By David Brasch
HE\’S the most unlikely greyhound man having grown up riding bucking broncos and taming all the wild racehorses tossed at him.
But that\’s the story of Dan Henry, 46, and his close-knit family whose life these days is centred on producing superstar greyhounds.
It\’s a new life he, wife Kylie, and sons Peter, 18, and Bryce, 25, are relishing.
Rodeo riding was always going to be a part of Dan Henry\’s life. His dad Peter is in the Australia Bushman\’s hall of fame.
\”He was an all-round cowboy, rode everything and still holds the record for the youngest ever at 16 competing at the Sydney Show in bareback riding and bulldogging,\” said Dan of his dad.
Born in 1973 at Taylor\’s Arms near Macksville on the NSW mid-north coast, Dan and his brother Anthony started in pony club around Kempsey, but Dan soon progressed to the dangerous life of rodeo riding.
\”In the early 1980s, dad took up an offer from the Keir family to train racehorses for them,\” said Dan. \”Mind you, dad had open heart surgery when he was 31.\”
The Keir family owns the Akubra Hat company, the world-famous hat reaching into all corners of the globe.
\”My introduction to horses was that I was riding a horse every single day of my life,\” said Dan. \”I loved it … pony club, campdrafting and by the time I was 17 or 18 I was riding buckjumpers.
\”But, this always played second fiddle to racehorses. I was riding trackwork at Kempsey for my dad when I was 16 and did all the shoeing of the horses.\”
His dad got a dream start to his training career via a two-year-old filly called Wild Promises – a John\’s Hope filly.
\”Dad was a cowboy and really didn\’t know much about training racehorses. But, he picked it up instantly,\” said Dan.
Wild Promises won her first start at Kempsey by ‘umteen lengths’, then won twice at Port Macquarie by a dozen lengths and at her fourth start won the Beaufort Stakes at Newcastle by six lengths.
Peter Henry set her for the Golden Slipper.
Beaten narrowly in the Kindergarten Stakes at Rosehill, Wild Promises was transferred out of Peter\’s stables and it took her two years to win another race.
Back at Kempsey, Peter Henry insisted his son Dan learn a trade and not concentrate only on horses. He did a plumbing apprenticeship.
\”When I was 17, I decided I wanted to be a jockey,\” said Dan. \”I was 62 kilos at the time and went on a diet for two days. I ate one orange at the end of those two days and put on half a kilo.
\”It convinced me I couldn\’t be a jockey.\”
Stints in Tamworth, Armidale and Sydney eventually saw Dan Henry a leading hand on the Sydney Superdome project.
In January 2000 he moved his family to Queensland.
\”My wife Kylie is a Queenslander,\” said Dan.
It led to a State Of Origin moment he and Kylie will never forget.
\”Kylie was working at BBC Hardware and managed to get a couple of tickets to a State Of Origin at Suncorp,\” he said. \”We caught the bus to the ground with me wearing my Blue’s jersey.
\”Well, I was instantly bombarded by cans from the Queenslanders all the while I\’m giving it to the Maroons. Kylie was copping none of that and by the start of the game, we had already got on the bus and headed home to watch the game on TV.\”
For two years Dan worked as a steward with Racing Queensland and admits he enjoyed every second of it. \”I\’d hurt my back plumbing and needed a break and the Racing Queensland stint came along right at the right time,\” he said.
In 2006, he was back as a site manager and it was about this time he came into greyhound racing.
\”My brother had been given a greyhound bitch,\” said Dan. \”It was at a time when we were visiting the family on holiday and we all went over to Wauchope to watch the bitch race.
\”She eventually won six races. I thought this was magic. For a racehorse to win six races it was something, but I have since learned for a greyhound to do the same, especially around Wauchope it wasn\’t so great.
\”My first thought was, imagine if I bought something decent what could we get.\”
Which prompted Dan Henry to approach legendary trainer Ron Ball about buying a greyhound.
\”Ron said he could suggest a pup to buy so I headed out to Laureene Renner\’s property,\” said Dan. \”Ron picked out a black bitch which I bought for $3500. She was seven months old and the Renner\’s reared her for me.\”
Dan named her Tina\’s Show and while her 10 wins included victories at Albion Park, she became a goldmine producer, her offspring including the G1 star Outside Pass (31 wins, $248,000).
Her daughters continue to toss up Group class gallopers like Shakey Diesel.
It was just the sort of introduction to greyhound racing Dan Henry needed.
\”Kimmey was her kennel name and we only put her down through old age last year,\” he said.
In the meantime, hard work and some astute business ventures for Dan and Kylie meant a successful lifestyle. \”We buy and sell houses, generally with five of them on the go at any one time,\” he said. \”It has enabled us to have this lifestyle.\”
In 2018 the opportunity came up to buy a lavish 40-acre property established by Dennis and Nina Uhrhane at Churchable.
There they have established a whelping and rearing property.
\”We\’ve got some great clients like Steve Williams, Darryl McCoy,\” said Dan. \”But, we\’ve got 21 of our own pups all under four weeks.
\”Our speciality is to whelp and rear the litters to 14 weeks. Then we get them back a month before breaking in and we do some work on them preparing for their education.
\”Kylie and Peter absolutely love the dogs.
\”It is really something special to see them both bonding with the pups.
\”Women are especially good with greyhounds because they don\’t lose their cool with them like men can do at times.\”
Dan says he made sure he got involved only with leaders in the industry when developing his greyhound racing interests.
\”It\’s all a learning curve for us because we have been in this business for just five minutes,\” he said.
He and Kylie take advantage of Gumtree where backpackers advertise looking for casual employment.
\”We get visitors from Sweden, England, Ireland … you name it,\” he said. \”At $20 an hour, they can handle all sorts of jobs on the property. And there are always plenty of jobs on a property like ours.\”
Dan still holds horses dear and one day wants to train a racehorse of his own.
Only a couple of years ago he had to put down through old age a remarkable old horse called Alco.
\”In 1989 I won the showjumping championship at Camden Haven on the mid-north coast on Alco,\” said Dan.
\”My sister Kelly, who is 10 years younger than me, rode Alco to win exactly the same showjumping championship at Camden Haven in 1999.
\”Alco was 33 when he died. Our son Peter used to ride him.\”
Dan and Kylie\’s kennel continues to grow and flourish.
\”We were lucky to get a litter sister to Thirty Talks called Simply An Angel and she is already the dam of Pump It,\” he said.
\”She\’s got a litter by Fernando Bale at the moment.\”
Dan steps back and allows Kylie to help develop the puppies into social specials.
\”Kylie is forever giving the babies a cuddle and we also find that this is the best time to start doing all manner of things with them like lead training,\” said Dan.
\”It makes them instantly able to be handled as rearers, educators and trainers would want.\”
It is the reputation Dan and Kylie are developing.
From a lavish property out Churchable way, with a history of success rodeo style, with thoroughbreds and now greyhounds, the Henrys have come a long way in the ‘five minutes’ they have been in the industry.