By GARY CLARK
IT’S refreshing when you can talk to a teenager who has her future worked out.
For Mackayla Clarke, greyhound racing has been her starting point through the guidance of her uncle, trainer Ray Thomas.
Mackayla’s life changed at the young age of eight when she and her older sister Fiona (now 21) settled on to a greyhound property with their father.
They rented a house from her uncle Ray on an eight-acre property at Glossodia (about 68km north west of the Sydney CBD).
Mackayla and Fiona would spend their free time rushing 250m down to where the greyhound pups were.
“I loved seeing and playing with the young greyhounds every day and, unlike my sister, I seemed to have a real attachment to them even at that age,” said Mackayla.
As the years progressed and she entered high school, Mikayla continued her involvement with the race dogs as a break from studying.
Uncle Ray guided her through the handling and feeding of the dogs until she was 16 when she gained her handler’s license.
“I remember my first dog that I boxed – it was Bugatti Monarch at Richmond and that dog also gave me my first winner as a handler,” said Mackayla.
As her interest grew and the enthusiasm overflowed, Mackayla knew what she wanted to do in life.
“I wanted to own and train my own dogs and also become a vet,” she said.
Now 18, Mackayla is waiting for her owner’s and trainer’s license which is currently being held up at administration level.
Ray bought Mackayla her first dog, the aptly-named Wishing, and once Mikayla gains her license the dog will be officially transferred into her name.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “Wishing has already had 14 starts for three wins at Richmond and five placings.”
Mackayla boxes all Ray’s dogs on race day besides spending the majority of the week at the track.
She is currently doing a three-year university course in Bachelor Of Animal Science Pre Vet and has two years to go.
Once that is completed she will then do a six-year uni course in Bachelor Of Veterinary Science and Vet Technology.
So Mackayla definitely has her future planned out.
“I want to open my own vet clinic in Wagga where I would like to move and buy my first home,” she said.
“I have done plenty of research and the region could do with more vets, especially a greyhound vet. I would also like to continue training a couple of greyhounds.”
Mackayla has done some full-time work as a pet food packer in her endeavour to be financially ready for her future.
She says social life and boyfriends are not part of her personal future CV as she totally devotes her attention to her career in the sport.
There is no doubt when the time comes Mackayla will be sorely missed by Ray who was born into the sport but it came at a turbulent time for his mum and dad.
“When I was born in 1960 my parents’ house was struck by lightning and burnt to the ground. They lost everything and had to rebuild on the same land,” said Ray.
Ray’s father, Les, was introduced into the sport by friends and in 1969 was asked to take a dog which was owned by horse stud owner Norm Williams.
The stud was formerly on the current site of the Parklea prison and Norm also raced a few good gallopers in Royal Yacht and Gaelic Spirit.
The bitch that Ray was given was Parklea Girl but her racing career ended quickly after she broke a toe at Harold Park.
“I thought she would make a good brood bitch so there was a future in my decision,” said Ray.
She had three litters to Billy Fletcher’s stud dog Red Zero and one to Arctic Flyer, who produced a total of 18 pups.
“We had 17 winners, including Zero Stomp (Red Zero) who won at Harold Park and broke the Wyong straight track record,” said Ray.
Ray’s first winner was Busy Pancho (Arctic Flyer x Parklea Girl) who won her maiden at Goulburn in the early 70’s. He also had success with Happy David who won 11 races.
By the mid-70’s Ray had built his kennel up to 45. As the years progressed Ray, along with his dad, took a break from the sport. Ray’s father passed away in 1991.
Ray had a close association with his father and decided to get started again and returned to training.
He also worked on the council and moved around installing portable horse stables for equestrian events.
Ray also remembered the family’s first city winner – Tiger Fleet at Wentworth Park – and his first winner out on his own was Uru Zulu, also at Wentworth Park.
Ray recalls the Parklea Girl pups helping two trainers – Charlie Dimech and John Muscat – get started in their careers. Charlie later on prepared Sydney Cup winner Lyn’s Daisy.
Now Ray has just 11 dogs in work and winners are flowing for him, including Zig Zag Banjo ( Richmond and Gosford), Little Loki, Two One Parking (seven wins) and Stop The Shine who is a real story.
The dog had been through three previous kennels before Ray got him.
“He has had numerous injuries, but he can really motor in a race,” said Ray.
That statement was supported twice last month when Stop The Shine won two on end – at Richmond over 400m then at Gosford over 515m, coming from last on both occasions with barnstorming finishes.
The dog’s claim to fame was when he ran down Wow in a Dapto maiden. He has since gone on to win at Wentworth Park, beating Two One Parking to give Ray his first city quinella.
Stop The Shine has been the only dog that has made Mackayla a little nervous on race night.
“He was backed from $7 into $2.60 on fixed odds in his win at Richmond last month and in the parade area and on the way to the boxes trainers kept asking how much we had on the dog,” she said.
“We don’t bet that much but to think there was so many people on him….at my age, it became a little rattling.”
Ray’s original involvement in greyhound racing with his father has now blended into a strong bond with his niece in the sport that Mackayla will develop into the future.
Any success that comes her way will make Ray a very proud man.