National Derby is still a dream for Townsville boss

\"\"Caption: The ‘Pretty Boys’ of greyhound racing in the 2002 era, Mick Zammit, left, and Gary Heath with Greasy Grizzly after winning the Flying Amy Classic at Albion Park with eventual Derby winner Greasy Grizzly. “I still laugh at how young we were every time I walk past that picture,” said Gary.

Group 1 National Derby (520m)

Wentworth Park

Best males nominated, whelped on or after 1-10-2018.

Heats January 15. Final January 22.

$75,000 to the winner

Group 1 National Futurity (520m)

Wentworth Park

Best females nominated, whelped on or after 1-10-2018.

Heats January 15. Final January 22.

$75,000 to the winner

Group 1 Paws Of Thunder (520m)

Wentworth Park

Best 32 nominated.

Heats January 16. Final January 23.

$75,000 to the winner

 

By David Brasch

TOWNSVILLE Club president Gary Heath shakes his head every New Year when the time comes around for the National Derby.

Back in 2003, when a fresh-faced 24-year-old and newly married to wife Paula, Gary went on a greyhound racing ride he never thought for an instant was possible.

AND, he\’s the first to admit it has ruined him for life.

Gary, and his mate Mick Zammit, won the 2003 Group 1 National Derby with Greasy Grizzly, a son of Just The Best and Wild Woman.

Wild Woman was the very first greyhound Gary Heath had ever owned.

The Just The Best-Wild Woman litter was only the second he had bred.

\”I was too spoilt, too early,\” said Gary.

That\’s because Greasy Grizzly also won the Flying Amy Puppy Classic and Lord Mayor\’s Cup, was second in the Rookie Rebel and a finalist in the Vic Peters and Brisbane Cup.

\”I reared the litter myself up here in Townsville until they were six months old and then sent them to Mt Tamborine until they were broke in,\” said Gary.

Mick Zammit got Greasy Grizzly and My Best Man, Bob Giltinan got Wild Colonial, and Tony Zammit got Best Move.

\”In one year at Albion Park on a Thursday night, they won 22 races between them,\” said Gary. “Wild Colonial won the very first running of the Dave BreTt Memorial Maiden.\”

But it was Greasy Grizzly who was easily the standout.

His kennel name was ‘Bear’. \”As a pup at home, he would get out of the yard and we would find him every time underneath a car, covered in grease,\” said Gary. \”Hence, the name Greasy Grizzly.\”

Gary still remembers Mick Zammit ringing him excited after he had hand slipped Greasy Grizzly at Ipswich one morning.

\”For Mick to ring like that after a hand slip, he had to have gone exceptional,\” said Gary.

Come National Derby time and Greasy Grizzly faced a tough line-up. He downed Rich Mentor and Westend Bob, but also in the Derby were stars like Arvo\’s Junior and Most Awesome.

\”For a 24-year-old, newly married, I was never expecting to get a dog into a Group 1 let alone win it,\” said Gary.

\”Paula and I flew to Sydney for the final. It was a big night after we won. I remember missing our flight home the next day.

\”It was hard to believe we had won it. It is something we will never forget.

\”What we realise since then is how hard it is to even get a winner, let alone win a Group 1.\”

Greasy Grizzly suffered a hairline fracture of the hock which put him on the sidelines, then had a one-start campaign with Peter Daprain in Victoria, and eventually came back to the Zammits to win the Lord Mayor\’s Cup at Albion Park.

\”He retired to stud in WA but no one wanted to use him, so I eventually brought him home and he lived with us in Townsville until he was 13,\” said Gary.

But, what that initial run of success did do was tempt Gary Heath into a more hands-on roll himself. He took up training and landed plenty of winners.

He has also been president of Townsville Club for the past 15 years. \”And, things are going great up here,\” he said. \”We\’ve had some pretty big wins lately, especially with the second race meeting.\”

Gary gave training away two years ago.

\”We\’ve got too many retirees here and will not get back into training again until their numbers reduce in the next few years,\” he said.

Now 44, Gary has a chuckle every time he walks past the proudly displayed photo of he and Mick Zammit, the 2002 vintage, after winning the Flying Amy Classic.

\”And, Mick has been in Townsville for the Cup recently and it is great to catch up with him again,\” said Gary.

Not long after the retirement of Greasy Grizzly, Gary bought a pup and named him after Mick \”Group 1\” Zammit, calling him Group One Mick.

\”He won 10 of his first 14 and we had huge expectations for him but he snapped a leg,\” said Gary.

\”Maybe that was the start of the run downhill.\”

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