Caption: Jane Mcnicholl with Fly For Trix after winning the 2020 Group 3 Brian Johnstone final at Angle Park. (Photo: Kurt Donsberg)
By DAVID BRASCH
JANE Mcnicholl was an early twenties vet student in Dublin when she got her first greyhound.
But little did she know at the time greyhound racing would soon engulf her entire life … and on the other side of the world.
Three times Jane represented Ireland at international level in cross country and it would be this knowledge of fitness and training that would also form the basis of her future greyhound training career.
“I got a bit cold in Ireland and decided to head to Australia for the sunshine,” she said of her move here.
It was to Broken Hill in 1974 and Jane became the first full time vet in the town.
“It would be my first contact with greyhound racing,” she said. “The town had a vibrant greyhound population at the time and a local racetrack and I was soon asked to be the track vet for race meetings.”
Jane was quickly touched by the industry and thought she had better get her own dog.
“His name was Satin Joe, a big white dog by Trapper Joe,” said Jane.
“And then I thought I would buy a pup. The only one available was a brindle bitch I bought from Jack Horton by Witches Coven-Which Glow. I named her True Spell and she won in Adelaide when I eventually moved there from Broken Hill.”
Such was the success of True Spell that Jane decided to approach Horton about breeding a litter with Which Glow.
“I put her to the Irish import Shifting Shadow. He had Crazy Parachute in his damline and True Spell’s sire Witches Coven was by Crazy Parachute.”
It was the very first litter ever bred by Jane and the result was True Glow and five other winners all of them successful at Angle Park. True Glow would establish a broodbitch dynasty that continues today with Group race stars.
“True Glow was a very good race bitch, big and strong like a rugby player,” said Jane. “But she was more a 600 metre type of race bitch and in those days there were no 600 metre city races.”
True Glow would be mated to then top sire Bowetzel to produce yet another highly successful litter for Jane which included True Shadow winner of the SA Oaks. “She was my first classic winner,” said Jane.
True Shadow, of course, was Jane’s next broodbitch and she too became a highly successful producer. To Worth Doing, her final litter, she got True To Do a real racetrack star who took Jane to Group 1 heights.
True To Do also won the SA Oaks, but was second in the Australian Cup and third in the Melbourne Cup and became SA greyhound of the year.
Also in True To Do’s litter was a bitch called True Gleam.
“She was probably a length off the ability of True To Do, but at her third race start she fell at the first turn and became a bit careful in a field after that,” said Jane.
True Gleam would become the broodbitch star.
“There was a great deal of difference in those two bitches,” said Jane. “True To Do was a bullock with a massive back end, really powerful and had an attitude like a rugby player.
“But True Gleam was taller and finer and more female than her sister.”
It is the True Gleam side of this family that has remained dominant and continues to today via her distant relatives, the famous litter sisters Weblec Belle and Weblec Rose (Dyna Tron-Snow Excuse) who have True Gleam as their fifth dam.
True Gleam’s daughter True Angel has continued this family and Jane says she was just like her mother … ‘a bit polite’.
As would be expected, Jane was pestered by buyers looking to get into this by-now famous damline and eventually Jane herself took a break from the constancy of breeding greyhounds until a few years ago.
“I was approached by Nev Loechel and John Weber who owned Weblec Rose to take her on as a broodbitch,” said Jane. It would be a wise move.
“Weblec Rose was very fast, not like the rugby mould the family can toss up, a very gentle bitch and phenomenal mother.
“She absolutely loves her pups and had a milk supply just like a jersey cow to feed her pups. In fact, I never have to do a thing for her pups she looks after them so well.
“She’s very careful and attentive with them.”
Jane decided on Kinloch Brae as a mate for Weblec Rose’s first litter under her control (she’d already produced a litter by Barcia Bale). The litter produced Weblec Ace (21 wins, $171,000) and Weblec Jack (15 wins, $62,000).
The next was to Fernando Bale and it includes Group stars Fly For Trix (18 wins, $56,000), Weblec Jet (7 wins, $48,000), Fly For Fun (15 wins, $33,000), Funambulist (10 wins, $27,000) etc.
The success of those two litters proves again Jane Mcnicholl is one of the best greyhound breeders this country has seen … an unsung hero.
So, what is the ‘secret’ to Jane Mcnicholl’s breeding of greyhounds theories that have stood the test of time since the early 1970s with a damline still today producing Group stars.
“I am always one who goes for outcrossing,” she said. “I believe Australian greyhounds are getting terribly in-bred.”
She says sire choice should be based entirely on a stud dog that was a very, very hard chaser.
But she is just as adamant breeders should be very stringent when selecting broodbitches to breed with.
“It is not worth breeding with a bitch that did not win over 500 metres in the city,” she said.
“It indicates not only a degree of stamina but also indicates soundness and a good constitution.
“And good staying bitches are generally good broodbitches. But this does not equate to staying race dogs who go to stud. There has never been a successful staying sire.
“Breeders should take notice of what sort of bitches produce city winners. Short course country winners are not worth breeding with. They will generally only produce country winners.”
Jane says the True Gleam damline are generally all strong 500m bitches and most get to win over 600m.
Jane has no hard and fast rules about whelping and rearing, but says pups cannot get enough galloping in those early formative months up to 12 months.
She also has a kelpie pet dog who is vital helping rear young puppies.
“I find the pups’ mother can be too rough and can even hurt her pups once they go out into the paddocks,” she said. “But a kelpie is the perfect size to accompany three-month-old pups in a paddock.
“I’ve also had a lot of success just this with whippets and young greyhound pups. The kelpie and whippet are just the right size for three months old greyhounds.
“Both the kelpie and whippet are very agile dogs.”
Jane has been on a Group winning streak with the Fernando Bale-Weblec Rose litter in recent times.
“Who would have thought such a goldmine of a greyhound family would have started in Broken Hill,” she said. “A gold nugget came from Broken Hill in the form of a dog.”