By DAVID BRASCH
NEV Stokes, a life-long greyhound man, had a life-long dream to establish himself on a serious greyhound property.
Originally from the Sydney area, Nev knew his way around a greyhound spending many decades as a successful muscle man as well as training a small team himself from his Forster-Tuncurry base.
By the time he was 70, Nev reckoned it was time to get serious. He bought 15 acres at Nabiac, about an hour and a half north of Newcastle, and set the place up to take on the world … the world of greyhound racing.
But Nev didn\’t reckon on prostate cancer.
By May 2019, at the age of 72, he died.
He left daughter Kellie Brooks and son-in-law Christian Rohan with a greyhound bitch by Keybow-Wallan Baby he had specially picked out for them. Now named Nev\’s Gift, she is in the kennel of Jason Mackay and he reckons she could be a superstar.
\”Nev was always getting giveaways, patching them up and winning with them,\” said Christian. \”He\’s trained dogs all his life and won the big Butch Monkley Maiden at Wauchope.\”
Nev and his family had a straw for former Sandown track record breaker Cape Hawke. They gave it to Karen and Allan Woods at Nabiac to use on one of their bitches. Christian and Kellie were to get a pup. The litter produced one pup.
\”So, Nev went out and bought a pup for Kellie and I,\” said Christian. \”It was his gift to us for missing out on the Cape Hawke litter. We named her Nel.\”
Nev gave up a rotary hoe and an extra $1000 for the bitch pup who was whelped in June 2018. The Woods reared her.
Nev died in May the following year and Kellie and Christian suddenly had a greyhound and not much idea what to do with her.
\”We had both been around greyhounds for a long time, but without much knowledge about them,\” admitted Christian.
Christian has been mates with Jason Preston who achieved a milestone some years ago when the Jason Mackay-trained Big Bunga won the Tweed Galaxy for him.
\”Nel got sent to John Martin on the Northern Rivers to be educated and he said he liked her and her potential,\” said Christian. \”But, John is a bit conservative and when the time came to find a trainer for Nel, we didn\’t have much to tell them.\”
And without that, Christian and Kellie came up against a brick wall from trainers. None wanted her.
But, in steps Peter and Helen Simpson. After Jason pleaded with Simmo, he finally relented to take on Nel for some valuable pre-training.
\”We were lucky, Jason Preston put a bit of heat on Simmo to take the bitch for us. It was at the time when the bush fires were very dangerous,\” said Christian. \”The bitch had been at our residential property for a month and she was really stressing us out not being able to do anything with her.
\”When Simmo agreed to take her for pre-training, Kellie and I bit the bullet, tossed her in the car and drove the 11-hour round trip to deliver her to his property on the Northern Rivers.\”
Pre-training was a revelation.
\”Simmo was pre-training a pup for Tony Brett and it was a month advanced on Nel,\” said Christian. \”The second time Simmo trialled them together, Nel simply raced past it.\”
The greyhound racing rumour mill is immense. It wasn\’t long before Nel\’s potential became obvious and even Sydney-based trainers had heard and came knocking.
\”Simmo is close friends with Jason Mackay so he rang Jason with the early reports about Nel and suggested he take her on,\” said Christian. \”Jason said to put her around Lismore a couple of times and let him know what she ran.
\”After the first trial, Jason rang Simmo and said \’just get her down here\’.\”
Jason was instantly impressed with the bitch, now appropriately named Nev\’s Gift. He was glowing in his praise and set her for the Mega Maiden at Wentworth Park during the Easter Egg carnival. Covid-19 put paid to that.
Jason ran her at Maitland and the bitch, starting $1.55, won by five lengths.
\”We are trying not to get carried away, but Jason has privately told us he would not swap Nel for any dog in the country,\” said Christian.
\”Kellie and I did not care if we won one race at Taree with her, she was always destined to come home to us as a pet.\”
The debut victory had to go without Kellie and Christian being trackside.
\”I am a manager of a pub at Forster-Tuncurry and it has been shut down during the virus problems,\” said Christian. \”But we opened up the pub and watched the race on the big screen. It was second best to actually being there.\”
Mackay has told Christian and Kellie Nev\’s Gift is already looking for more distance.
He is buoyant about her potential a blessing for Kellie and Christian, especially with a bitch named in honour of Kellie\’s father.
\”It was Nev\’s judgement of the pups in the litter,\” said Christian. \”He picked out this bitch for us and look how she has turned out and possibly with so much more to come. Nev would be so proud.\”