Caption: Shayne Stiff and partner Charmaine (Photo: Dubbo Daily Liberal)
By SHAYNE STIFF
THANKS to Chase magazine for allowing me to give some insight into the sometimes difficult task of getting into greyhound racing.
Getting into greyhound racing isn’t always difficult. Anyone and everyone can easily obtain a greyhound to race either via syndicate ownership, or as a hands-on trainer.
The difficult part is getting into the RIGHT syndicate, getting into the RIGHT greyhound.
I’m 52 and can remember going to Harold Park with my grandmother Eliza to watch her star race dog Tivoli Bush race. He won 16 races at Harold Park and until The Ringer came along, he was the “winningest” dog ever at the track.
My family has always been involved with greyhounds. Eliza also raced Swift Oliver which won a Penrith Derby and 33 races in all. My grandfather, uncles and father Colin were all involved. Dad was a bookie and I followed in his footsteps for a good while.
A typical week for me as a youngster was Wollongong on Monday night, Gosford Tuesday, Bulli Wednesday, Dapto or Cessnock Thursday, Richmond Friday, Lithgow Saturday afternoon and Penrith Saturday night.
These days, my partner Charmaine and I have a 30-acre property 15km outside Dubbo where we have 110 dogs, not all ours of course. We have 12 in training and 18 in the pup kennels coming through.
We’ve got 125m sand competition runs, a 400m straight with electric timing, a circular swimming pool and walking machines to prepare the dogs.
Our pups are in 50m x 80m runs from eight weeks, to 300m x 150m runs at 12 weeks, and have access every day into a 15-acre paddock. Of course our rearing has produced all our own dogs, plus the likes of Mystic Riot, the first Million Dollar Chase winner, Whiskey Riot, Fast Times and plenty of others.
I’ve been president of the Dubbo Club for 12 years and that followed a 12-year stint as a union official with the CFMEU.
In all the years Charmaine and I have been in greyhounds, and her family has even more history in the industry than mine, we have seen many, many changes.
And, that has had a huge impact on “getting into greyhounds”.
I am always asked about getting into greyhounds and the first piece of advice I give is to look and learn. Getting an insight into who are the right people to talk to and get associated with will soon become evident.
The Dubbo Club has just finalised a pup syndication, a dog by Zambora Brockie. We sold 20 shares in the pup for $500 each with nothing more to pay. Every one of those syndicate members is a newcomer to greyhound racing and I can gladly say they are already fighting over who is going to get the pup when he retires from racing.
Those 20 people in the syndicate will bring 40 more to the track when that pup goes racing in the future. I’ve been leaning on GRNSW for some time to get syndications like this started right around the state.
Newcomers have a few questions to ask themselves. The first, and most obvious, is how much they want to spend to get into greyhound racing. They all see the huge increase in prizemoney greyhounds can win. Million-dollar races are here to stay and obviously the newcomers want a piece of the action.
Generally if newcomers have a racehorse background, they will be a lot easier to talk to than those with no knowledge of racing.
Recently I had an approach from a local punters club that had put together a bank of $20,000 to buy a dog. They reckoned that sort of money would buy an instant city winner, something extra special. I had some sad news for them. That sort of money can buy a handy dog, but you will never get a Flying Amy or Brett Lee these days for that.
Generally my suggestion to newcomers is to spend $15,000 for a better class pup or two. Expect to pay about $6000 for expenses to get it to the track.
Million-dollar winners are the glamour side of our industry. Fernando Bale, Fanta Bale, Dyna Double One, Good Odds Harada, Mystic Riot, Handsome Prince, Tommy Shelby … we know them all, but they are the exceptions to the rule.
Pup buyers must be made aware that rearing is just as important, if not more so, than a fabulous pedigree. You will need luck to get the right one and this must be impressed on newcomers. I’ve paid top price at auctions and won a race at Coonamble and Lithgow with that dog. I’ve paid $10,000 and $15,000 for pups and they were no good at all.
But, the other side to that is all the Group-class dogs we have had. Give me a high-class race bitch any time. She can then produce 20 to 30 pups for us over a lifetime at stud and we will get plenty of winners.
Newcomers baulk at paying $10,000 or more for a greyhound pup. But, have a look at the pet world. People are paying $10,000 for a poodle pup with absolutely no chance of any future return on the investment.
Horse owners are staggered when they come into greyhound racing. They can’t believe dogs can race every week and sometimes even more often. They can’t believe trainers will not charge training fees, but take half the prizemoney.
I also have one piece of advice for those who start looking up websites for race dogs for sale … BUYER BEWARE. Most tried dogs being sold on the internet are being got rid of.
I would not buy off break-in times either. I always want to see a dog race and trial before buying a tried dog.
Newcomers to training should spend time with a proven trainer, and maybe even a couple of them to learn the ins and outs of training. Some walk, some slip, some swim. Find out what’s best for you.
What do newcomers do wrong? Listen to mugs.
Why get advice from someone who hardly ever wins a race?
Yes, Charmaine and I have made plenty of mistakes during our training careers. But we hope we never makes the same mistake twice.
Ninety nine percent of people in this industry will help you. When we built here, I spoke to Marty Hallinan, Paul Wheeler, Steve Kavanagh – all the greats – and they were all willing to give advice whenever we asked.
Paul Wheeler was one of the smartest dog men I have ever known.