Caption: Steve Kavanagh and his brilliant sprinter Louis Rumble after victory in the recent $75,000-to-the-winner Group 2 TAB Ipswich Gold Cup (520m). (PHOTO: Just Greyhound Photos)
By MIKE HILL
STEVE Kavanagh has achieved almost everything one can in the sport.
From owning, breeding and training champion greyhounds to winning some of the nation’s great races – he’s done it all.
And he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Based at Pottsville in northern NSW, he has a handful of chasers in work these days but it’s enough to keep him busy.
He only races stock he breeds himself and he’s had amazing success over the years with his own damline – one that goes back to 1976 when he bought Miss Rumble (Hot Rumble-Calm Josie).
Kavanagh says his first criteria when deciding on a future broodbitch is their ability on the track.
“They have to be able to run, be at least a city winner or have the potential to win in the city,” he said.
But just as important to Kavanagh is the bitch must have the right temperament.
“I will never entertain breeding from a bitch that is overexcited, hyped-up or noisy – no matter how fast they are on the racetrack,” he says.
He admits he only ever heard his superstar broodbitch Rumble Spirit, mother of Collision and Co, bark once in her life.
Temperament is huge in the Kavanagh philosophy.
Rarely without a smart sprinter, he has churned out winner after winner in a career spanning almost 50 years – most of them high-quality gallopers.
But none can match his mighty Hall-of-Famer Brother Fox.
Kavanagh, who owned and trained the champion, bought the brindle dog by Little Blade from the wonderful producing broodbitch Pitstock Park as a pup for $500 in the early ’80s.
“I was aware of the previous Pitstock Park litter (by Wild Port). They were flying machines,” he said.
“The two dogs in that litter were Acacia Park and Mister Biggles.”
That’s why he was so keen to get ‘The Fox’.
Brother Fox’s career spanned only 13 months and he raced just 23 times for 15 wins, three seconds and three thirds. But it was the nature of his wins that helped to build his legendary superstar status.
He was, without doubt, one of the truly great speed dogs of his, or any, era.
“He had explosive speed,” Kavanagh said.
“I don’t think any dog could match it with him in his era. I’ve had some good dogs since but none as good as him.”
‘The Fox’ retired with victories in four of the seven major finals he contested – the Vic Peters Memorial Classic (457m) at Harold Park, the Potential Stakes (530m) at Wentworth Park, Hobart Thousand (497m) and the Vic Peters Bi-Annual Classic Series (now the Peter Mossman Memorial) at Harold Park. He ran third in two of the others.
He raced on nine tracks and won on seven (first-up on six) and was the fastest greyhound of all time at Harold Park.
In late 1984 – three years before the track closed – Brother Fox smashed Satan’s Legend’s 457m record of 25.95s with a stunning 25.82s.
Kavanagh retired his champion after he was beaten a length-and-a-half in an Invitation Stakes at Harold Park on August 19, 1985.
He had pulled up with a sprung toe and lacerated webbing – again proving his undoubted courage and chasing ability.
His retirement was instigated more by the constant demand from breeders than by race injuries.
Brother Fox became an instant success at stud with a then-unheard fee of $1000 for a first-season sire.
Despite the high fee he was inundated with bitches and became the leading NSW sire in 1988 and 1991.
He changed the stud scene in this country forever. He heralded in an era of $2000 stud fees and opened the way for the greyhound breeding industry to become a truly professional business.
And he was credited with siring the litter of the century.
From Allan Pringle’s broodbitch Promises Free came a litter boasting other future breed shapers such as Amerigo Man, West Cape and Walkabout Sid, whose son Head Honcho was later to have a huge influence on the breeding world.
The litter also included Bogenfel, Carnival Boy, Jet Cruiser and Half Nelson.
Another of The Fox’s smart sons, Gun Law Osti, went on to sire Hall-of-Famer, the mighty Brett Lee, and one of his daughters, China Trip, is the only dual winner of the Australian Cup.
Over the years, Kavanagh has had some standout chasers including Smooth Rumble, Collision, Ace Hi Rumble, Hot To Rumble, Rumble Fire and Cosmic Rumble.
And there is a reason why he really likes his current kennel star Louis Rumble, winner of the recent $75,000-to-the-winner Group 2 Ipswich Gold Cup (520m).
Kavanagh said the talented sprinter, better known as Louie, was a friendly, calm, quiet dog with early speed his biggest asset.
They’re the qualities he strives to have in all his dogs.
“Temperament is the single biggest thing in a dog,” he said.
The trainer made a successful return to Wentworth Park in late March last year when Louis Rumble won a heat of the New Sensation (520m) at Wentworth Park clocking a BON 29.61s.
It was only the second time the owner-trainer had been back to race at headquarters since Cosmic Rumble won the Golden Easter Egg back in 2010.
Ten nights later Louis Rumble ran another super 29.61s but it wasn’t good enough to beat the outstanding sprinter Jungle Deuce in the $33,000 G3 final.
Coincidentally a few months later Jungle Deuce won the inaugural $47,500 Ladbrokes Brother Fox Cup (516m) at Dubbo.
Kavanagh says the sport is in a wonderful position at the moment.
“The industry has pulled itself together and is going terrific with some great races,” he said.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: Many years ago when I was living in Dubbo.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: An old guy I knew gave me a greyhound as pet when I was young. I got to like the breed and it went from there.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: It depends on the dog but I usually start preparing them when they’re about 11 months old. I like to get them familiar with the system.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: They are usually about 18 months of age by the time they’ve gone through the process. Lots of things can happen, but usually they’re ready to race by 18 months plus.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: One that has a good temperament.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: No, just the usual things and getting them used to their surrounds.
7: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: Every dog is a bit different, they all have their different traits. You can only do what a dog is capable of doing.
8: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: No, not really. I’m not big on swimming, but I can see some benefits. Dogs with leg or foot injuries can still exercise without putting weight on the injured limb.
9: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: It depends on what you are setting your dog up for. Very seldom do I race a dog more than once a week.
10: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Not too much… just free galloping and whatever the dog wants to do. Just keeping them ticking over.
11: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs and treat all injuries?
A: I do all my own muscle work. I’ll use a vet for more serious injuries, particularly when X-rays are needed.
12: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Brother Fox. He had explosive speed. I don’t think any dog could match it with him in his era. I’ve had some good dogs since but none as good as him.
13: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: In my opinion, there are not many better than Grafton.
14: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: Well, in NSW we need a breeding incentive scheme. Queensland has a good one. NSW doesn’t have one.
15: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: It can be a bit hard when you start out. Take it all in and use commonsense. Take advice from people who have done it all before.