Cynthia’s golden memories across 50 years
By TERRY WILSON
POPULAR Redland Bay trainer Cynthia Suttle is closing in on a half-century of involvement in the greyhound racing scene.
She is now aged 67 and gained her first trainer’s licence when she was 18, back in 1971 shortly after catching the industry bug.
In all her time with the dogs Suttle has never won a Group 1 race – probably has not even been close – but doing that remains number one on her bucket list.
With a small team at her disposal for a number of years she still lives in hope that one day that elusive top event will come her way.
Until then she will do all she can to keep on producing winners. She has two litters ready to be broken in, so hope springs eternal that one day, hopefully sooner than later, she nails a big one.
Suttle has seen plenty come and go in the greyhound world and has strong views on some of the changes forced on the industry stakeholders, the owners and the trainers.
Suttle experienced a lot, including one day when she was driving a couple of dogs down to Border Park in Tweed Heads and ended up having to hitch-hike, greyhounds beside her, to get to the track in time.
Chase sat down with Suttle to talk about her life with the greyhounds and that eventful drive to the Gold Coast.
Chase: Cynthia, you have been in dog racing for nigh on 50 years, considering you started in 1971. How did you get into the industry?
CS: I remember that clearly. I was about 18 and a friend of my mum and dad, Dave Richards, had a strawberry farm when we lived at Victoria Point. We had a lot of fruit pickers back then. They’d stay in a little shed on the property but Dave turned that accommodation into kennels.
I’d get up at five o’clock and help Dave walk the dogs, then catch a bus into the city where I worked for primary industries.
I got my trainer’s licence when I was 18 and held one ever since.
Chase: That is a long time in the industry. Did you ever have any problems with the stewards?
CS: I’ve been fined after a positive swab to caffeine, which I couldn’t explain because I hadn’t done anything intentional. That was the only issue I’ve had.
Chase: That’s a nice record, but can you remember your first winner as a trainer?
CS: It was a bitch named Cooper’s Kidd and it won my first race at Lawnton. That would probably have been in 1972.
Chase: You have had a couple of well-known owners put dogs with you so how much success have you had? Have you won many Group races?
CS: I have never really had a lot of dogs in work at any one time so rarely do you see a little operation like I am win a Group 1. You hope you have something that is going to be good but it boils down to numbers you have.
Maybe I won a Group 3 at Parklands back in the days of that track on the Gold Coast because I did pretty good there. And I’ve had a couple of dogs in the Ipswich Puppy Auction race.
Perhaps these little ones I have down in the kennel may do it for me. But who knows? You have high hopes all the time.
Chase: Apart from a couple of exceptions, you have always bred your own greyhounds. When did that start?
CS: I started breeding in the 1970s with a few litters out of Cooper’s Kidd. The last time I bought dogs they were Wong Size Suzy and Tiny Wong Way. They’re the mothers of the two litters we have now.
Chase: Cynthia, you have always had handy greyhounds but never been able to get the absolute champion. What are your most notable achievements?
CS: I was leading trainer at Capalaba in 2009 and I won the 2018 women’s trainers premiership at Capalaba and I had Greyhound of the Year there with Pagan Lee in 2007. I had a lot more dogs racing then but lately I have been pretty low key. I never want to have a major operation.
Chase: What I the best greyhound you have prepared?
CS: That’s difficult because they’re all been different. I had one named Janine’s PIck and I got her from a friend of mine from New South Wales. She won a lot over 704 metres at the old Gabba track but she got nutted by Pauline Fruend’s Empire Dancer (part-owned by former ace race called Paul Dolan) in a President’s Cup there.
There have been so many good ones and they’ve all been different in their own way.
Chase: You must have met some real characters of the industry in your time. Any favourites?
CS: There have been many wonderful people over the years. Like Ray Gatti, he was a classic and a funny bloke. One of my favourite people in the world is John Murray. He is a veterinarian, one of the best, and he has done so much for the industry.
Chase: What about Grafton and the annual carnival down there?
CS: I just love to go there. I think it was 36 years in a row but I missed last year because there wasn’t a carnival (because of COVID-19). It’s the people I see only once a year and it’s such a great time. It is hard to explain but everybody is just happy – and genuinely happy for you if you win a race.
Chase: Have you had much success down there at Jacaranda time?
CS: Oh yes, although I have never been in the Grafton Cup. For that carnival, unless you had a top dog you’d be better off taking maidens and fifth graders because those grades had heats and finals.
Chase: You must have seen some dodgy things go on over the 49 years you have been training. Does anything in particular stand out in this regard?
CS: Things now are just so different but I remember going to Wentworth Park with a friend and he pulled the dog up, he was in the bookies’ bag. That’s how they made their money because prizemoney was terrible back then.
Now if you get a good, handy litter there is so much good money. And I love my dogs too much to get involved in things like drugs.
And these days the industry is much better regulated, we’re not in charge any more these days.
Chase: Can we revisit the old Border Park at Tweed Heads and I guess you’d love to see a new track built just over the border to service northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland?
CS: Yes, that would be good. We need choices of tracks.
Chase: Speaking of Border Park, tell us about a rather funny issue involving that track.
CS: One day I was on my way to Tweed Heads with Massey’s Reject and Aqua Lad but just before Dream World my car blew a fan belt. People used to say you could use panty hose for a quick fix and so I just happened to have a spare pair with me so I put that on. But it came apart pretty quickly so I got out of the car, got the two dogs and their rugs out and started to hitch-hike my way to Tweed.
Two young blokes stopped and offered me a lift, but they were on their way to a barbecue and had a pack of meat in the back seat where me and the dogs were. I had plenty of trouble keeping the dogs away from it. Anyway they stayed on at Border Park and had a great time. And Aqua Lad won for me. Remember there were no such things as mobile phones back then.