By ADAM SMITHSON
MY entry into greyhound racing is different to most in the industry.
I was born and bred to be a greyhound trainer because my parents and their parents were all trainers, but having just a handful of dogs in their backyard over here in WA.
I always wanted to be a trainer, but my parents encouraged me to get a trade and I became an electrician. In a roundabout way that was what spurred me on to full-time training.
If I am ever asked about getting into greyhounds, my first advice is to head out to a trainer’s kennel complex and get an understanding of the routine. Not just a one-off thing, but do it regularly. You will pick up bugger all in one day. It has to be an on-going thing.
Because I was a qualified electrician, and knew plenty of trainers through my involvement in the game with Mum and Dad (Ray and Belinda), I was often asked to do “power” jobs for some of these.
It soon gave me an insight into how big kennels are run. I was often at the Crudelli, Stuart, Hobby, Halse and Britton kennels.
There is a false belief in greyhound racing that no one wants to help anyone. That is far from the truth.
Whenever I would be out doing some electrical work for those trainers, we would always get chatting about dogs.
I have found 99 per cent of trainers will point you in the right direction.
Before I started out professionally I also got to have good chats with Lindsay Smith, the great WA horse trainer who is now over in Victoria. We met through a mutual friend, Dean Toovey, who was a stable foreman for Lindsay.
It is amazing how similar the preparation of horses is to dogs. Routine is something dogs and horses must have and how they thrive. I thought it was bizarre that completely different animals could have very similar preparations.
Since going full-time, my partner Chontai and I have developed a 20-dog kennel.
My advice for anyone wanting to get into greyhounds is to stick to a successful routine. Some trainers will listen to all the latest fads and try those. Generally they don’t work.
Training is exercising, feeding, checking. Yes, I’ve changed a few things in the few years I’ve been training professionally, but not much.
Dogs are a pack animal and they like to be together.
My feeding routine is beef and Royal Canin kibble. I never want to get over-complicated with it. To that they are given a basic multivitamin.
You will always get people in your ear saying “try this, try that”. If you do, your routine is straight out the door.
Greyhound racing is 24/7. The dogs don’t know it is Christmas Day.
Our work day starts at 6.30am when the dogs are let out for 30 minutes, four or five in one of four 20m by 10m yards we have … ALWAYS with muzzles on.
They are then put away and the dogs being galloped are put up our 300m straight, up and back chasing our quad bike.
Every kennel is then vacuumed and mopped out. Every dog gets a clean bed and fresh water daily.
We feed our main meal at 10am.
We let all the dogs out again at 11.30am and 1pm and between this time muscle checking is done. We do a lot of massage and bathing to ward off injury.
We start again at 4pm letting the dogs out, and each dog is given a rissole of 100gms of meat.
A final empty-out at 10pm is our day.
Training between races is usually those 300m gallops up the straight twice a week. Short coursers will have a lighter week. Stayers will be no different to the 500m dogs.
We use a walking machine and drag lure only sparingly.
While dogs are fit and racing well, I see no reason not to race them.
For newcomers to training my advice to chase a ready-made dog to learn on. But it is becoming harder and harder to buy these. The prizemoney is up and so is the price of dogs.
Yes, go after a well-bred pup, but some newcomers can’t wait the 12-18 months for a pup to get to the races.
So often, if you can access dogs you like already on the track, you will be paying “overs” for them. Often you are buying someone else’s problem.
What do newcomers do wrong?
They over-complicate things.
I did when I first started. I looked way too much into the art of training. A greyhound is just like a human athlete. They need to eat well and train well … and often.
All the people getting the rewards in this industry are those who work really hard at it. The public has the impression “how hard can it be?” That is far from the case. These trainers are working all day, every day.
We have been lucky to get involved with some wonderful owners and Vice Grip’s win in the Group 1 Perth Cup for us was amazing.
Chontai and I do all the work around the property and Jay Jacobsen comes in twice a week to help out.
Pre-race I have some advice for newcomers … leave the dogs alone.
Post-race I always make sure the dogs are cooled right down. Take your time in the wash bay.
As everyone says, training is common sense.
Dogs are a complete 180 from being an electrician. It’s one of the most repetitive jobs you can get but it’s something I’ve always loved.
It’s a passion. It doesn’t feel like work. The fact that I can make a living means there’s no way you could keep me out of it.