By Paul Dolan
Keith Sternberg is a familiar face at the Ipswich track and also Albion Park.
It all started a long time ago when the North Ipswich resident became ‘chief catcher’ for trainer Tony Brett. Over the years Sternberg has made himself available to catch runners for just about anyone who asks. And he loves every minute of it.
The Ipswich G.R.C. decided to stage a night of recognition for Sternberg’s long participation in racing there and went out of its way to make sure the 91-year-old had no inkling what was going on.
“I turned up for a Saturday night meeting and it seemed to be business as usual. Tony had two runners and the plan was to catch them,” Sternberg said.
The club had named some races for Keith – names such as the Shirley Sternberg Stake, Catch Me Keith Stake and Thanks to Keith Stake. A special racebook was prepared for Keith, with those names removed from the race headings so as to keep the proposed presentation during the race meeting a secret. And it worked!
“Merv Page (long-time club official) asked me to accompany him to the restaurant area and that’s where the surprise happened. There were heaps of people there and it was very special to me. They showered me with gifts, various things from scratch it tickets to a very nice garden seat,” Sternberg said.
Sternberg for many years has kept a meticulous record of the number of greyhounds and winners that he has caught. His record was in 2014 when he caught 407 winners from 1800 catches. His next best was in 2015 with 384 winners from 1674 catches.
“I will never reach those figures again. I mainly catch for Tony at Ipswich nowadays, I rarely go to Albion Park because it means a really late night,’ he explained
“Also, you’ve got the 288 metres races at Ipswich and the trainers can catch their own dogs in those races.”
Until the COVID-19 crisis, Sternberg was giving his time to the Meals on Wheels organisation, a voluntary role one day a week.
“I had to give it away because of the Covid situation. Obviously I didn’t want to risk catching the virus at my age. My doctor suggested I give it away permanently and I’ve taken his advice. I used to think the situation of delivering meals to people, some of whom were half my age, as a bit strange.”
Sternberg owns two greyhounds, Brae Bear and Hoof It Hank. Both are trained by former Ipswich GRC president Robert Essex and have won four races each. That’s yet another interest that greyhound racing creates for Sternberg.
Watch any Ipswich race and you will see the words ‘Keith Sternberg Catching Pen’ on the catching pen gate.
“The Ipswich club did that for me a couple of years ago and I’m proud of it,” he said.
And rightly so!
Caption: Keith Sternberg was the centre of a recent special tribute at the Ipswich club (Photos: Just Greyhound Photos)