By ANTHONY AZZOPARDI
I’VE been asked to give potential greyhound participants some advice on how to join this wonderful and rewarding industry of ours.
Firstly, I shall discuss those who might want to become a trainer, and then those who want to be an owner only.
It is my suggestion that a first-time trainer should enter the industry with a degree of care because there is much to learn about obtaining and training a greyhound. In fact, anyone in this industry will tell you, you will never stop learning.
Occasionally, even after many years as a trainer, an occasional dog will come along to really test your mettle.
It is my suggestion that someone wanting to start out as a trainer should look to get hold of a tried dog. Maybe a dog that has won a race or two that the new trainer can start taking to the races almost immediately. There will be no better learning curve.
The reasoning behind this includes a few scenarios.
First, no one wants to deliberately ‘stuff up’ a hot young dog.
But, bringing along a pup from the end of the rearing stages to getting to the races can be a testing period and it does take a lot of work pre-training a dog to get it to the races. It is a delicate time and dogs can be ruined at this stage by those who are not certain what they are doing.
New trainers should not be afraid to approach anyone in the industry for guidance and help.
I have always been someone who is only too happy to help newcomers into greyhound racing. I actually get pleasure out of doing this.
Yes, every trainer you will meet is competitive and will want to beat you on the racetrack, but those very same people will also want to impart their knowledge to you. Not everything you will be told will be right.
If the new trainer takes one or two bits of info from one spot, and another couple of bits of info from another … then he is building his knowledge.
If the new trainer does want to buy a puppy, then look at something about six months of age, and I cannot stress enough that it MUST be reared properly.
Feeding and training are routines that vary from trainer to trainer.
My advice to newcomer trainers is to keep it as simple as possible. The best meat and best kibble are a must. Never overdo things by adding endless amounts of vitamins and supplements.
Keep it simple and you will be three-quarters of the way to winning.
Trainers have many, many different ways to prepare a dog for racing and between races.
I free gallop my dogs. I don’t believe in walking machines or walking dogs and never do.
Now, if someone comes to me wanting to be an owner, and I get approached a great deal now, I first have to find out just how big an owner they want to be.
New owners always dream of winning the Melbourne Cup or the like. You have to be very lucky to win a Group 1 race. If it is breeding you are keen on, then chase only the very best broodbitch lines. They keep producing the big race winners.
But, if you come into this industry hoping to buy a Group 1 dog, forget it! No one is going to sell you a Group dog.
Of course, there are good dogs who can be bought that turn into Group dogs and those are the ones we constantly keep an eye out for.
But, if the newcomer owner wants a ‘handy dog’ in the $15,000 range, the dog has to win $30,000 for the owner to break square. We will then hope this dog can win an extra $10,000 to give the owner the incentive to buy again and stay in the industry.
This is our aim.
No business is run to break square. If you buy something for one dollar, you are not going to sell it for one dollar. It’s the same with a greyhound purchase. If we buy for $15,000, we are always aiming for it to give us a return.
In the past, I have had great success finding good buys for my clients among dogs who showed a great deal as a youngster, but then went off in form. This is the sort of dog I like to buy. We know there is great ability there, our aim is to find it again.
Often it will take quite a few months to turn the dog around again, but it has happened … and a number of times right up to Group 1 level.
There are no secrets in greyhound racing.
Feed the dogs right, work it the way it likes to be worked. There are no shortcuts. If you look for shortcuts, you are doomed to fail.
I remember decades ago hearing the legend Bart Cummings say you must have patience in the racing industry. I have kept that in my mind ever since.