By DAVID BRASCH
(Each month Chase puts the spotlight on a person and/or their ‘best friend’ – a story that gives an insight into the true heart of greyhound racing. It showcases all that is good in this sport and is a monthly tribute to much-loved greyhound identity Daryl ‘Albert’ Gleeson)
HE\’S just 30 and only months into his devoted hobby of training greyhounds and already Kouta Kama has landed his first winner as a trainer, and then topped that a week later training his first city winner.
And it could not have come at a better time for the young man who runs his own limousine service that has been devastated by continued lockdowns in Victoria.
\”Absolutely stoked,\” is how Kouta described his first couple of winners.
No, Kouta is not a newcomer into greyhound racing having already been a successful owner right from the moment he got his first dog back in 2015.
While greyhound racing has become his passion, Kouta is a self confessed ‘sports nut’.
His family is Turkish, but Kouta was born and raised in Essendon before moving to Craigieburn when 24.
\”I played a lot of footy as a kid at Keilor Park and made the Victorian Metro under 16 rep side as a full forward,\” he said. \”My great mate, (Queensland trainer) Mick Zammit, always pays out on me being a \’show pony\’ footballer being a full forward.
\”I played in the TAC Cup for the Calder Cannons and that is one league down from the VFL which is one league down from the AFL.\”
But, he is also a black belt third dan in taekwondo and for eight years tried kick boxing.
\”I had eight kick boxing fights for five wins, two draws and one loss,\” he said. \”Every year when Mick Zammit and his mates come to Melbourne for the Cox Plate, I pick up the boys and drive them around for a few days.
\”I joke with Mick that the only time I lost a kick boxing bout was when he gave me a bit of advice.\”
kick boxing led on to Muay Thai, which Kouta describes as like kick boxing but tougher.
Way back when he was playing footy for Keilor Park as a kid, his then-captain trained greyhounds and this tempted Kouta to get into the industry.
\”My family has never had involvement in racing but I got involved mainly through my best mate Daniel Davis,\” said Kouta.
\”I paid $600 for my first dog, Galloping Jamie, who was trained by Kate Gorman and he won a few races for me.
\”From there, I kept looking for cheap dogs, but never won a race. Eventually, I bought a Stagger dog from Queensland and he had blistering pace. I gave him to my mate Daniel to train.
\”He won eight in a row and seven from seven at Cranbourne and was a length off the track record over the short.
\”He cost me $650 and I was offered $16,500 for him to go to New Zealand. I didn\’t need convincing and the dog was sold.\”
Next, he bought a bitch he raced as Lady Emerald, another by Stagger, who won 13 races and $40,000 when trained by Daniel.
\”She was special and ran second in a Melbourne Cup Prelude at Sandown,\” said Kouta.
\”I have her in pup to Raw Ability.\”
That litter is all down to a friendship Kouta has developed with leading trainer Anthony Azzopardi.
\”A couple of years ago Daniel, a landscaper, needed a worker for a few days a week to do some work at Anthony\’s new property,\” said Kouta. \”I turned up and instantly became friends with Anthony and he, and Daniel, have been my greyhound training mentors.\”
Azzopardi ‘liked the kid’ so much that he gave him a kennel he had sitting in a shed at the new property, and then gave him a dog called Legendary Lad to train.
\”I gave him three starts and he ran one placing, but he was the sort of dog you never knew if the real one would turn up on the night,\” said Kouta.
One thing led to another and Kouta answered an advert on Facebook a few months ago and grabbed a dog called Go Twenty Two to train. He would be his first ever winner as a trainer, landing a graded race at Bendigo.
\”When I won that race, Anthony and Darren started ringing my mobile phone and I had not even got to the catching pen to collect the dog,\” he said.
One week later, kennelmate Matsumi, who had struggled to run past 400m before joining Kouta\’s kennel, gave his trainer his first city winner when scoring at The Meadows.
\”When Matsumi won, both Anthony and Daniel declared him a special. I was the only one who didn\’t back him.\”
With lockdowns placing Kouta\’s business under increasing pressure, he has relied on what work he picks up in between.
\”The limo business gets work here and there,\” he said.
It never seems to worry Kouta, who is so devoted to greyhound training it is constantly on his mind.
\”Anthony has been so good to me with advice and genuinely takes a huge interest in my training,\” he said.
\”My only entertainment apart from training is when \’uncle\’ Mick Zammit and his mates rock up each year for Cox Plate. It\’s great fun and I try to pick Mick\’s brains as well. I\’ve forgiven him for the dud advice in that kick boxing loss.\”
Kouta Kama is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to vitamins and minerals and generally looking after his dogs.
Those first couple of winners have since been replaced by a couple of pre-trainers for which he has high hopes.
\”It\’s all about placing the dogs right,\” he says.
He certainly does that.