By Brennan Ryan
Throughout the greyhound industry Robert William Brown is remembered as a fine conditioner of the long tails.
A year after his passing – on December 17, 1998 – ironically the same day as the Hobart Thousand, the Hobart Greyhound Racing Club acknowledged Bob Brown’s contribution to the sport by naming the Hobart Thousand Consolation after this great trainer.
Born on November 3, 1919, the former Chigwell-based Brown had a great sporting background. He was a junior champion boxer, winning 69 of his 72 bouts, as a lightweight legend.
After his split decision loss to Ian Ellis for the Australian title at 16, Bob never lost another fight.
Bob commenced war service in 1941. He taught physical training and unarmed combat. He was a tank gunner in the 2nd/Fourth Armoured Regiment, which engaged the Japanese in Borneo and Papua.
During the war he was All-Services boxing champion, often fighting up in weight divisions, even to heavyweight. Celebrated boxer/trainer Ambrose Palmer wanted Bob to turn professional post-war, but continued bouts of malaria prevented him pursuing this course.
Upon his return to Tasmania he worked briefly as a bootmaker for George Chester before becoming a waterside worker on the Hobart docks. Bob had a three-year stint as a full-time trainer/breeder at Chapel Street, Glenorchy, but due to land ownership dramas, he remained a wharfie for the rest of his working life.
A staunch unionist, Bob was President of the WWU for many years and for 22 consecutive years was their delegate at the National ALP Conference and was Chigwell Branch member of the ALP.
From the age of 16 Bob had a keen interest in greyhounds. In fact, he sold race programs at the gate of the TCA at Hobart’s first ever dog meeting. Bob had witnessed 58 runnings of the now Group 1 Hobart Thousand up until his passing, the night of Mirren Bale’s 1998 ‘Thousand’ win.
The first chaser Bob trained was Queen Kitty, a bitch he purchased for five pounds from Sid Beattie.
Soon after he paid 12 pounds for Phar Night which won a heat of the Thousand and ran third in Silver Rover’s semi. The next year Phar Night ran first in the heat again and second in the semi.
After the three-year stint with his own track in Chapel Street, Bob made the move to Chigwell in 1958. From there he trained a tall list of Tassie champion dogs and raised a family.
Bob was an ‘encyclopedia’ of everything there was to know about the anatomy of the racing greyhound. He would never stop asking ‘why’ when it came to greyhounds. And he was basically self-taught.
Bob read all material relating to the greyhound. Books, veterinary journals, national conference notes – everything. But unlike most of us, he took it all in. He refined it, enhanced it … improved it.
He carried out his own autopsies on greyhounds. He had to know how everything worked, where everything went and what affected what. He was the greatest ‘dog checker’ this state will ever know.
Close friend and Tasmanian Hall of Fame chairman Greg Fahey said: “Bob Brown was the greatest man I encountered in Tassie dogs.
“He was probably Australia\’s foremost expert on all aspects of a greyhound. Greatest checker, knew every muscle and sinew, knew what every chemical did for a dog. He had a gentle nature, dogs loved him, people revered him. A very meticulous trainer, even greater human being. Words just can\’t explain.
“Even the top dog men from around Australia used his knowledge, even the great Stan Cleverley.”
Most trainers used Bob’s prowess to find injuries and more importantly fix them. He’d have been a rich man if he had ever charged a fraction of what his advice was worth. On Sunday mornings after race night at the TCA, there would be a stream of greyhound trainers with their charges, lined up down the driveway of Bob’s house, and down past his neighbours houses all along Coraki Street.
With this great knowledge Bob Brown became a master trainer with a succession of star performers.
Midnight Cowboy was probably his favourite. A tremendous sprinter, he won the State Final of the National Sprint in 1971 and ran fourth to King Miller in the National Final at Wentworth Park.
The son of Black Top also ran second in both the 1971 Devonport Cup and 1971 Launceston Cup.
Bob won the 1954 Maiden Thousand with Kialga and repeated the dose with Hurly Burly in 1976.
Bob held track records with Flying Armatree and Friendly Guy, these two also winning Devonport Cups in 1969 and 1978, respectively. The marvellous all-distance bitch Flash Cloe ran second to Sue’s A Credit in the 1973 Hobart Thousand, the closest he came to winning the one race he deserved to win.
His star of the 1940s, Glenolan, was fourth in Hero Minda’s 1948 Hobart Thousand after winning a heat and semi, and toppling Tumble Bug on his way. Mowgli ran third in a Tasmanian Derby and a Devonport Cup, while he won the Tasmanian Oaks in 1984 with Yoyangamble (x Dashing Disco).
Tudor Mist, Swiftalong, Princess Kef, Ewag and Minda Madam, Snoopy Casper, Carnival Lodge, Perfect Swap, Matador Magnet and Wee Bonnie were the list of superstars prepared by Bob Brown.
Bob was trusted by trainers Richard and Jillian Stamford to take Slick Bonus interstate, when their star sprinter won both heat, semi and final of the inaugural rich Dapto Maiden Classic series in 1984.
He also took champion stayer Lygon Leader interstate, winning races at Harold Park for the Faheys.
Bob made many friends within the industry and, 22 years since the HGRC renamed the Hobart Thousand Consolation, it remains a fitting tribute to a truly great man.