By Paul Dolan
SINCE retiring from racecalling in September, 2018, I haven’t made it to the Ipswich track very often. It’s a tyranny of distance thing from where I live.
When I was a regular at Ipswich, a highlight of going there was to be greeted by Keith Sternberg who hardly missed a meeting.
Known to many as ‘Keith the catcher’, the north Ipswich resident passed away last month, aged 92.
I reckon it’s the sign of a decent person when they ask about and seem genuinely interested in others, rather than brag about themselves. Keith treated me -and I suspect everyone else – with that kindness. He would ask – How has your week been ? How’s your family? Have you been backing any winners? You know the routine. That was Keith, very much a caring sort of bloke.
Keith’s first involvement with greyhounds was around 20 years ago when his son Greg, the well known veterinary surgeon, owned a couple of dogs which were trained by Ron Ball.
Keith would attend trial sessions and race meetings with Greg and was one day noticed by Tony Brett as looking interested in becoming involved. Before too long Keith had obtained his catcher’s license and as the old saying goes, the rest is history. He was often referred to as Tony Brett’s catcher, which was true but he helped many others too.
Keith kept meticulous records of the greyhounds that he caught for Brett and other trainers. His best year was 2014, catching 407 winners. His next best tally was 384 in 2015.
Keith devoted a lot of time to repairing muzzles for trainers. We’re not talking about a few here and there. Some years he would repair around 700 muzzles.
For many years Keith worked as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels. He was forced to give that away when Covid-19 struck, the chance of picking up the virus being deemed by his doctor as being too risky.
The Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club paid tribute to Keith with a recognition night at a Saturday night meeting in October last year. It was kept as a secret from Keith and he was totally chuffed and I suspect a bit embarrassed at all the attention.
“There were heaps of people there and they showered me with gifts. It was very special,” he said at the time.
In 2017 Keith’s catching figures included 70 runners which finished last. He said if his tally of lasts ever surpassed the winners, he would give the catching away. That never happened, of course.
Have a look at any Ipswich race and you will notice as the runners enter the pen, the words – Keith Sternberg Catching Pen – on the gate.
I suspect and sincerely hope that sign remains there for many a long day. Keith Sternberg won’t be forgotten in any hurry.