By Gary Clark
We hear so often how man and canine have a special bond and the remarkable healing process that a greyhound can have on his or her owner.
For 85-year-old Ted McNamara, his life now is all about his one greyhound Manila Beef after a life of running four individual businesses.
Ted, who was born and bred in Port Kembla on the South Coast of NSW, has just celebrated 60 years of marriage to wife Colleen who he met at a local dance.
Ted’s introduction to the sport was back in 1954 and his first dog was Magic Stream who he remembers winning his first race at Wollongong.
“Back in those days maidens used to run in a heat and final on the same day. I got beaten in race eight with Magic Stream then ran in the final after the last and won,” Ted recalled.
So after that win, Ted invested 30 pounds for a three-month old pup named Brig Gam who eventually broke the Bulli track record.
Ted also reflects back to those days and the way the box draws took place.
“I remember at Wollongong you would climb a ladder, draw out a marble from the box after you had kennelled your dog.”
Ted ran a milk run business in Wollongong for 10 years back then and one of his highlights as an owner was the win of Thunder Liza in the 1968 Silver Collar at Dapto.
With the success as an owner, Ted decided to give bookmaking a go and in the 1970s took a stand at the Wollongong, Dapto, Bulli and Nowra greyhound meetings.
“I found out the hard way that you always need to do your form. I had a dog that trialled against a dog and beat him that was in this night at Dapto. I thought the dog couldn’t win – he was no good – so I laid him for plenty and, of course, the dog won,” said Ted.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t realise till after the race that the other seven were worse so I should have checked their form rather than thinking the one dog I knew was the slowest in the race.
After a decade in the ring, Ted decided to buy a hotel in the Southern Highlands at Moss Vale, a venture that he had keenly wanted to do for many years.
“It was named the Jemmy Moss but is now known as the Argyle Inn,” he said. “I had the hotel between 1981 and 1988.”
So, after the satisfaction of crossing off a number of items on his ‘bucket list’, Ted took off to Young in the late 1990s and this is where a chance meeting came with his now great friend and trainer, Geoff Sheather.
Ted was walking around the Young racetrack when he bumped into Geoff and after a lengthy conversation, the two formed a racing relationship. Ironically, Geoff had also just moved to Young after he lived in Sydney.
Ted moved back to the South Coast not long after and ran a taxi service in 1997 while Geoff remained in the “Cherry Capital” for 20 years before moving to Goulburn where he is now domiciled.
The racing blood was always in the Sheather family as his grandfather and father raced dogs. For Geoff, now 79, greyhounds also keep him active and operating just like Ted.
Geoff was president of the Young club for six years and treasurer for two years and has an astonishing record of wins around NSW.
At the age of 18, Geoff got his first dog Slick Affair. He won his maiden at Young and that was the start of six decades of racing success.
Back in August 1977, Geoff won his first city race at Wentworth Park with Thelsig while his first TAB track winner came when Rough Affair won at Bulli in July 1972.
This was just the start of thousands of winners to come from the Sheather kennel.
Other winners in the last 50 years include Mr Wentworth, who won 22, Lucy Rocks On, the winner of 22, Diamond Jenny, who scored 18 victories, and Lilac Charity.
Geoff also won races down the old Richmond straight in 1967 with Past Avouas.
“Back in those days training methods would shock many now and the welfare issue would not allow you to race twice in the one day,” said Geoff.
“I took Geoff’s Wonder to Tamworth in the afternoon and he won by 15 lengths then backed him up at Gunnedah that night and he won again.”
For Geoff his CV is remarkable, he has trained over 2,000 winners on 35 different tracks including four track records at Taree, Queanbeyan, Griffith and Young.
And now his mate, Ted, back in 2019 asked him to buy a dog for him and Geoff to train,” I waited three months, Geoff has plenty of patience to make sure he gets the right dog, he is a good negotiator”.
Finally, a dog with 22 starts behind him in Victoria, 18 months ago called Manila Beef was up for sale and Ted paid $7,000.
In 2019 at an August meeting in Goulburn, Manila Beef won his first race for Ted.
And 57 starts later, the dog has won 17 races – 10 at Goulburn, three at Dapto and one at Richmond and Nowra. He has also finished with 26 minor placings.
Manila Beef is an honest and underrated chaser who had a fine 2020 on his home track at Goulburn.
“Ted drove to every Goulburn meeting to watch him, a four-hour turnaround drive. He just loves the dog and when he found out later in the year that the dog was a chance of winning the GOTY title I think it made him feel younger,” said Geoff.
Manila Beef was duly named GOTY on New Year’s Eve.
“I was overwhelmed with the number of people who congratulated me during the day after the presentation,” said Ted.
Ted is now keen to buy another dog with Geoff so the mateship and success could endure for some time to come.