the racetrack .

To earn some extra money i would also sell form guides at the weekly night trotting meet at Moonee Valley . If i sold out of guides i would earn $10 , i never sold out and the most i earned was $8. After finishing selling one night , a regular strapper Darryl ‘ birdy’ Crapper asked if i could look after a particular horse on an overnight raid from interstate. I said yes and he put $20 into my hand and i watched the horse while the connections had dinner. On their return i was asked how the horse had behaved , i said he was quiet , the trainer said thank you , gave me another $20 and told me to back him. I did so but i put only $10 on him. The horse was driven out of the mobile barrier aggressively , he cut some other horses legs off , causing them to gallop , when crossing to the lead. He led all the way and paid $2.40 for $1 on the on course tote. On arriving back at his race night stall the trainer / driver was called into the stewards/ judges room and dealt a 6 week suspension for causing that interference at the start. While the trainer was in the stewards room , i tended to un-gearing and washing the horse . On his return the trainer gave me another $20 , wow i had earned $74 with the horse work and $8 selling form guides . Now i was really hooked on this sport and i never sold another form guide .

Every race night i was there walking sulkies and horse’s into the course . I strapped and un-geared and washed some real champions of the time including the best in Popular Alm for the Knight family and their foreman at the time Paul Mallia. I also would assist Graeme Lang and his staff in tending to their large race night team. Eddie Mahar was also a leading trainer of the time and a friend of mine Michael Doltoff was also starting to get get interested in this horse business. So interested were we that Eddie invited Michael and myself up to his stables in Miner’s Rest , just outside of Ballarat , near the thoroughbred race course and he would drive us home to Melbourne the next day. Over the next few months we had a ball strapping horses and driving them in the mornings at Moonee Valley . My highlight was strapping in the 1986 inter-dominion a horse from New Zealand called Zebec , he ran unplaced but it was a huge thrill to be involved in a race of that stature. Michael was offered a job with Vin + Bob Knight during his school holidays while i wanted to be a farrier , so i started working with a farrier who was also a trainer , i was learning a lot about horses feet but not getting any money for it . I then accepted a full time job in Kilmore about a 45 minute drive from Melbourne , i was placed in a caravan , my first time living away from home , the job only lasted 2 weeks as the trainer must of failed Math , he went broke and couldn’t pay his staff or for his stables.

Michael went on to work full time with Ted Demmler , a world champion driver title winner , and a legend within this sport. He got his driver’s licence and was successful aboard Big General in his first race drive at Yarra Glen.

I on the other hand was working in a small country pub , pulling beers and building a nightclub with my father , The Tooleen Hotel and its infamous Tin-Shed , but there was an itch i couldn’t scratch and it was cured in an instant when a local Greyhound trainer asked if i wanted to help him with his Greyhounds.

So there it is ! How i got started in the Australian racing scene.

I am intending to try and Blog weekly and i would enjoy your feedback , questions , and ideas for future articles , i am armed with a camera which i intend to use to capture a horses Day at The Races or any special milestone in your horses life. Connection’s that are interested can contact me through this blog.