By MIKE HILL
GREYHOUND racing is made up of hundreds of trainers who may never win a Group race but that doesn’t mean they are not vitally important to the industry.
In fact, they are the backbone of the sport.
This month we feature one such trainer – Townsville’s Thomas Jackson, better known as Keith or ‘Jacko’ – in our The Trainer column.
‘Jacko’s’ connection with the sport goes back more than four decades and over the years he’s had his share of smart chasers.
In recent years, however, he’s had his own health battles but he has never lost his love for his dogs or the sport.
And through his illness Jackson has relied heavily on ex-wife and good mate Lee Pearce.
Back in the 80s he trained 643m specialist My Blue Dame for owner Diane Plizga.
The stayer won the Sunbeam Trophy, Fosters Lager Stakes and the J&N Produce Final (544m) in Cairns in 1983-84.
He also trained Abbey Doll for the McPherson Syndicate.
Over the years he owned and trained smart sprinters such as Lady Mansuti, Just A Hope, Desert Supreme and Top Freddy.
Lady Mansuti won an Ayr Sprint Final after having a litter and being the oldest dog in the race.
Jackson also trained several dogs for good friend Noel Watcher, including Oriental Miss, another 643m specialist, and Miss Kyju for Noel’s uncle.
Another of his sprinters She’s A Classic won the Anniversary Trophy in Townsville in 2007, the Australia Day Trophy (’08) and the Mayor’s Cup (’08).
A few years back ‘Jacko’ had one of his greatest thrills when he rugged up a winning quinella in the RQ Young Guns final over 498m at Townsville with two ‘giveaway chasers’ – Diamond Fiesta and Miss Beast.
Other successful chasers included Sahara Pride (winner of the 2010 Judge Bros mixed final), Just In Tears, Sahara Desert (2014 Maiden 1000 winner), Be Jazzy and Petticoat Lane.
In late 2016 a white and black dog he considers one of the best he has trained – Metro Man – join his small team at his West End suburban kennels.
Within a few days of arriving the former smart northern NSW chaser and full brother -different litter – to track and stud star Paw Licking had added to his winning record.
Metro Man, previously trained by Charlie Northfield at Stratheden, arrived in north Queensland with a record of 18 wins and 33 placings from 66 starts.
The brilliant sprinter only raced eight times for Jackson – winning his first seven, including BON times on six occasions, before breaking down in the Easter Sprint.
Metro Man is now one of Jackson’s pets and is loving his retirement.
Following a cancer operation and undergoing chemotherapy, ‘Jacko’ and Pearce were given the chance to racing smart NQ sprinter Black Amex for friends Trevor and Karyn Jackson.
“She has been a good girl for us,” he said.
However, a decision to retire the black daughter of El Grand Senor and Rocket Banquet was made late last month after she finished second in an open sprint at Townsville.
She goes into retirement with an outstanding record of 19 wins and 18 minor placings from 46 starts and connections are now looking forward to seeing her in motherhood.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: I got involved in the ’70s through a friend Brian McPherson. He had some pups and I helped him out with them.
2: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: We start teaching them from a young age to chase, using squeaky toys, and in general just letting them be pups. We teach them manners, discipline and make sure they have plenty of galloping and good food.
3: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: We send our pups away at around 13-15 months old to be educated, then they come back and have a month’s break before we start their racing preparation. We don’t start dogs until they are two years old, bitches sometimes a bit earlier.
4: What makes a good pup?
A: Breeding, rearing, temperament, keenness and stature.
5: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Yes, more galloping up the straight and taking them to the trials.
6: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: A couple of our dogs have a set routine and the other has a slightly different routine for her training.
7: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: It’s not unique or unusual, we pay plenty of attention to our dogs, keep them happy and healthy.
8: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: We do sometimes when dogs have certain injuries.
9: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: If possible, we would like to race twice a week.
10: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: The day after the race they just veg out, then it’s back to their routine.
11: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: We do a lot of it ourselves, but if we need to we will take the dogs to the vet.
12: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: We use the ultra-sonic or laser and have the Accell mat and a magnetic therapy mat as well. The dogs love the mats and all go to sleep on them.
13: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: My Blue Dame and Metro Man
14: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: I’ve never been to any other tracks, only seen them on Sky.
15: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: We need to have more money put into our industry, they need to look at upgrading some of the tracks with better facilities.
16: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Ask questions, learn as much as you can, go to trials and talk to different trainers.