(Photo: Louise Partland)
By MIKE HILL
‘FEED them well and keep them happy’. That’s Henry ‘Merv’ Parker’s recipe for producing good racing dog.
Parker, who has had his share of good dogs over the years, has been training greyhounds in north Queensland for at least three decades.
A former cane farmer, who was introduced to the sport by well-known greyhound identity John Kohn in the 1990s, is featured in this month’s The Trainer column.
Parker, who was based at Ayr for many years, is establishing a training complex on a 10-acre property at Horseshoe Lagoon, midway between Ayr and Townsville.
“I’m doing what I like in my twilight years,” he said.
“We have two straight tracks that can be converted into competition runs, a bull ring and we are in the process of building a new kennel block.”
Parker said ‘good food and keeping your dogs happy’ should be at the top of any trainer’s must-do list.
“They are so important for a dog to perform at its best,” he said.
Parker, who is helped by his son Tony, has 10 dogs in work, headed by the consistent sprinter Goes Boom.
The black and white dog (Allen Deed-Dyna Fancy) has hit a purple patch in recent months, stringing together four successive wins and six wins and four placings from his last 13 outings.
“He does everything right,” said Parker. “He’s a lovely, happy and relaxed dog. In his kennel he just lies on his back with his legs up. He almost talks to you.
“I’ll be keeping him as a pet when he finishes racing. He’s like part of the family.”
Over the years Parker’s standout chasers have included Chief Supreme, Kiladdie, Speed Direct, Arlandria and Cherokee Bob.
“Chief Supreme was probably my best dog,” he said. “He won about 40 races and held the track record for some time.”
Parker said good dogs made life easy for trainers.
“They spoil you,” he said, “And when they retire they’re hard to replace.”
Parker also has high hopes for some well-bred pups he has bought recently, including members of the Fernando Bale-Miss Gingin, Aston Dee Bee-Del Rey and Fernando Bale-Flyrite litters.
“They’re all really nice pups,” he said. “Racing at Townsville is good at the moment with meetings on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can split the team up and race on both days.”
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: Through John and Richard Kohn. John was heavily involved in starting the Ayr track which we lived next too.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: The late Binks Walker and the late John Keast (local vet).
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: About 16-18 months.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: 3-4 months. Prefer to take longer with dogs especially if they are on the larger side.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: It helps if they are well put together, but the right temperament is key.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Would make sure a young maiden has a few looks at the track first where as a seasoned performer would only need one look.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Most dogs would have a similar routine, but will vary small things like how far and often they gallop to keep them happy.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: Not really.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week works well. Will back them up occasionally if we think they can handle it.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Competition runs and free gallop behind a motorbike.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: Mostly my son checks them over, but we will take them to Brad Belford if needed.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: Usually yes. Local vet Des Viero for any major problems.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Chief Supreme. Won 40 plus starts back in the early 90s.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: I like watching the racing at the nice big track at Murray Bridge.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: Plenty of young people getting involved in the industry and racing twice a week in North Queensland is very important up here.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Feed them well and keep them happy. Look for dogs with the right temperament.