Phil’s hard lesson is well learnt
By David Brasch
IAN Greaves is a famous name in greyhound racing in Ireland and England and back in the mid-1990s he taught now Gold Coast-based Yorkshireman Phil Smith a valuable life lesson.
Phil, 50, has embraced greyhound racing since settling permanently in Australia in 2014 and a 10-year wish list to win a Group race came to fruition last year when Manila Knight won the Group 1 Bold Trease.
Phil’s purchase of Manila Knight was all part of the lesson Ian Greaves taught him decades ago.
Born in Yorkshire, Phil Smith grew up there becoming a quantity surveyor travelling around the UK from 20 to 27.
He then went abroad for work, spending much of his time in Asia, but also visiting Australia and Russia.
In 2009 he settled in Australia but went back to Manila not long after, married Anita, and they came back to Australia to settle permanently in 2014.
These days he still has a business he runs in Manila and also a workplace health and safety business in Australia.
His introduction to greyhound racing came as a five-year-old tagging along behind his older brothers Terry and Wayne.
“My brothers decided to get a greyhound and they came up with one named Killard Points,” said Phil.
Killard Points had not won a race despite getting 16m start in handicap races around Craven Park, the home of famous rugby league club Hull Kingston Rovers.
“The lads brought Killard Points home and our mum Kathleen immediately embraced it,” said Phil. “She fed, walked and did everything with the dog.
“And it won first up for us.”
While Killards Points did not keep up the good initial work for the Smith brothers and their mum, it had instilled in the family, and especially Phil, a love of racing greyhounds.
“My brothers got a few more dogs, but they were not very successful,” said Phil.
By the time Phil had turned 20, he had a hankering to go racing himself.
Ian Greaves had moved from England to establish a greyhound breeding and racing property in Ireland. He was about to become one of the very biggest players in the sport.
Phil approached Ian in the mid-1990s about buying a ready-made race dog.
For 975 pounds he became the owner of Clonmel Peter (Satharn Beo-Cornforth Queen).
“Ian was not famous at the time and when we got Clonmel Peter over to England, I took him to that famous English vet Paddy Sweeney who suggested we should head him towards the up-coming Peterborough Puppy Derby,” said Phil.
“But, first up we trialled him around Sheffield and he went 17.30 and beat a likely Derby prospect by three lengths.”
The Smith boys got set for a bet, a very big bet.
“The time he ran at Sheffield was a closely guarded secret because the timer did not work. We knew what he had run.”
Clonmel Peter was put into a trial heat of the Peterborough Puppy Derby, opened up at 14-1 and Phil Smith put ‘every penny I had’ on him.
“He won and I bought my first home with the winnings,” said Phil. “He finished up at 7-4.”
But the story and the connection to Ian Greaves does not end there.
“I promised to put 100 pounds on Clonmel Peter for Ian which I did,” said Phil. “And it was at that time Ian suggested he had a young dog I could buy for 10,000 pound that would be Derby class and just the dog that would suit me.
“Ian’s exact words to me were ‘I’ll tell you now, buy this dog’.”
Phil Smith considered the offer and declined.
The dog was Toms The Best (Frightful Flash-Ladys Guest) and he would win both the English and Irish Derbies the only dog at the time to do so. He was a superstar.
While Phil headed off overseas working, he never forgot the opportunity he had been given but missed out on. Ian’s words, and Phil’s own missed opportunity, would come back to him many years later.
By 2014, with Phil and Anita firmly entrenched with a new life on the Gold Coast, the opportunity to embrace greyhound racing came about.
“I did a lot of research on greyhound racing in Australia and decided to buy into the Tifi damline,” said Phil.
“Double Twist was going so well at the time and it was hard not to take notice of her.
“I bought pups and that’s how I got Manila Dawn. All our dogs race with the Manila prefix.”
Manila Dawn was special. She equalled Black Magic Opal’s old Hobart track record of 25.69 and was just one-hundredth off Fernando Bale’s first section record at The Meadows during her career.
Unfortunately for Phil, he lost the bitch in pup to Fernando Bale.
“I’ve been buying pups and breeding ever since,” he said.
He bought Fernando Bale-Solar Pak pups from Barry Ward and had success including Manila Kampyon, which was a special dog.
“He had won five races, but needed nine months off with injury,” said Phil. “He came back to win another 20 races.”
When Barry Ward came back to Phil with the offer of buying pups from Solar Pak’s next litter, by Collision, Phil backed out.
“I’d had some Collision pups and never had any success with them,” he said. “I declined.”
It is history now that the litter included Million Dollar Chase winner Good Odds Harada and Group 1 star Feral Franky both of them now at stud.
Phil has since bought a dog and three bitches from Solar Pak’s third litter, to Kinloch Brae.
Which brings Phil to his crowning glory.
“I had seen some Barcia Bale pups out of Angie Rocks for sale and approached Mario Briganti to buy a couple,” said Phil.
“Mario had a dog he was keeping for himself. But, all during the negotiations, I had this nagging feeling that I had to have that third pup as well.
“It all had to do with Ian Greaves and all those years ago declining to buy Toms The Best.
“Mario agreed to sell the dog pup he was going to keep on the proviso he train him.”
That’s how Group 1 Bold Trease winner Manila Knight came to be bought by Phil Smith.
“It was a monster thrill for our family,” said Phil of the Bold Trease victory. “It was a real adventure in training performance.
“Being so close to Mario it proved to us that the finer points of this game revolve around the attention to detail.
“I was so pleased I was given the opportunity to buy him.”
Phil says his house ‘shook’ when Manila Knight held on to win the Bold Trease.
He is also looking at the possibility of sending Manila Knight to Ireland for a stud career.
These days, Phil has three dogs in training, 25 pups and two litters on the way. He is looking at syndication to bring with him on the racing experience those who are as keen as he.
Those experiences are being embraced right around the world.
“My father and brothers back in England, and Anita’s entire family and our friends back in Manila have bonded greatly through the deeds of our dogs here in Australia,” he said.
“They have a huge following and especially through Facebook.”
The purchase of Manila Knight, says Phil, has changed his life to a degree.
“I’ve never forgotten the Ian Greaves moment regarding Toms The Best and from that moment I have grabbed every opportunity that has come my way.”