Caption: Pictured at the Queensland 2020 TAB Greyhound of the Years Awards were, from left, Qld Racing Minister Hon Grace Grace, Jodee Jennings, Todd Robartson and David Salmon, Manager RadioTAB. Jodee and Todd received the Hall of Fame award on behalf of their parents, David and Christine Robartson, who bred and trained the champion, High Earner. (Photo: Box 1 Photography)
By PAUL DOLAN
MICHAEL O’BYRNE – Hall of Fame 2021
Michael O’Byrne, known to most people as Mike, was a dominant trainer in south-east Queensland for most of the 1980s and into the following decade.
Born in Dublin in 1942, he moved to London, England when aged 17 and to Brisbane, Queensland in 1969.
Mike and his wife Jeanette found a property at Park Ridge for rearing and training greyhounds. Their first winner was Mr. Taft in a maiden at Tweed Heads.
Although well remembered as training a number of top performers owned by leviathan punter Ham Hillier, O’Byrne enjoyed plenty of success with greyhounds he trained for other owners as well.
Among them was Genuine Crown, owned by Babette and Nick Nicholas. Genuine Crown set the Gabba 420 metres record of 24.04 on December 3, 1987. That figure stood for five years and three months to when the track closed in February, 1993. Double Crown, the 1983 Queensland Futurity winner, was another O’Byrne – Nicholas success story. And there was 25 times winner Doc McDuff, owned by Jeff and Julie Rowland.
Hopeful Doll was a real star. Her weaving runs through the pack at the tricky Gabba track gave her a sort of cult following among the regular Thursday night crowds of around 5000 people. Hopeful Doll set the Gabba track record of 32.31 for 558 metres on August 21, 1986. That figure stood for five years. On July 7, 1987, she set a Gabba 704 metres record of 41.14, a figure which stood for nine months.
O’Byrne trained two Queensland greyhounds of the year, Amanda Flash in 1985 and Musical Maestro in 1989.
He won the Gabba Winter Chase for five consecutive years. Indian Town in 1984 and 1985, Amanda Flash 1986, Hopeful Doll 1987 and Shy Nimbus in 1988.
O’Byrne won five Gabba training premierships, 1982 to 1985 then 1988. He also won six Gold Coast premierships where he was a committeeman for two years and two premierships at Tweed Heads.
In the early 1990s, O’Byrne decided to move away from greyhound racing for a few reasons. Jeanette was confined to bed for a month with glandular fever and Mike gave her his undivided attention. Ham Hillier had moved on. And Mike was disappointed about the pending closure of the Gabba.
Mike suffered from diabetes complications in his latter years. He passed away in April, 2017, aged 75.
HIGH EARNER – Hall of Fame 2021
A High Earner indeed, on the racetrack and at stud.
Bred and raced by David and Christine Robartson when they were based in south-east Queensland, High Earner’s first win was in the final of the 2009 Vince Curry Memorial Maiden at Ipswich, trained by Christine.
The son of Collision and Double Guess won his next six starts in a row, all at Albion Park, his quickest time in those wins being an impressive 29.76.
High Earner won the Gr 2 Queensland Derby in 2009, beating Fedex and Dashing Corsair. He won the Gr 2 WA Derby that year, with Dashing Corsair second.
The dog’s stellar win in 2010 was the Gr 1 Perth Cup, a seven lengths winner from box five.
High Earner won the Perth Cup the next year, trained by Victoria’s Kel Greenough, this time by four lengths from box two. Also in 2011 he won the Gr 1 Temlee at the Meadows, by three lengths from box seven, under the care of Greenough.
When retired from racing in April 2011, High Earner’s $610,070 prizemoney tally was the highest of any greyhound in Australia to that time. His race record was 32 wins from 68 starts, a win rate of 47 percent. Early pace was a real asset and it’s therefore not a total surprise that the dog’s most number of wins was from box four, winning from that draw seven times.
At stud, High Earner produced dual group one winning stayer Star Recall, and Lamia Bale, also a group one winner in the Sapphire Crown at Sandown. Ada Mary was another top progeny, winning the Sydney, Summer and Newcastle Cups.