By TERRY WILSON
A FISHING trip to Moreton Island was the unlikely launching pad for Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club chairman Les Bein’s long involvement in the industry.
It was on a chase for some elusive tailor, or whatever, that led to Bein starting off on a wonderful career with the dogs, a journey that has led him to being the head of the sport here in Queensland.
Although he never took up a trainer’s licence, Bein become a prominent figure in the ownership and breeding side of the industry, probably all due to one particular champion bitch named Bogie Leigh.
These days Bein runs two properties at Placid Hills, near Gatton in the foothills of the Darkling Downs in Queensland.
After a business career in the machinery business Bein is now 72 years of age, but he has never lost his appetite for greyhound racing.
Chase sat down with BGRC’s boss to talk over old times, as well as new times at the helm of one of the nation’s premier sports clubs.
Chase: If’s you’ll excuse the pun, can we cut to the chase and ask where it all began for you?
LB: We had just moved to the Gatton area and I became friends with a bloke up the road. One day we decided to take my two boys and go fishing on Moreton Island. I paid for the barge over and he owed me some money for the trip and on the way back he said ‘don’t worry about it’ and that we’d go again.
That never happened but some time later he said ‘what about I give you half a greyhound?’ I said ‘oh yea, righto’, and that’s how it all started.
Chase: Tell us more about the greyhound. Was it any good?
LB: It was called Boogy Baby. It won five from 15 for the partnership before doing an Achilles. It was going all right, too. I said to him the next time the bitch’s mother had a litter I’d buy one, so I bought a bitch from that litter.
Chase: Was that when you first ventured into the breeding side of things?
LB: I said to my missus at the time that breeding was the way to go so I started a breeding set-up. Ever since we started I kept breeding and you realise you can’t always get good ones and the good ones pay for the bad ones. I wouldn’t breed with anything that wasn’t a top quality female.
Chase: I guess it is time to bring in exactly how and why you ended up with such a champion as Bogie Leigh. How did that come about?
LB: I was doing up a house in Gatton in my spare time and had nearly finished it. A bloke came and polished the floors and did a terrific job. He was Peter Biers and we were sitting there afterwards having a yarn and he said to me ‘oh, you own a couple of greyhounds?’ Then he said he had the best greyhound in Australia and it was named Hypo Havoc. I said I had never heard of it so I started watching it and it was brilliant. It and Winged Runner clashed all the time.
Chase: Then along came Bogie Leigh. Tell us about her.
LB: Not long after he finished the floors I rang him up and said that when Hypo Havoc had pups I wanted to buy one of them. He said he was keeping two of the litter and that I could have the pick of the rest. Hypo Havoc was the mother and that bitch turned out to be Bogie Leigh.
Chase: Word is that you paid a decent sum of money to buy that puppy?
LB: In those days I paid $4000 for her when nobody was paying that sort of money, not up here anyway. Most people around here told me I was mad spending that type of money. But I wanted a good bitch, I wanted a good brood bitch. Her breeding tapped into Flying Amy and Capability lines. Flying Amy is Bogie Leigh’s granddam.
Chase: Any doubts about spending too much money on Bogie Leigh were to be erased, and some.
LB: It was a good investment as it turned out. She won four Group 1s – a Sapphire Crown (2003) at Sandown, a Brisbane Cup, an Australian Cup and an Easter Egg. She made the finals of two Queensland Sprints back-to-back but never made it to the races. The first time she had a spider bite and the second she did a ligament in a knee. She also raced in two Top Guns. She ran third to Bombastic Shiraz in one and was fifth to Whiskey Assassin in the other.
She has been the highlight of my career, no doubt.
Chase: It is funny that the Bogie name came after you originally mis-spelt the name of one of your pups many years ago.
LB: I was going to call a bitch Boogy Two, along the lines of Boogy Babe. But I mis-spelt the name and put down Bogie Two. That was how the Bogie name started and I’ve basically called all my dogs Bogie ‘something’ ever since.
Chase: We’ll move on to the matter of how you became chairman of the Brisbane Greyhound Racing Club.
LB: Dale Cartwright was chairman at the time and he gave me a ring and asked if I’d like to go on the board. I said ‘why not’ because I sort of knew everybody there. Then I was on the board only a couple of weeks and they made me vice-chairman. When Dale became greyhound representative for Racing Queensland I moved up to his position. That was about five years ago.
Chase: How has progress been through what were a couple of very difficult periods?
LB: We’ve done fairly well, the place is cruising along and it’d be close to being the wealthiest greyhound club in Australia.
Chase: Of course there are big plans for a super racing complex at Purga. Did you have a major role in that development?
LB: We knew a fair while ago that we’d probably eventually be leaving Albion Park and so I’ve had a fair bit to do with that. How long can I go on? I don’t know, but I probably have a couple of years left. I’ll probably stay on until we make the move to the new area – although it could be put back now (because of the coronavirus issues).
Chase: Are you in favour of a possible new track just over the NSW border?
LB: I don’t know enough about it to comment so we’ll have to wait and see. I do think getting race dates for them could be a problem.
Chase: What lies ahead for greyhound racing? You are certainly a believer in looking after greyhounds when they leave the track.
LB: I think we have to get to the stage when the industry owns their own retirement farms and that can be done easily. Any dog we can’t rehouse we maintain for the rest of its life.
Chase: Obviously the live baiting scandal, then the COVID-19 pandemic, hit the industry hard.
LB: Obviously the virus has knocked it around, but the best thing about the live baiting, in hindsight, was that it cleaned the industry right out. Everyone knows about animal welfare now and respects it. The industry has gone from strength to strength since and our market share has absolutely exploded. I think we turned over more than a billion dollars last year and it just continues to grow.
Chase: Okay Les, answer this one. Away from Obviously Bogie Leigh what is the best greyhound you have seen?
LB: Bombastic Shiraz. He beat her every time they clashed but she was always close up his clacker. She made him work to beat her. And as soon as he retired she became number one.
Chase: Do you concede he was better than your champion?