Caption: Judith Gordon surrounded by family – her son, Ben Shepherd, his wife Vicki, and their children Jarrod and Maria – and Zenither and Bold Character, who quinellaed a recent race at Capalaba (Photo: Just Greyhound Photos)
By David Brasch
EIGHTY-year-old Judith Gordon landed her first winner as a greyhound trainer when early in October Zenithar downed littermate Bold Character to land the quinella in a Maiden final at Capalaba, south-east Queensland.
It was a time for celebration.
But for Judith, her son Ben Shepherd, his wife Vicki, daughter Maria, and sons Jarrod and Ayden, the victory meant much more than Judith\’s first success as a trainer from the first dogs she has trained … oh so much more.
Judith, you see, has Myelofibrosis which she describes as \”a terminal thing, but it doesn\’t affect me grossly\”. Myelofibrosis is an uncommon type of bone marrow cancer that disrupts the body\’s normal production of blood cells.
She also has a pacemaker which means someone else in the family needs to handle the dogs whenever they need to be put on the magnetic therapy blanket.
Judith has, in fact, been a licensed trainer for 18 years, but has never once felt the need to use it to train dogs. Her son Ben did all that until a few months ago.
Ben, has only recently returned to training from suspension, a scenario that left him, and his family, more than a little upset.
It was due to these circumstances that saw them rally around \”for the sake of our dogs\”.
\”We had this litter of Robust Character-Dalmore Flyer pups just about to come off the farm,\” said Judith. \”There was no way we were going to give up on our dogs.\”
So what happened is testament to what a close knit family the Shepherds are.
Judith already had her license and into her name went the litter.
But, then Ben\’s wife Vicki and 20-year-old daughter Maria stepped up as well to get their trainer\’s license. Training that litter of pups was always going to be a family operation.
Judith and her family live at Dakabin on Brisbane\’s north. She spent a number of years helping out Peter Rayner with his nearby kennel and still gets Peter\’s son-in-law Mark Reekie to come by to check out the dogs.
Greyhound racing infected the Shepherd family way back in the late 1990s when Ben bought a bitch he called Miss Directed. He got her from his mate Greg Cannon.
Greg is still the Shepherd family ‘mentor’. Ben has ‘dragged’ his willing family along to race meetings ever since.
But, the current circumstances have seen them bond even further.
\”It\’s great,\” said Judith. \”We couldn\’t have it any other way.\”
The family shares around all the jobs.
Vicki, a teacher\’s aid, walks the dogs in the arvo.
Maria works in retail and helps out as often as possible with transport.
Ben, a long time city council finance worker, these days spends two days at home and three days in the office.
Jarrod, 22, has never once been allowed to let his Down\’s Syndrome come between him and a normal life.
He is brown belt (with black tips) in karate and Greg Cannon says Jarrod is ‘kennel security’.
Ayden, 15, is also brown belt with black tips in karate and the boys are in charge of helping with feeding.
Jarrod too is keen to get a handler\’s license.
Ben Shepherd has never let convention get in the way of his approach to greyhound racing.
Unraced Dalmore Flyer (Brett\’s Rival-Sarah\’s Rival) had ability, but a shoulder injury that she never got over forced her into retirement.
\”We kept her as a pet and then decided to breed a litter,\” said Judith.
Being a litter sister to the classy Cold Hard Truth (13 wins, $40,000), Dalmore Flyer had credentials.
Ben sourced the only remaining semen vial for former superstar speedster Pink Character a 2004 whelp by Robust Character-Joan\’s Embrace who started 82 times for Jimmy Gallaway for 45 wins and 24 placings. He ran a track record at Capalaba and was almost unbeatable over 395m at Albion Park.
Ben reckoned he was just the dog for Dalmore Flyer.
\”We love this litter,\” said Judith. \”We are working them from the bottom up and are hopeful they will run 500 metres eventually.
\”The morning of the maiden final, I was thinking to myself wouldn\’t it be wonderful to get the quinella … and that\’s what happened.\”
The litter includes Amaranth Girl, Bold Character, Pink Flyer, Son Of Dalmore and Zenithar and Judith says there is little between them all in ability.
\”Yes, it was a huge thrill to get my first winner as a trainer especially how it all came to be,\” said Judith.
As an 80-year-old suffering a terminal cancer, with a pacemaker to boot, one would expect Judith to be taking it easy.
That is never a thought in the Shepherd household … not as long as there are winners to be got.