By MIKE HILL
“MANY of us are in a world of hurt.”
Those were the sobering words from Churchable-based Warren Nicholls last month after the ‘rain bomb’ that caused major flooding and saturated south-east Queensland and northern NSW in late February and early March.
“It’s put us back months,” the owner-trainer-breeder said.
And the repair work to return his 40-acre property to its pre-flood condition will cost Nicholls thousands of dollars.
“My 380m straight track, sprint lanes and bull ring were all washed out,” he said.
“We’d never lost a grain of sand in the previous eight years here.
“I’m several months behind in my team’s education program.”
He said he had at least 27 young dogs – pre-trainers and other being educated – that he couldn’t touch at the moment.
“We just can’t trial them; we can’t do anything,” the trainer said.
In a 14-day period to early last month he took just four runners to meetings, well down on his pre-flood figures.
Nicholls, who has been in and out of the industry over the decades, has been training full-time from his south-east Queensland base for eight years.
“I train for a few owners, but we mainly race the dogs we breed,” he said.
Nicholls was first drawn to greyhounds in his early teens – 14 to be exact – through family friends, who raced dogs.
“I grew up in Sydney and began as a hobby trainer,” he said.
Moving to Queensland in the ’90s, Nicholls continued his hobby ‘before stepping away about 20 years ago while the kids were growing up’.
He returned to the lead and collar as a full-time trainer eight years ago when he bought the Churchable property and has worked his way into the top ranks of the profession.
One of his best years came in 2020 when he finished sixth on the Albion Park trainers’ premiership with 54 winners.
Some of his better chasers include How Not Too, a four-time winner in Melbourne under the guidance of Anthony Azzopardi and fourth to Robert Jacobsen’s Crazy Cool in the 2021 G2 Richmond Oaks, FFA class sprinter Common Ground and current smart stayer Days Of Thunder.
With a team of 20 racing dogs, Nicholls last month said he was only a few days away from getting back into full training mode.
“We haven’t been able to work the dogs,” he said.
“We’ve had underground water we didn’t know existed coming up … there’s been so much water, everything has been so wet.”
Despite the problems for many in the industry, Nicholls was full of praise for the Ipswich club.
“With Albion Park and Capalaba tracks out of action, I think the Ipswich club is doing a great job (racing every day),” he said.
He accepts that it will be some time before all three clubs are back in full swing and trials are back to normal.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: When I was 14 a friend’s parents had greyhounds. I was hooked straight away.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: Carol and Tony Rhodes.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: I bring them in at 12 months and educate and pre-train over the next four to five months before their first start.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: Four to five months.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: I’ve found the better ones have keenness in them from day one.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: I take more time with the younger ones for their first prep.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: We have a set routine whether it be for 300m or 700m dogs.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: Nothing unique, all pretty basic.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: I’m not allowed to as I won’t vacuum the pool, apparently.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: It’s once a week up the straight. I rarely trial at a racetrack once the dog is fit.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs and treat all injuries?
A: Yes, in conjunction with the vet.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: To a point and then I use the vet.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: I currently train Days Of Thunder, who I think will surpass anything I’ve had previously. However, I do have fond memories of Common Ground.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: Maitland … every dog gets a chance.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: The obvious one is the new track that’s planned for improved safety for our dogs.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: There are 101 ways to train a dog. First, seek as much advice as you can and form your own way of training your dogs. Stick to the methods you have formed and back yourself. Consistency is the aim. Chopping and changing things will only cost you money and give you headaches, and be prepared to ride through the ups and downs.