By DAVID BRASCH
GREG Cannon modestly describes the victory of Bold Character in mid-June\’s Regional Origin Challenge at Albion Park as ‘sensational’.
On a glorious night of racing, the Regional Origin Challenge presented more highs than were obvious to anyone.
For Cannon is was the culmination of a three-year comeback from the depths of depression and for the family of Ben Sheppard and his mum Judith Gordon, who bred and originally raced the dog, it was ‘the greatest night’ of their lives.
Ben\’s son Jarrod, 23, who has battled all his life with Down\’s Syndrome, was the dog\’s catcher.
\”While it was a sensational night for me, for that family it was even better,\” said Cannon.
\”I heard the family roar when he moved up on the home turn to win. That was something special. I was, however, hoping they had not gone off too early.\”
For Greg Cannon, long one of the very best greyhound trainers around, it is a comeback from the depths of depression that saw him in hospital and what doctors believed was a suicide risk.
Mike Baird\’s decision to ban greyhound racing in NSW was the reason Cannon\’s life took a dramatic downturn.
\”I got severe anxiety and then depression,\” said Greg. \”I was living at Tweed Heads and originally spent time in Tweed Hospital, but was then moved to Royal Brisbane.
\”I spent months in hospital and because I had no immediate family, I was made a Grade One patient … suicidal. There was no way they were letting me go home without having someone there with me.
\”I was never suicidal, but my cousin Barry Robinson moved in with me anyway.\”
Cannon then spent the next months and months inside his home, mostly in bed.
\”I was scared of leaving the house,\” he said. \”Eventually my psychiatrist suggested I get a dog to walk to get me up and about. I told him there were plenty of those I could get.\”
That\’s when Ben Sheppard and his family came to his rescue.
\”Their bitch Amaranth Girl had a toe problem and I suggested she come down to me at the coast while the toe was getting right,\” said Greg. \”Then she came on season.\”
Greg kept her. His mate Mick Darragh would come over every couple of days and they would slip her up the beach. She got fit and ready to race.
\”I had my license by then and trialled her and she flew,\” he said. \”We put her in for a maiden at Albion Park and really unloaded on her.\”
But, Greg was not over his anxiety by any stretch of the imagination.
\”I had not worn a pair of long pants, shoes or socks for three years,\” he said. \”I kennelled the bitch in shorts and then headed out to my car to get dressed.
\”I was overcome with anxiety and collapsed into my car. It was going to be the first time in four or five years that I had put a dog in the starting boxes. And we\’d had a big bet on her so the pressure was even greater.\”
Luckily, Darryl Hancock was out in the car park and spotted Greg collapsing. He came to his rescue and then offered to handle the bitch in the race. She won easily.
Ben and his mum then offered Greg another of the Robust Character-Dalmore Flyer litter. \”Take your pick,\” said Ben. Bold Character joined Black Dog Lodge at Tweed Heads and set the scene for the Regional Origin Challenge victory.
\”With all my depression problems, Black Dog Lodge was the appropriate name for the two-dog kennel at home,\” said Greg.
Cannon says the fact he lives near the Tweed River and his two-dog kennel are let out and walked nearby regularly has transformed them.
\”They get to see pelicans, bush turkeys and the like and this has got their instincts honed,\” he said.
When Bold Character won the Challenge, it unleashed a night of celebrations.
\”It was just so great for Ben, Judith, Jarrod and all the family,\” said Greg. \”All night we were trying to fill the trophy with grog but Judith would not let us.
\”Eventually she went to the toilet and that\’s when we got to drink from the trophy. Ben told me the next morning that his mum slept with the trophy the night of the win.
\”Ben bred the litter and it was a bit out there, using Pink Character, who was a 2004, whelp as the sire and the unraced Dalmore Flyer as the dam,\” said Greg.
Greg Cannon is best known for training Group stars Scottish Express and Buckingham Chuck from a small kennel at Mitchelton.
\”Do you know, I made more out of the Challenge win than in any of the wins by those two Group dogs,\” said Greg. \”I would take only a quarter prizemoney in those days and it was all about getting my mates involved in dogs.\”
Greg has since linked with greyhound training-medico George Clegg.
\”George has designed a program for my life and it\’s all about setting goals,\” he said. \”George has been absolutely fantastic for me.\”
Greg Cannon trained a winner on opening night at Albion Park in 1992.
He has set a goal to trained a winner on the final night of greyhound racing at Albion Park before the industry moves to Yamanto.