By TERRY WILSON
VETERAN trainer Keith ‘Ned’ Snow is one of the rare breed who you could sit down with all day and never get bored as he trots out tale after tale about his life and times.
From distant family links to the infamous Ned Kelly; from his early life in Far North Queensland where he unwittingly flirted with man-eating crocodiles; and on to the present day as he continues his love affair with greyhounds at the age of 75.
‘Ned’ as he is best known, is from a family of 10 siblings. He was born in the old tin-mining township of Herberton, west of Cairns, as the youngest of five sisters and five brothers.
Sadly that number has been cut to just four to survive the hands of time. It was only last Mother’s Day that Ned lost a sister who passed away aged 83.
And it was only three years ago that Ned lost his loving wife Lynette who also passed away after 12 years of battling cancer.
Thankfully one of Ned’s daughters, Tanya, is right into greyhounds, having a breeder’s and training licence to support her dad. She jokingly claims that she was born in a whelping pen.
Ned’s travels covered working on a dairy farm, timber-cutting, catching the greyhound bug, running his dogs along a beach at the end of a croc-infested river and, of course, preparing the odd winner or 100 along the way.
Ned spent 10 years on the committee at Parklands before that world-class circuit was closed by the government of the day. He is currently on the Ipswich board.
Ned is now based at Cornubia in the Logan area of south-east Brisbane where he has up to 10 greyhounds.
Chase: First up, is it true that you had a close relative who once provided some rest and recreation services for the Kelly Gang?
NS: Yes, it was my father’s aunt but I don’t know her name, I never worried about that. But they had a big wool barn in Euroa, right beside a creek, and after the Kellys did a bank up to seven or eight of them used to bed down in the barn. And she would feed them all no matter what time it was.
They’d be looked after and they also looked after her in return – at the time everyone needed money.
Chase: So is that where your nickname of Ned came from, through the old bushranger days?
NS: When I was a toddler my dad Fred nicknamed me Ned. Maybe it was because I was a bit of a handful, a bit mischievous and a bit of a rogue.
Chase: The population of Herberton was roughly 800 or so people, so your family represented a good percentage of that number.
NS: There were 10 of us kids and we lived on a dairy farm at Millaa Millaa. And we all had to do a share. After that all the boys went into the timber industry. Then afterwards I moved to Innisfail and lived at Flying Fish Point.
Chase: So when did you first get interested in greyhound racing?
NS: I got my first licence when I was about 28 or 29 and living at Flying Fish Point. I was one of the first to race on the tracks up north and I ended up buying a dog to race when Cairns was starting.
I had gone to the Sydney Show and on the way home we stopped in Brisbane with Ray Gigg. He took us out for tea and after that we went to the Gabba where Ken Reed was selling pups and I bought one. I got him to write on a piece of paper how to feed them and that’s how it started. The bitch was named Some Birthday (because we had gone out for dinner on my birthday). It had 16 second placings before it won in Cairns. She turned into a good stayer and that’s because I used to run her on the beach.
Chase: Is that when the story about the big croc started?
NS: Yes, we used to run along the beach at the mouth of the Johnstone River. There were never any leads involved. But one day they told me that a 16-foot croc had been dragged out of a deep hole at the mouth of the river. But the one which got me hooked was Tudor’s Return, one of two brothers I bought.
(Chase: May we suggest your dogs would have had the speed to get away from any attack but you may not have had?)
Chase: After Innisfail your pathway was to sell up and move to Brisbane to Rochedale and then on to Cornubia.
NS: The kids were ready to start high school so we left North Queensland and set up at Rochedale. I bought a truck and was delivering for the Bunch Of Softies (the old Errol Stewart chain.
I bought five acres at Cornubia about 36 years ago. I wanted to breed and race my own litters so that’s why I bought acreage – and that’s how I ended up with Happy Chappy. (Ned says that has been his best greyhound).
He won about $150,000 prizemoney which was good money in those days. I went to Melbourne with him for three months to have a crack at the Melbourne Cup. He won a prelude but was beaten in a semi-final by the eventual winner.
Chase: Have you had any success in Group races?
NS: Just after Happy Chappy I had a bitch called Whoops A Daisy. She won the Vince Curry Maiden in 2003 and the year before in 2002 Happy Chappy won the Ipswich Auction race.
They are the only two Group races I’ve ever won. But I did win a Cairns Cup once. I guess I’ve had a lot of good ‘bread and butter’ dogs but no top ones.
Chase: In your days at Innisfail we hear that you were a decent sort of rugby league player in the local competition which comprised of only four clubs – as did Cairns up the road. Throw up some of the better names you played with or against.
NS: I played with Brothers and was a second rower. Some of those I played with were Ron Tait (a Queensland centre rep) and Lionel Williamson (a Queensland and Australian winger). I played seniors for Brothers when I was 17 and I also played in the Foley Shield for Innisfail. But my career was finished by a knee injury.
PAWNOTE: Innisfail was once a rugby league stronghold. Many a good player was produced in the sugar town. Among the best were Williamson, Tait, Kerry Boustead, Billy Slater and Greg Bandiera.
Chase: You’ve been in the dogs industry for a long time now. What do you see is ahead for the game?
NS: Prizemoney levels are going up all the time and appearance money being so good it is well worthwhile getting into the dogs.
But I have seen five tracks go and we are starving for a new track. We really need that.
Chase: Have you had many run-ins with stewards and officialdom?
NS: I’ve had a few run-ins with them but usually they’re only doing their job. When the live baiting thing was on they bought in QRIC and they were pretty hard on us.
Chase: So things are going along okay for you. Is there anything you do not like that may be in the pipeline?
NS: I do not like the run-on lure. I won’t race on it because I lost a really good bitch which was injured when she was run into by other dogs.
I remember talking to Dennis Reid, a really good trainer, about his many successes and one of the things he told me was to never let the dogs catch the lure, keep them guessing and they’ll chase their hardest. If you ask 75 per cent of trainers they don’t want it.
Chase: What lies ahead for the man named after one of our nation’s folklore outlaws?
NS: I have a couple of litters coming through – I get more enjoyment getting those pups up and running because I break-in all my pups. I always try to breed from good stock so you have a sporting chance of getting something good out of them. Right now I’m looking after 10 dogs on the property.
That’s one of the best things because you really have to love them to put in the time you do with them.