Giveaway the spark that lit Burman greyhound passion

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By TERRY WILSON

RAY and Mary Burman readily acknowledge that they did not have a clue about the breed when a greyhound first made its way into their home.
That was back in the 1970s after Ray and a number of his hockey teammates elected to have a night out when the greyhound racing opened on a new circuit inside the Cannon Park racecourse in Cairns.
What happened is a tale of how an uneducated couple – in terms of training the sleek speed machines – went on to become major players in Queensland’s greyhounds industry.
It was on that opening night of racing that Ray ended up taking a giveaway dog back home even though he did not have a clue what to do with it.
The giveaway did not reach any great heights, but a strong connection with the dog industry was forged.
Now the couple is locked into greyhounds – from start to finish – breeding, whelping, rearing, breaking-in, through to the thrill of watching the fruits of their labour salute the judge out on the tracks before they retire.
Mary is 66 and Ray is 67 and they have two sons, Paul and Steven.
Mary has come to love her dogs and is right behind proper welfare of her charges after they finish their track careers.
On this subject she was the recipient of a QRIC welfare award at Racing Queensland’s awards night in 2019.
“Most of my greyhounds are sent to the Greyhounds As Pets,” she said.
“I have great admiration of the work that the GAP does.”
Chase caught up with the Burmans for an insight on their journey from raw novices at the game to their current status as among the elite trainers in the land.
Chase: It had to begin somewhere. What was the situation when you first met as teenagers?
Mary: We met when we both worked in the Commonwealth Bank in Abbot Street in Cairns and we married in 1974.
Chase: Now tell us about how a greyhound came into your care and immediately changed your lives.
Mary: After hockey training one night Ray’s team decided they’d go to the opening night of the Cairns greyhounds. It was his first time at the dogs and the club did a draw for some giveaways. Ray put his name down for a free dog and it was drawn. The person who said he’d train it didn’t want it. Ray brought it home and built a kennel where we lived at White Rock.
(Editor’s note): The dogs were being given away to attract more public interest and involvement to the brand new racing code.
Chase: We presume having to suddenly tend to a greyhound came as a bit of a shock. What was your reaction?
Mary: My first comment to Ray was ‘what the hell do you think you’re doing? What do you know about training greyhounds?’
We did not know what to feed it – but we quickly learned. That was the start and we learned what to do from a few blokes up here. We go a little bit all right now
Chase: Can you remember the name of the giveaway?
Mary: It was a little bitch named Viterry’s Miss. She won a couple of races.
Chase: So the years went by and the Burmans moved to Brisbane when Ray was transferred in his job with the bank. When did that happen?
Mary: We moved to a property at Calamvale in 1981, about four acres. Then in 2001we bought this property at Park Ridge.
How many dogs do we have now? Um, can I say too many, from three-month-old pups to racing dogs, to retired dogs. All our dogs are home-grown. Ray trains them and I own them.
Chase: When you say home-grown, does that mean you are involved with a majority of your hounds from start to finish?
Mary: All our dogs are home-grown, Ray trains them, and I own them. It started with the foundation dam called Up And Down. She threw a bitch called Skinny Magic. It never won a race but she was a litter sister to Techno Man, which won a Group 2 Hume Cup in Melbourne.
I got Bizarre Barbie from Skinny Magic and Bizarre Barbie threw Champagne Sally when I mated her with Barcia Bale. Champagne Sally was the fastest greyhound I’ve had and now I’ve got 11 pups from her, by Sennachie, that are three months old.
Chase: We hope they can turn out every bit as good as their mother. How good was Champagne Sally as a race bitch?
Mary: To this day she holds three track records. One over the Albion Park 600 metres, one over the Ipswich 630 metres and she co-holds the Ipswich 520 metre record.
She won her fair share of feature races and won a Top Gun Stayers in Melbourne.
Right now she has a good litter racing. One of them, Stanton Warrior, won a heat of the Eric Thomson Memorial Maiden at Albion Park in 29.85 seconds.
We’ve had some (litters) that weren’t the best around but I suppose they key to me is that most of them can handle varying distances.
PAWNOTE: Champagne Sally was a finalist in Racing Queensland’s 2018 Greyhound Of  The Year which was won by Hasten Slowly.
Chase: We will now cross to Ray and ask has he found training greyhounds like an addiction
Ray: I suppose it is. You get caught up in it and every win you have you want another one. Provided you keep getting them you just keep going.
We’ve been lucky over the years. It’s a lot of hard work and you put a lot of hours into it and a little bit of thought, especially on the breeding side. I like that side of it, like picking a sire to go to one of our bitches and you cross your fingers hoping they turn out all right.
Chase: Is it fair to say you and Mary have done well out of the industry?
Ray: We’ve had a lot of dogs that aren’t the best around the place. But I suppose the key is they can run varying distances. We go all right and the Group 1 dream is still on the list.
Chase: So, what is ahead for the Burmans?
Ray: We’ll just struggle through day to day and hopefully the health holds up, if it does we’ll keep doing what we’re doing. The industry seems to be going in the right direction and we get our fair share of winners, enough to keep our heads above the water line.
Chase: Speaking of health, you have had your issues, haven’t you, issues that don’t seem to be holding you back?
Ray: About 10 years ago I had a cancer called sarcoma in my left leg. And of course I have Parkinsons.
Chase: Finally Ray, which is the best greyhound you have had?
Ray: Probably Champagne Sally. She was quick and probably quicker than anyone thought.
Bizarre Barbie was also good. She won Greyhound Australasia’s Run of the Year.

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