There’s a higher calling for pups’ success

\"\"Caption: Mark Arandale, wife Melissa and trainer Brad Northfield after Mark’s chaser Redback Katie scored at Casino (Photo: Lisa Vanderstok)

By David Brasch

THERE are a couple of 14-month-old pups by Orson Allen getting near education owner Mark Arandale hopes can do him proud.

They will be racing in the memory of Mark\’s late dad Athol who died a month ago at 94.

\”Dad had been training greyhounds for decades,\” said Mark. \”In retirement he never missed an opportunity to watch the dogs on TV every day.

\”I talked him into getting an interest in a couple of pups with me and we both bought the Orson Allen pups bred by Evelyn Harris.\”

Unfortunately Athol\’s death will mean those pups will be racing in his memory only.

It will be a memory for Mark and his family that includes decades of greyhound racing involvement.

Mark, of course, is the famous voice of greyhound race calling on the Northern Rivers of NSW. He\’s been at the job since he was 18 and admits today he loves calling races just as much as he did when he first started.

\”My family would always come to Grafton\’s July carnival every year and eventually dad and mum Val decided Grafton was a pretty nice place to live,\” said Mark.

\”We moved here from Newcastle when I was 13. I\’m 51 in April.\”

Dad Athol had trained high class Hunter Valley gallopers Borgia\’s Best and Black Signora from Newcastle. Borgia\’s Best was a top grade sprinter at Harold Park while Black Signora won a Singleton Classic and was one of the best stayers of her time around Beaumont Park then the Newcastle track.

\”Dad got started in dogs through his then job on the railways,\” said Mark. \”He met up with Jack Millard of Chief Havoc fame during trips to Gunnedah.\”

By the time the family got to Grafton, Athol was working in the local brewery and restricted his kennel to just two dogs at a time.

\”I went to high school in Grafton and played a lot of cricket making first grade and doing well in indoor cricket as well,\” said Mark.

\”But I always loved race calling and would sit at home calling races off the TV, and even footy games.\”

It was dad Athol who approached local race caller Geoff Heath to see if his son could get a leg up in race calling.

\”I was 16 and I started going to the dogs with Geoff who taught me a lot about the craft.\”

Not long after, Geoff got the call up to handle Coffs Harbour horse calling each Saturday and that thrust Mark Arandale into the job of calling Grafton greyhound racing every Saturday.

\”I did that until I was 23,\” he said. \”I gave it away because cricket was going well and I devoted a lot of my time to that. The callers who took over from me were Terry Bailey and then Steve Hawkins both of who went on to have successful horse calling positions.\”

By 28, Mark, then married to Melissa and with a home mortgage needing repayment jumped at the chance to get back calling greyhound racing.

\”It was 1998 and I have been calling Grafton ever since,\” he said. \”When Bob Lane retired from calling Casino and Lismore, I took over there as well.\”

Mark has worked for 31 years at Boral Concrete and is sales manager for the North Coast of NSW.

He and 10 of his cricketing mates have formed the Blown Motor Racing Syndicate to race greyhounds and with success for 15 years and have recently dabbled in thoroughbreds.

\”Brad Northfield, one of our long-time trainers, recently said to us he had never heard of a syndicate of owners to have stayed together for so long,\” said Mark.

The syndicate has raced Kidatee Dan (33 wins, $70,000), Kidatee Bob (TR Casino and semi-finalist in the National Derby) and Pop Northfield winner Kidatee Addo.

\”We\’ve got Redback Katie going well at the moment,\” said Mark.

The syndicate’s team is shared between Brad, Gary Smith and Rob Andrews.

Mark says he can\’t wait for the new Grafton track to be up and running.

He says the quickest dog he has seen is Brett Lee, the best race dog Rapid Journey and the best he has called, He Knows Uno.

\”The night He Knows Uno broke the track record winning the Grafton Stayers Cup was one of the best nights I\’ve had on a racetrack,\” he said. \”For Mick Patterson to bring a Group 1 dog back to his home track for a $5000 race and then smash the record, it was something.

\”And it was in front of the biggest crowd I\’ve ever seen at Grafton.\”

While greyhounds are always a passion for Mark, he and his syndicate of mates have shares in six thoroughbreds including the classy Savvy Oak who was second in the South Australian Derby and ran seventh in the Victoria Derby.

\”He\’s just been transferred to Rob Heathcote in Brisbane,\” he said.

Mark loves greyhound racing.

\”The industry is in a really good spot at the moment and the local community on the Northern Rivers are great,\” he said.

So, when those Orson Allen pups turn up on a racetrack in the not too distant future, Mark and his family will have special interest and loving memories of what could have been for the late Athol.

The name Arandale is a special one in the industry.

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