By Mike Hill
NORTH Rockhampton trainer Andrew Suli admits he ‘stumbled’ into greyhounds by accident in the early ‘90s.
At the time he was involved in training trotters and thoroughbreds with his father.
“My pet ridgeback bitch had gone missing and I started looking for her around the neighbourhood,” Suli recalls.
“In the process of looking for her I met a neighbour who had greyhounds. He already had a greyhound on the lead.
“He said ‘take this dog for a walk while we look for your bitch’. When I got home I said to my father ‘I’m going to get a greyhound’. Everything started from there.”
Suli, who we feature in this edition’s The Trainer column, had early success as a greyhound trainer.
He said during the ‘90s and early 2000s he won a couple of premierships before splitting his time between the dogs and horses.
For a decade or so Suli held a dual licence training both greyhounds and thoroughbreds, but gave the horses away about two years ago to concentrate on the dogs.
And he says it’s a whole family operation.
“I might be the named trainer, but my wife Kelly and daughter Jessica are just as important to all aspects of the training process,” Suli said.
“We bounce ideas off one another and we all see different things in races and track work. You cannot do this on your own.”
Since focusing more on the dogs, Suli’s stocks have been on the rise and he’s just had one of his better months.
He rugged up a pair of winning trebles and a double at three of Rocky’s four meetings during January. It coincided with a sharp build up in kennel numbers.
“At the beginning of December I had six dogs in work,” Suli said. “By the end of the month that had increased to 20.”
Working in the sales department of Rockhampton firm CMI Electrical, which services the mining industry, Suli – based on the outskirts of the CQ city – said he was in the process of rebuilding his greyhound contacts.
“My main goal now is winning races for my owners,” he said. “And things just seemed to fall in place during January.”
He’s picked up a couple of nice sprinters, including the smart chaser Black Maxie.
The Barcia Bale-Calla Blackie dog has had three starts for three wins over the 407m journey for his new connections.
A former promising Wentworth Park performer, Black Maxie broke down while running second to Black Opium in a semi-final of the Million Dollar Chase series in October, 2019.
The black sprinter was sidelined for seven months before returning to the track in mid-’20, racing with some success over 350m-440m at Goulburn and Bulli.
Black Maxie has been impressive since joining Suli’s kennels and his form suggests more wins are likely in coming months.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: I visited a neighbour looking for my house dog and went walking with him. He was walking his greyhound. I came back home and said ‘I’m getting one’.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: The late Glenn Smith and my wife Kelly.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: 15 months.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: It all depends on the pup. It could take a couple of preps to get them there.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: It has to be keen and have a lot of go. It’s no good to run fast if you are only half-heartedly chasing.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: I try to get young dogs in fields when trialling, older dogs don’t really need it, it’s more for fitness.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Yes, to get them fit it’s all the same, but once they are fit it varies.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: No, I don’t do anything out of the ordinary.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: Yes, three times a week.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Every week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: I give them a day off after racing, then it’s treadmill and swimming and a gallop.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: We do most of our muscle work in-house.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: No, we use the vet if necessary.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: We don’t have best or worst, we treat them all the same from giveaways to purchased dogs. We try to earn with them all.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: Sandown. There seems to be less scrimmages there and the surface is always consistent.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: To keep going forward and not be content. More and more people from the other codes are getting involved now.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Don’t do things on the cheap. It’s trial and error and never make decisions on emotions, you will always make the wrong one.