Caption: The amazing Rapid Journey – considered by many as ‘The Greatest’
By JOHN CARRUTHERS
MUCH has changed in the decades my wife Jane and I have been involved in greyhound racing and we have experienced the highs and lows of it all.
When Chase Newspaper asked me to pen this article about ‘getting into greyhounds’ I thought back over all those decades and how our lives in greyhound racing had changed so, so much.
They went from tagging along behind a greyhound training legend every week learning as I went, to tasking life with giveaways, to the wonderful highs we had with our champion Rapid Journey, then on to managing the stud careers of dogs like Brett Lee, Hallucinate and finally our own great stud dog Magic Sprite.
In recent times, with the industry in turmoil around 2016, we have decided to scale down our involvement, but still take such an avid interest in an industry that has been our lives and given us so much.
I went to school with a greyhound legend called Ray Minty. We became friends, but more so after school when Ray was training a team of dogs and I was his ‘sidekick’ going everywhere with him to race dogs and try to win a race wherever we could.
Every weekend we would be in the bush with a team of dogs trying to win, having a punt and getting a quid.
Ray Minty was a great trainer who would win the Derby with Master Hilo. He was not a man who would back down … ever.
One of my first great learning experiences was when Ray and I stayed overnight with Ted Doss out at Temora. We got to watch Ted in action with his race dogs and pups. I could not believe how much Ted fed his pups. It taught me something right there and then.
Ted would feed his eight-month-old pups twice the amount of meat he would feed his race dogs. I saw that leaders in the industry like Ted never spared any expense in feeding their dogs, especially their pups. It was a real eye opener.
And, I know if anyone stopped in to visit the kennels of the Wheeler and Hallinan families it is just the same. Ted Doss was a workaholic, so are Paul Wheeler and Marty Hallinan. Go and visit trainers like Jason Thompson and you will see the same.
It’s that old saying – the harder I work the better my results.
The Wheelers and Hallinans are the best two rearers in the country on the scale they are.
My own introduction to training was always through giveaways. I’d get dogs who had raced 14 to 20 times, never won a race and tried to get them to win. I never bought a dog. In fact, the great Rapid Journey was the very first greyhound (and his litter) I bred and raced.
Those giveaways would be a task. I’d patch them up, get them fit, and then head out bush to win a race and have a bet. Sometimes I could never even tell you how much the prizemoney was worth. It was all about the punt.
I’d always look to plan a double on a long weekend. I’d put a dog in at Temora on the Saturday. It would win, and then drive to Tamworth for the Monday meeting. That’s because the form from Temora would not catch up with my dog by the Monday at Tamworth. We’d get on there too.
Eventually that sort of travelling got too much.
That’s when Rapid Journey came along and he took Jane and I to heights we could never have believed. He won five Group 1s and the Topgun as well, which in those days was a Group 2. It was another lifestyle.
Those giveaway days taught me much. We would talk to a lot of different people in the industry and pick their brains, but mostly vets and the better musclemen. It is a recipe for success anyone coming into the industry must remember. Get as much advice from as many people you can.
Giveaways are a great learning curve though. They teach you a lot about getting dogs right and getting them fit. Greyhound racing is not a cheap experience, but it certainly is an interesting experience.
My best advice is to always be tied up with good people, the leaders in the industry.
When Rapid Journey came along, as I mentioned, Jane and I had to embrace an entirely different lifestyle. Being such a high profile dog, we had to come out of our ‘keep to ourselves’ ways.
And, we met and kept so many new friendships from those days. And when Rapid Journey went to stud, he taught us much about embracing the world.
It was a thorough learning curve. Rapid Journey probably had 100 bitches in all his stud career. But dogs like Hallucinate and Brett Lee could have 100 within a few months.
We learnt a lot from Rapid Journey and never made those mistakes again. It is something newcomers to this industry must remember. Learn from your mistakes.
The first fact to learn is that there is no one way to train a greyhound. In our early days of training, the giveaways racing on country tracks were primarily sprinters.
It is obvious there are different ways to train pure sprinters to 500 metre dogs to 700 metre dogs.
My simple advice about training is to get as much advice as possible. This, I believe, is the one thing most newcomers do not do. None of us will ever stop learning in this industry.
And, get to know all facets of the industry.
How often have I seen some young guy get a really good dog with his introduction to the industry. It prompts him to rush out and buy a property, then start breeding litters. No one has ever taught him how to rear pups properly and within a couple of years he’s out of the game.
It is just another example of finding the right advice, from the breeders who rear great pups, to the trainers who prepare great dogs … lots of winners.
Ask only the successful breeders and trainers. Results speak for themselves.
As I mentioned earlier, the best in this industry are generally workaholics. I remember seeing Jason Thompson at Bulli racing a dog in a feature race. He did not leave Bulli until 11pm that night.
But, the very next day, there was Jason handling a dog on a provincial track back in Victoria. A workaholic and one of the most successful greyhound trainers there is.
And a bit of advice for breeders.
I once asked the great John Finn what criteria he put on a future broodbitch. He always seemed to pick the right one and he continued to produce great race dogs over many, many decades.
I thought he would have some wonderful ideas on this. He came back to me with the simple answer … ‘I only use the fastest bitch’.