Caption: Kathy Johnstone, the wife of Brett Lee’s part-owner Darryl, plants a kiss on the new statue (Photo: KURT DONSBERG)
Each month Chase puts the spotlight on a person and/or their ‘best friend’ – a story that gives an insight into the true heart of greyhound racing. It showcases all that is good in this sport and is a monthly tribute to much-loved greyhound identity Daryl ‘Albert’ Gleeson
By DAVID BRASCH
KATHY Johnstone got so emotional she almost shed tears.
She and her family headed to Angle Park during May to honour one of the greatest greyhounds ever seen … the immortal Brett Lee.
Kathy’s husband Darryl was part-owner of the legendary son of Gun Law Osti-Sobbing Sal.
South Australian greyhound racing decided some time ago to immortalise Brett Lee and commissioned a life-sized sculpture of the great champion in full flight.
It was not just any moment in Brett Lee’s dominant race career. It was the night he won the Group 1 Adelaide Cup at Angle Park in an unthinkable 28.88.
No dog has ever got anywhere near that time before or since.
“When the track was redeveloped at Angle Park and the sprint distance changed for good, it was decided that Brett Lee’s performance to run 28.88 be immortalised,” GRSA marketing manager Matt Watson said.
South Australian sculptor Ken Martin, who has immortalised Melbourne Cup legend Makybe Diva with a life-sized statue at Port Lincoln, as well as several South Australian AFL legends, was just the man to be approached.
Sky Racing and the TAB came to the party with sponsorship of the Brett Lee work.
“He worked on it for six months and there is no doubt in anyone’s minds just what a wonderful job he has done,” Matt said.
The unveiling of Brett Lee trackside, in full flight, on his way to an unthinkable Angle Park track record was done on Anniversary Cup night in front of a huge crowd.
GRSA’s board of directors came up with the idea of the Brett Lee tribute.
“The reaction has been great,” Matt said. “Kathy was over the moon with the sculpture and close to tears. She was very proud.
“But, the response from patrons and those in the industry was just as good. The number of people who got photos of themselves in front of the Brett Lee statue was amazing.”
Brett Lee was sold as a stud dog to NSW owner Keith Pedrana and Matt said GRSA had spoken to him about the statue.
“Keith and his family are making arrangements to come to Angle Park from Sydney just to see it,” Matt said.
“The 28.88 time is so amazing. I have spoken to a local trainer who was on track that night (January 25, 2001) and he said the first thought was that the timer had clocked the lure.
“No one thought a dog could run that fast.”
No one took into account Brett Lee’s amazing ability. They certainly have ever since.
Matt Watson said the response to Ray Fewings’ book on the history of greyhound racing in South Australia also had been overwhelming.
“We still have copies for sale for $25 and all the public has to do is contact us at GRSA,” he said.
“Ray is a wealth of knowledge and it is all down in his book.”
The last word on Brett Lee’s amazing performance is left to Darryl Johnstone.
“It was freak stuff,” he said.