Advice for beginners – By CORREY GRENFELL
I’M not recommending anyone follow my path into greyhound racing.
That’s because it involved me slicing off four fingers on my left hand and being in a cast for nine months.
But that’s indirectly how I got started as a greyhound trainer and I soon found I had a passion for the dogs and the industry. And, it has and will continue to set up my family for life.
I was 18 and a concreter at the time of my injury. Work was a bit scarce and I went and gave a mate a hand and sliced off four fingers. While in recovery for those nine months, I decided to hang out with my older brother Brandon who had a team of 15 dogs in training at the time.
I started hanging out there and then moved in with him to help with the dogs. My first thought was ‘I can give this a go’ and I soon found I had a passion for it. It was the lifestyle that suited me.
I took over a few of my brother’s dogs, but soon realised I needed to branch out and learn more and more and more. It didn’t take me long to know I needed to work with the bigger trainers, so I started with Steve Collins and the Bate kennel.
After 12 months with both, I’d picked up enough about fitness, feeding and everything about training that I decided to branch out on my own.
I’d also met Samantha and it wasn’t long before we were married.
Our first property was a rented greyhound kennel at Avalon. We started with four dogs and slowly built up. By 2016, we were approached by Paul Wheeler to take on some of his bigger trainers’ cast-offs.
Paul said to me if we got the older dogs going and proved ourselves, we would start getting the younger ones. It was 12 months before that happened, but it happened.
In 2019 we bought 52 acres and built up our own kennel, setting up everything from scratch. After 18 months the opportunity came up for us to buy close to Geelong and that’s where we are today.
In those early days we did the hard yards getting established, but we felt we had learned enough from the training greats.
The first litter of young ones we got from Paul Wheeler were out of Miata and he said not to start them over anything shorter than 500 metres. We didn’t and they won more than $200,000.
In the next lot, we got Orson Allen – a champion for us who won 31 races and $620,000. Then along came Tiggerlong Tonk, who won 41 races and $760,000. Dogs like Yozo Bale and Dyna Chancer, and now Knicks Bale, Kinson Bale, Nikoli Bale have all come along since.
My advice to anyone young getting into greyhounds is to learn from your mistakes but don’t make the same mistakes twice.
Working with the leading trainers showed me training methods are slightly different, feeding is slightly different and you will soon work out what suits you best.
But the biggest factor in all those trainers’ favour is the fact their dogs are fit. Fitness is the key to their success.
And, that fitness level will virtually reduce injuries to virtually none.
In fact, in the nine years Samantha and I have been training professionally, we have had only one dropped back muscle and that was from a dog who had been in the kennel only three weeks.
Our training is via 80 metre competition runs. We have six. Every dog goes into those sprint lanes twice a day. We find they work really great in the morning, but in the afternoon most are just happy to get outside. It is at this time we keep a good eye on each and every dog.
Some dogs will run 1500 metres in the sprint lanes a day, while others might restrict themselves to 400 to 500 metres.
Fitness is the most important aspect of training. I got that from the Bate kennel and I call it The Winning Way.
Our feeding routine is Black Hawk kibble, and a mixture of ’roo and chicken for their meat. A multivitamin is added.
Whenever we are approached for advice about getting into greyhounds, either as an owner or trainer, my advice is to buy a race dog for some immediate fun, but a well-bred pup as well for the future. Pups of course are a gamble.
What never surprises me though is someone new to the game, who after 12 months training, thinks they know everything about greyhound racing. Everyone learns daily in this game. Listen to the more experienced people and feed off them.
I would also not recommend owners come into the industry and spend BIG money for a tried dog. Often if the dog does not live up to expectations, they will walk away. It was the wrong way to make an entry.
Greyhound racing is a busy lifestyle, but a good one as well. It has set up our family. We have room for 77 dogs on the property and while our numbers are usually 50 in training, our kennel is usually full all the time.
Dogs must be tough and not kept in cotton wool. That is one of the things smaller trainers do. They protect them too much. I find smaller trainers are reluctant to go to city racing with their dogs, often scared to take on the big kennels.
This is crazy. There is a race for every dog and we will not sack a dog until it has had 20 starts. Even some of the Wheeler dogs have come into the kennel and I felt they would be lucky to win a race. But they improved out of sight and some even won city races.
We have a staff of three – Samantha and myself and Jack Strutt. Without Samantha this operation would be nothing. How she looks after our four kids, me and the dogs as well … it’s amazing.
Greyhounds have taught me patience and also to not get too excited about promising young dogs. Tom Dailly once said don’t get excited about a dog until it wins a big race. He’s so right. But, also make sure a lesson learned from a mistake is not repeated. If you don’t learn from mistakes and do them again … then you are a d…head.