By GARY CLARK
WAS it a coincidence or just good fortune that presented Les Chaytor with the opportunity to meet his wife of 53 years and later in life land his best greyhound?
Les, now 73, grew up in a racing family. His uncle George Lee grandfather Tim Williams and great grandfather Perc Williams all raced and bred greyhounds.
“I remember Tim and Perc, who lived at Urala, winning all eight races between them at Armidale,” said Les.
“George was very keen on the breeding and I helped him with the dogs all the time. At the age of nine I looked after a giveaway called Valiant Cavery. Although I officially couldn’t have him in my name, he was mine.
“He ran a lot of placings up the old Richmond straight track where he won one and that was my first winner. There were many trainers back in the 1960’s that started out as kids heading into their teens.”
Les remembers when he ran third in a race at Moss Vale one day and collected 10 shillings.
“The secretary told me that no one ever left the prizemoney – it was always collected,” said Les.
At the age of 20, Les met Carol, his wife of 53 years, in unusual circumstances. Both families knew each other and had adjoining homes in Surry Hills, although Les lived in Macquarie Fields at the time.
Even more bizarre is that Les and Carol were both born 13 days apart in the same hospital, the Women\’s Hospital in Crown Street.
Two decades later their meeting led to marriage, two daughters Vicki and Chris, who have provided them with four grandchildren.
Les won a race with Clovelly Girl at Moss Vale and then took a self-imposed absence from the sport for 40 years.
“I had to save for a home after getting married and had a few slow dogs, so the decision was forthcoming,” Les explained.
Les was a labourer and drove trucks as part of his work, just doing what had to be done.
But last year his grandson suggested he get another dog and his remarkable return to greyhound racing began.
A greyhound by the name of Blazing Snap is owned by 12 coal miners in the Hunter Valley. All first-time owners, they bought the pup and reared it, but had no success with him in five starts.
Their trainer said the dog just wouldn’t go and suggested they find another kennel.
A friend of Les’s told him that a trainer was needed for Blazing Snap so he decided to take him on.
“I had to work hard with him,” said Les. “There were a lot of problems and I finally got him to his first start for me at Newcastle as that is where he had been racing and so I knew he would know the track.”
Blazing Snap failed at Newcastle, pulling up lame and was stood down for 28 days.
Les worked hard and, with the help of vet John Newell, finally got the dog right.
“I must pay tribute to John, not only was it his expertise as a vet but his advice that helped me get the potential out of this dog,” said Les.
Les trialled Blazing Snap at Richmond and he ran a flying 22.69. He returned to Richmond to win his Maiden and the dog has not looked back since.
Blazing Snap has now had 15 starts for Les for 10 wins at Richmond, Newcastle, Gosford and Wentworth Park. He has run close to the track record at both Gosford (388m) and Richmond (330m).
“The only unfortunate part of the dog’s success is that the owners have yet to see him race as they work 12-hour shifts in the mines. They have bought one pup from the next litter,” said Les.
Friends of Les’s son-in-law race a dog called Yeager Bullet and recently asked Les to train him.
“It was a similar story to Blazing Snap, but this is where my wife comes into the training,” said Les.
“The dog also has ‘trust’ problems and goes into his shell, so Carol walks him of a day. She goes past homes of a number of old ladies who love to pat and cuddle the dog and this seems to have brought him out of his shell.”
Yeager Bullet had his first start for Les at Gosford last month and his hard work and Carol’s feminine touch proved successful.
Les says he is happy these days with a comfortable home at San Remo on the Central Coast, a swimming pool (which never gets used) and just two kennels. And that is enough to keep him going.
“Maybe one day I’ll take my honeymoon,”, Les said with tongue in cheek.
Blazing Snap will now head to this month’s Cannonball at Richmond and the dog who got Les started again may well provide him with his first feature win.
Two wonderful things in his life came without expectation, so who knows what the years ahead hold for Les, a quiet achiever in our sport?