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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 @offtrackjock.550WalkHardAction

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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. 

D

Aside

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 @offtrackjock

Bye for now. Big D

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.