By David Brasch
CHERYLEE Barber didn\’t think much of her husband Stewart\’s choice of pigeon racing.
At weekends, when Stewart and daughter Tameya were off doing their thing with the birds, Cherylee would take the chance to go shopping.
How things have changed.
The South Aussies have embraced greyhound racing to the stage they have moved to a 10-acre property at Aldinga, 50kms south of Adelaide, and Cherylee is the trainer of the ever-expanding team of dogs.
Greyhound racing has always been a sport that fascinated Stewart.
\”As a kid, I went to Sandown every Thursday night,\” the Victorian-born said.
\”When my dad shifted to South Australia when I was 15 I went to.\”
Stewart tried his hand with TNT car carrying, became a diesel mechanic and a butcher.
Now he is a vineyard contractor being engulfed by the wine industry that is so great a part of South Australia.
But, it was pigeons that led Stewart and now Cherylee, into a life of greyhound racing.
\”That great South Aussie dog man Gavin Harris races pigeons as well and we became friends through our association with the birds,\” he said.
\”When we decided to get our first dog, Gavin took us along to the auctions and we bought our first. It didn\’t even get to the racetrack.
\”Our second dog was Zinfandel Zara (Fabregas-Wikena) won six of nine starts including a 29.66 at Angle Park and we were away.\”
She is now a broodbitch for the family.
Zinfandel, as wine buffs would be only too aware, is a grape variety. Stewart and Cherylee reckoned it was the perfect moniker for some of their greyhounds, especially as Stewart is so involved in the industry.
\”My work includes managing properties for vineyard owners.\”
That initial entry into greyhound racing gave Stewart and Cherylee the opportunity to get a hands-on feel by helping Gavin Harris as much as possible. It was just the grounding both needed.
Training their own dogs was always going to be the result.
And it led, naturally, to a 10-acre property at Aldinga.
\”We have set up part of the property for the dogs and have five acres with vines,\” said Stewart.
\”We\’ve got a kennel block that holds eight race dogs, a 240-metre straight and eight pup runs that are 100 metres long.\”
The property has been planted with four different varieties of grapes.
\”Gavin is a non-drinker but he does like a drop of port. So, some of our grapes have been turned into port just for him.
\”Generally we send off our grapes to buyers, but we keep back some to turn into our own wine.\”
The kennel star is Bedrock Fred winner of the SA Distance Championship and a finalist in the recent G1 Qld Cup and G3 Howard Ashton, a home bred Spring Gun-Dashing Dee Dee dog.
\”He had no luck in a recent trip to Queensland. Just couldn\’t draw a decent box.\”
They have a My Redeemer-Dashing Dee Dee litter being reared.
\”Today, Cherylee and I are a training partnership,\” said Stewart. \”She works at a hospital, but we work around the needs of the dogs to suit our work timetable.
\”We are both greatly enjoying racing.
\”We are trying to learn as we go but are absolutely enjoying the experience and can recommend it to anyone.\”
The Barbers are high in praise of Gavin Harris as their ‘mentor’ and also Peter Jovanovic who checks over their dogs.
Like most greyhound-mad couples, Stewart and Cherylee juggle work with the preparation and racing of their dogs.
But, this South Aussie couple would not have it any other way.
And, there is not a racing pigeon in sight.