Caption: Darren Taylor (right) with his son Jordan with their champion Are Jay Lochie.
DARREN TAYLOR’S TRAINING TIPS
By MIKE HILL
CENTRAL Queensland’s Darren Taylor last year achieved something few can claim – he won both the Rockhampton and Bundaberg trainers’ premierships.
It was one of several targets Taylor had set himself at the beginning of the 2021 season.
Another was to produce more than 100 winners. Again he achieved that goal with 108 – 53 at his home track at Rockhampton, 42 at Bundaberg and 13 at Brisbane’s Albion Park.
Late last year he said: “It’s very unusual for a trainer up here to win the premiership at two clubs. I can’t remember it ever happening. I’d love to win both titles.”
Taylor, who we feature this month in the Trainer’s Column, has been associated with the sport for almost two decades, although he comes from a harness racing background.
His parents, Donnie and Kaye, were associated with pacers, while later in life his mum took up training greyhounds.
In an earlier interview with Chase, Darren said: “Originally Mum was a trotting girl who came through the ranks in the Maryborough days.
“About 15 to 20 years ago, she got involved in greyhounds.
“She loved animals, it didn’t matter whether it was a horse, a dog or a cat. She loved them all.”
And during the harness racing days at Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park, Taylor’s father Donnie drove more than 1000 winners with his craft shared throughout the family.
“My brother, Jason, also drove a lot of winners,” Darren said.
“It was a real family affair.
“I got into greyhounds through a mate Mal Charlton, who was also into harness racing as well as greyhounds.
“I got my first dogs off him.
“Unfortunately Mal passed away recently.”
Over the years Taylor has built up his kennels at Bouldercombe, a rural community 25km south of Rockhampton, into one of the strongest in country Queensland.
He has everything he wants on his five-and-a-half-acre complex, including bull-pen and straight track and if he needs to give the dogs a solid hit-out ‘the beach is only a half-an-hour drive away’.
He admits he sets targets for his operation at the beginning of each year.
“In 2020, one of our targets was to lead in 100 winners. We did that (exactly 100 – 84 at Rockhampton, 10 at Albion Park, five at Bundaberg and one at Ipswich).
“Then last year our target was to top 100 winners and keep our strike rate at 20 per cent (winners) and 50 per cent (placings).”
He rugged up 108 winners and his win/place strike rates were Rockhampton (18%, 44%), Bundaberg (24%, 57%) and Albion Park (21%, 44%).
Taylor ranks Are Jay Lochie (98: 37-15-14; $101,305), Percy’s Lad (63: 20-10-9; $70,220) and Cosmic Waters (95: 28-12-18; $37,670) as the best dogs he has trained.
“I can’t separate them,” the trainer said.
“They were some of the best of their era.”
Cosmic Waters was a wonderful, versatile sprinter winning from 390m to 550m and being placed over 710m.
The daughter of Cosmic Chief also broke the Rockhampton 510m track record with a run of 28.94s in September 2014 – a record that still stands.
She came oh so close to representing Queensland in the 2015 National Distance Championship at Wentworth Park.
She was just edged out in a heart-stopping finish to the Queensland final at Albion Park by Mullaway (0.01s) a few weeks earlier.
Grand warrior Percy’s Lad, despite carrying the remnants of past injuries, was a prolific winner at Rockhampton, Albion Park and Townsville after arriving from Victoria in early 2016.
Early in his career, he had raced against some of the nation’s best sprinters, including million-dollar winner Dyna Double One and multi Group finalist Invictus Rapid, and ran second behind Fever Pitch in the 2015 G3 South Australian Derby, in which Dyna Double One ran fourth.
“He did a great job for us,” Taylor said.
Percy’s Lad’s victories included the North Queensland Cup and the Grand Prix, both at Townsville.
He retired in mid-2017 after finishing unplaced behind Split Image in a very strong Rockhampton Grand Prix.
Taylor admits that Are Jay Lochie holds a special place in his heart.
The dog, which was owned by his mother Kaye, thrilled punters with his barnstorming come-from-behind finishes that allowed him to win a series of feature races during his career.
He also won three in a row over 520m at Albion Park in late 2020.
“Cosmic Waters and Are Jay Lochie (Rocky’s GOTY in ’19) are still with us,” the trainer said.
“One of our bitches will be going to ‘Lochie’ when she next comes on season.”
Taylor admits he would dearly love to win the Rocky Cup.
“I’ve won all the country feature races, except the Cups,” he said.
“It’s definitely a dream of mine to win it.”
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: About 20 years ago through a good friend who had trotters as well as greyhounds and also through Andrew Suli.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: My dad Don. He was always there to bounce questions off anytime I needed advice or couldn’t work a problem out. But I’ve always listened to what all trainers have had to say because in my opinion no one person has all the answers.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: At 16 months.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: I try not to push them and let them tell me when they’re ready. It could be two months or four months, but I never push them.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: I like to see chase. If they chase, two-thirds of the job is done. It’s just a matter of keeping them healthy and ready after that.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: I like to give them at least 2-3 months into their first race preparation trialling solo and also trialling with a few other performed dogs.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Each dog has its own little quirks but 80 per cent of the time they are all on same routine. At the moment I seem to have a few that are a little quirky and do things different.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: I do a lot of beach work and then it’s straight into the water after the gallop. It worked well with our trotters and it seems to freshen up the older dogs’ legs and body.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: Yes, salt water regularly.
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 consists of a good beach gallop 300m-400m and a swim and then out into large yards twice a day. We don’t walk our dogs. As an old trainer once told me, greyhounds don’t win walking races.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs and treat all injuries?
A: Yes, I do all my own. If I need help finding a problem I will ask a select few in the Brisbane region.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Are Jay Lockie.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A:.Sandown Park and The Meadows (in Melbourne). You are on the action and they’re well promoted.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: Young people and plenty of them.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Listen to everyone because no one person is always right.