By MIKE HILL
THIS month we feature north Queensland’s Joan Newnham in out The Trainer column.
Newnham says she just loves her dogs and it was this passion that drew her to greyhounds two decades ago.
“I’d been breeding fox terriers but when my broodbitch died in the late 1990s I decided to buy a greyhound pup,” she said.
“The male foxie was moping about and I thought a greyhound pup would be a good companion for him.”
Newnham was working at the on-course TAB at the Townsville greyhound track – one of three jobs she had at the time.
“I’ve been working at three jobs most of my life,” she said.
“I bought the pup from Brisbane – it was three or four months old.”
Racing as Millennium Star, the white and fawn bitch had minor success, winning over 404m at Ayr as well as picking up a couple of placings at the Burdekin track.
Two months ago Newnham experienced a career highlight when smart sprinter Dalmatynski brilliantly won the $12,000 Country Cup (520m) at Albion Park.
The white and black dog (Cosmic Rumble-Manyana Pearl) clocked a super 29.97s at his first attempt at the journey.
Newnham had gone into the big Brisbane final confident after littermates Czarny and Dalmatynski had quinellaed the regional final in Townsville.
But disaster hit the kennel when Czarny was declared a late scratching on race day with a leg injury.
Newnham, 75, who is based at Alligator Creek, just south of Townsville, was unable to travel to Brisbane with her two representatives.
“I’d love to go, but I can’t fly,” she said.
“I had open heart surgery some years back and because of complications I can’t fly.
“If I do, I run the risk of going blind and I don’t want to lose my sight.”
Instead she sent Czarny and Dalmatynski to Burpengary trainer Sheryl Clark a few days before the Brisbane final with her grand-daughter Alisha.
Newnham admitted she missed seeing or hearing a live coverage of the Cup final.
“I couldn’t watch it live, I had to watch the replay …. we couldn’t get it live up here,” she said.
“Before I knew the result, I received a phone call saying Dalmatynski had won.”
It was a huge relief for the veteran trainer, who still can’t believe that Czarny was not fit enough to race.
“He left here a sound dog and when he returned my vet said he was fine … he ran around, not a thing wrong with him.”
Despite the recent success of the smart litter brothers, Newnham still has a soft spot for her former Greyhound of the Year winner Top Knock.
“He won the GOTY title in 2012 and I still have him,” Newnham said.
“He turns 10 this year. He was a top dog, winning more than 30 races.”
Top Knock (Knocka Norris- Moonlite Teddy) retired from the track in early 2015 with a career record of 34 wins and 28 minor placings from 116 starts and amassed prizemoney in excess $31,000.
The black dog had an amazing 2012 season with 18 wins and eight minor placings from 31 starts.
Newnham, who has six dogs in work at her seven-acre property, said she had survived last month’s catastrophic floods in the Townsville region with only minor damage.
“Seven kennels out the back were damaged, the swimming pool will have to be checked, a window was broken and there was a leak in one corner of the house,” she said.
“Also the back paddock where I gallop the dogs is just mud at the moment.
“I can’t let the dogs out until it dries out.”
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: I was working at the TAB on course at the Townsville showgrounds and decided to get a pup.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: Lots of the old trainers … I listened to them all and put what I thought best into practice.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: When the pup is about three months old.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: Usually up to 20 months.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: A pup that has a good confirmation and the will to chase.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Yes, it has to be broken in properly which I usually do myself.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Do what suits individual dogs.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: Give them good food and comfortable kennels.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: I am not swimming any of my dogs at the moment…. swimming is good for most dogs, but not too long. Three minutes is the maximum.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Open paddock galloping and walking them on the machine.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: Usually I do it myself, but now that I am not as young as I use to be, I use a friend’s son who is very good.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: I treat small injuries myself but I use a vet for anything else.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Top Knock.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: I only race at Townsville.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: More young people learning and participating.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Listen and learn.