By Mike Hill

TOWNSVILLE trainer Paul Smith is looking ahead to the new year with enthusiasm after completing a highly successful 2020.

Earlier last month, the Jensen-based conditioner was running fourth in his club’s trainers’ premiership with a season tally of 964 points (57 winners, 64 seconds and 69 thirds).

With five meetings still remaining before the end of the year, he was 134 points behind third placegetter Andrew Wooler (1098: 60-80-89). Rhonda Essery had a commanding lead (1534: 94-95-107) followed by Brad Belford (1272: 90-65-56).

Smith, featured in this month’s The Trainer column, only returned to training in early 2019 after a 17-year absence from the sport.

But he has made a quick rise up the ranks in the past 12 months and his kennel has been in winning form of late.

He landed winning trebles at three meetings during November and regularly rugged up doubles in the final months of 2020.

“I’m doing something that I love,” Smith said recently. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time and I’m ecstatic the ways things are going.”

He admitted he hadn’t planned on a return to training.

However, he bought a pup in 2018 and everything started from that. It proved a rewarding move for the man in his late 40s.

The bitch, Rambutan, won first-up in late February, 2019, giving Smith a great kick-start back into the sport.

And he hasn’t looked back.

1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?

A: I was around 22, I didn’t mind a punt or two and was quite good at picking winners. I thought ‘Why not give this a crack’. I went to the local track in Townsville and found out what I needed to become a trainer and went from there.

2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?

A: Over the years of being involved in greyhounds and meeting some of the most amazing people and trainers. I would have to say that Brad Belford has been one of the biggest influences on my development as a trainer.

3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?

A: At eight months of age.

4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?

A: It takes about eight months and that consists of preparing, breaking in and then pre- training.

5: What makes a good pup?

A: I like a pup that has the prey drive about them and wants to chase.

6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?

A: No, I prepare them all the same.

7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?

A: I have two training methods and which one I use will depend on what helps the dog to perform best.

8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?

A: My partner makes sure that every night she gives the greyhounds their kisses, cuddles and belly rubs before bed and I have noticed that the dogs respond to this quite well. I believe it has helped their performance.

9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?

A: No.

10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?

A: Since having the two race meetings a week, I like to race twice a week.

11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?

A: Walking on a treadmill and free galloping in a paddock. No hard running.

12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?

A: I do all muscle work myself.

13: Do you treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?

A: Yes, unless they need to be seen to by a vet.

14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?

A: This is a hard question as I have had the pleasure of training quite a few good greyhounds who all have their own characteristics. There is Zipping Homer, who won the Townsville Stayers Challenge and then there is Rambutan, who stirred my passion for training again.

15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?

A: It’s another hard question as I have only ever raced on three tracks and two of them are now closed.

16: What does the industry need most going forward?

A: More young people involved in training and handling.

17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?

A: Listen to everybody and let them give you their advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and in the long run you need to make up your own mind how you want to train your dogs to get the best out of them. Learn from your mistakes … and enjoy it!