Cupid’s ‘dart’ was right on target
By TERRY WILSON
THE moment John Dart first set eyes on a teenager named Glenda Burchell he was hooked and, in true greyhound fashion, so began the chase.
It was in Grafton, John’s birthplace, that the pair’s interests were sparked while they were working across the street from each other.
Their eyes locked and so began one of greyhound racing’s true love stories – not to mention a partnership that blossomed from day one.
The Darts have had significant success with their dogs over the years. Among their more than 2500 winners they have taken a Group 1 and were the last to win a Border Park Galaxy, the diamond of northern New South Wales racing.
The couple are both now aged 67 but are still very much heavily into the sport and industry that is greyhound racing.
Chase sat down with the Darts to go over their relationship with each other as a successful training combination.
Let’s go back to the start of the partnership and firstly we’ll chat with Glenda about the day when Cupid’s arrow honed in on a target.
Chase: Do you recall the first time you saw John after you had moved from Sydney to Grafton as a 17-year-old?
GD: I actually knew about John before I met him. My sister (Janine Heath) had moved to Grafton where her father-in-law was the track manager for many years. Anyway, she told me about this John Dart and that he was handsome and was well-dressed. I worked in a pharmacy when I arrived in Grafton at Jacaranda time and John worked in a menswear shop across from us. We used to stand there and check each other out, but not game to say anything. But we soon did and I will say that he didn’t have to chase too hard. We were both a bit besotted with each other. On our first date we went to the South Grafton RSL and saw a Kiwi band called Milford Sound.
Chase: And so began a wonderful relationship both on and off the track?
GD: We dated for about four or five years and we married in April, 1977, in Grafton. We have two boys, but we were married for 11 years before the first one came along.
Chase: Righto, so now it is John’s turn to face the music. Without going over what Glenda just said, how has the racing part of things gone? Like, is Glenda the boss in that department?
JD: It is a good partnership and we work in well together. If you have a situation where the wife doesn’t want to do it, then it wouldn’t work when you have big numbers like we’ve had over the years. If she didn’t want to do it, it’d be too hard for me because it’s 24 hours a day and seven days a week. I’ve been all my life in greyhounds. My Dad Noel had dogs when I was six years old, in 1959. But Glenda got her licence probably when she was 19 or 20 and she hadn’t been in greyhounds before that.
Chase: In your time you have had bases in Grafton, Bilinga on the Gold Coast, at west Tweed Heads and now at Dulguigan near Murwillumbah. What brought about the first move to Queensland?
JD: We moved from Grafton to the Gold Coast on November 20, 1982, and it was the best day of our lives. I say that because racing up there was a lot better and so we wanted to have a crack at it.
While we were at Bilinga we had good greyhounds like High Tide, Shy Vixen, which won a Gabba 1000m Marathon, another one called Gavaskar and we won the last Border Park Galaxy with Perino.
Chase: And now, even though you’re based back in NSW near Murwillumbah, you remain a Queensland supporter in the State Of Origin rugby league?
JD: I was a Parramatta fan, but when we moved to Bilinga the Maroons used to get belted by New South Wales so we started supporting them. And we still do even though I cop heaps of flak from people when I go down to Grafton. But my allegiances are still with Queensland and the Broncos.
Chase: What led to you moving back over the border to near Murwillumbah?
JD: Terry Stapleton was one of our owners – he owned Gavaskar among other dogs we had with him. He also bred a lot of pups so when he bought the property we helped him set it up. His business then folded and he had to sell that property so Glenda and I bought another one across the Rous River.
Chase: Can you tell us which greyhound you consider the best you have ever had?
JD: It has to be Miss Grubb, despite the unflattering name. She was owned by the Northfields at Casino and she won the Group 1 Gold Cup at Albion Park in 2007 plus two or three Group 2 and Group 3 events in Melbourne. We used to fly her down to Kel Greenough and she won a Maidment Memorial and the Zoom Top. My son trained a dog called Dzeko, named after a Manchester City soccer player. It won the Gold Cup in Brisbane in 2015. I had another bitch named Mrs Thursday and she ran second in a Gold Cup. She was the fastest I’ve ever had, but she broke a hock when she was just over two years old.
Chase: You have had a lot of success with bitches. Do you have a strong affinity with them?
JD: Yes. And I had Aleta when we first moved to Dulguigan. She was very good and won 19 races at Albion Park and over the 520 metres, the 600 metres and the 710 metres.
Chase: You tell us that the Dart Dynasty has trained more than 2500 winners and you are closing in on 3000. But can you remember the name of the first greyhound you had?
JD: I sure do. It was a dog called Summerhill Road and I’d had my licence for only a month. I owned the dog. My brother bred a litter and I bought a pup from him, it might have been only $50. It won a couple of races for me. We had won 12 trainers premierships at Tweed Heads and we won a Brisbane trainers premiership in 2004-05.
Chase: The Grafton Cup carnival is coming up on a brand new track. Will you be there in your home town?
JD: Oh yes, I’ll be there. I’ll take a couple down because it’s such a great carnival. I’ve seen 60 bookies there and you could get set for as much as you wanted. You could win big money there.
Chase: The new track there should be good, but we guess you’d love to see the proposed Tweed Heads club get the green light for a new track seeing as you won the last Border Park Galaxy ever run. And how does the new Purga plan sit with you?
JD: I’d love to see a new track at Tweed and the distance from my place to the new track is the same as it takes to get to Albion Park.
Chase: On that subject, how much time do you spend behind the wheel in your average week?
JD: I usually have three trips each week to Albion Park to race on Mondays and Thursdays and I either trial there on Tuesdays or race on Wednesdays. I also trial at Lismore sometimes.