By James Broadhurst
Ace short-courser Oriental Owen achieved a rare feat when he raised his 50th career victory at Mandurah recently.
The milestone was an extra special moment for trainer Stephen Richards, 66, who was just happy that he was around to see it.
In November last year greyhound racing was the furthest thing on Richards’ mind.
Richards was laid up in the intensive care unit at Fiona Stanley Hospital with a serious lung condition and wasn’t excepted to survive.
“I was given a 2% chance, but luckily I beat the odds,” Richards explained.
“The staff at the hospital were brilliant. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here now.”
Richards, who has been training greyhounds for two decades, has continued to work with his dogs during his recovery although he’s getting a lot of help from his family these days.
His wife Susan and daughters Helen and Louise all pitch in to keep the kennel running.
Richards is still not well enough to attend the track so Helen has taken over all the racenight duties.
“Having the dogs definitely keeps you going and gives you something to look forward to,” he said.
“We all do our part and it’s great to be doing it together as a family.
“It’s really brought us all together.”
Much like his trainer Oriental Owen doesn’t know when to quit.
More than four years old, an age when most racedogs are winding down, Owen is performing better than ever.
His early speed, keenness for racing and durability have made him the perfect sprinter.
Richards couldn’t be at the track and had to watch on TV, but admits he was ‘on the edge of his seat’ seeing Oriental Owen bring up his half century.
“It’s a big thrill for the whole family,” he said.
“I don’t know of too many greyhounds that have won fifty races.
“To do that with Owen is amazing because he’s such a lovely dog.
“He’s a pleasure to train and is great with the grandkids.
“Around the kennel he’s generally pretty quiet, but once he sets foot on the track he really perks up and is ready to go.”
Richards believes Oriental Owen could continue competing for some time yet.
“As long as he’s happy and enjoying his racing we’ll keep him going,” he said.
“He’ll let us know when he’s ready to stop.”
As for himself Richards is confident that we’ll be around a lot longer as well.
“I’m feeling better with every month,” he said.
“I’m hoping to get back to the racetrack soon. That’s the next step.”
Since his debut in December 2017 Oriental Owen has raced on 91 occasions for a winning strike rate of 55%.
Caption: WA trainer Stephen Richards with his stellar performer Oriental Owen, who recently notched his 50th victory.