Little Byrnes a connection for the ages

\"\"Caption: Celebrating Little Byrnes’ win through to the final of the Group 1 Gold Bullion at Albion Park, were from left, Steve Moso, trainer John Catton, handler Josh Priest, owner Matt Cranitch and Tom Clarke (Photo: Box 1 Photography)

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.)

WHEN Little Byrnes lined up for the final of the Group 1 Gold Bullion at Albion Park back in February, he wasn\’t just taking on some superstars of the sport.

The son of Barcia Bale-Mitchie Madam was giving back to a few mates who rightfully deserve to be repaid.

Little Byrnes is owned by Matt Cranitch and trained by John Catton who brought together a connection that stems back many decades. Their fathers, Pat and John Snr, were connected but many decades ago.

\”Matt\’s dad Pat was in the Queensland police force and a real hero,\” said John Catton.

Pat had pulled a man out of the way of a train at Ipswich, dived in front of a rampaging bull charging down sideshow alley during the Brisbane Exhibition, saved a schoolboy from the surf at Greenmount, a man from the surf at Kirra, an infant who was almost crushed under a lorry at the City Markets and two children from a runaway car on Gregory Terrace.

John Catton\’s dad, John Snr was a rugby league star who played halfback for Queensland and alongside legend Clive Churchill for Norths in premiership winning sides in the late 1950s.

John Snr died of a massive heart attack when just 36 leaving his young family to battle through.

Matt Cranitch and John Catton had to be brought together by a mutual friend, now Cairns-based Brendan Sheehan.

Brendan and John Catton were regulars ‘at the trots’ together as youngsters and have stayed friends ever since.

A couple of years ago Brendan decided he wanted to get into greyhound racing with his mate.

\”We went up to the Ipswich Auction and Brendan picked out a few pups,\” said Catton. \”We bought Little Byrnes for $3800 from Laurie Meteyard.\”

But, before the dog got to race age, Brendan decided he needed to sell. Matt stepped in and bought the dog.

\”Reg Hazelgrove reared him for us and from a very early age he predicted the pup would be something else,\” said Catton.

\”I broke him in myself at 14 or 15 months and had a few others being educated with him. He was lengths in front of the others.\”

When it came time to name the pup, Matt had just one name to select. It was Little Byrnes, named after his late mum Margaret.

\”Margaret got the nickname as a kid of Little Byrnes,\” said Catton. \”She was the only girl in a family of five and all her brothers were six foot five on average. As a little kid, she got nothing but Little Byrnes (her maiden name).\”

Matt Cranitch gave up a six-figure paying trade movement job to take care of his mum when dementia set in during the later stages of her life.

Now working as a school teacher at Everton Park High, Matt had only once choice for a name for the young greyhound he had in training with John Catton.

And, right from the moment Little Byrnes set foot on the racetrack he has lived up to that name. He went 24.89 winning a maiden at Ipswich and his spot in the Group 1 Gold Bullion final came at a very early stage of his race career.

\”The Group 1 was tough, but his real target was always going to be the Ipswich Auction series and a Young Guns,\” said Catton.

The success of Little Byrnes has brought together three mutual friends and links two families who had been close many years in the past.

Greyhound racing will do that!



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