By Mike Hill
TRAVIS Elson is in the midst of what is probably the most successful period of his training career so far.
Elson, who has begun 2020 in sensational fashion, is featured in this month’s The Trainer column.
He is already challenging for this year’s Brisbane Trainer of the Year title, he rugged up a quartet of winners – the first of his career – at Albion Park in February and he is about to add a group of pups to his already strong racing team.
“It’s probably the best group of dogs I’ve had as a trainer,” he admitted last month.
“Although I did have some good dogs four or five years ago.”
Travis is the son of Bill and Cyndie Elson, who have dominated the owner-trainer ranks at Albion Park in recent years.
His days are long, much longer than most.
As well as a team of greyhounds, Travis and his wife Hope run Coolum Turf – a turf farm at Yandina Creek on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
He’s up at 4 o’clock every morning and on race nights he doesn’t get to bed until just before midnight.
“It’s a full-on schedule,” said Travis. “They are big days and I couldn’t do it without the enormous help of my wife Hope.
“She assists with both the dogs and the turf farm.”
Travis, who has been training for two decades, purchased his first dog in his late teens.
“I was 19 and I had to talk Dad into getting the dog,” he said. “He had given training away well and truly years before.
“I remember seeing photos of greyhounds on the wall when I was very young.”
Travis’s first dog was a black bitch called Tracy’s Two by Point Two from the Malawi’s Prince bitch Malawi Fox.
“I think we got her from George Zammit, I’m pretty sure, or maybe from Des Youngberg,” he said.
“Dad and I trained dogs together for 10 years at Yandina Creek before he and Mum moved to Churchable.”
Travis currently has 14 dogs in work and has just started to break in another seven pups.
It’s a huge difference from 12 months ago.
“Last year I only had four dogs in my kennels,” he said.
And despite a smart group of youngsters, he still considers the talented sprinter Silver Stunner as his kennel star.
The superbly bred black bitch (Barcia Bale-Cyndie’s Special) hasn’t started since finishing fourth behind Wise Misty in the Group 3 Ipswich Cup (520m) last November.
“She came into season soon after that run but she’s just about to return to racing,” said Elson.
Silver Stunner, a four-time Group finalist, has an impressive record of 17 wins and 22 minor placings from 59 starts and has collected prizemoney totalling $111,535.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: Dad used to be in greyhounds when I was a kid. I got my first greyhound when I was 19.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: My Dad because we started training together and he showed me the ropes.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: When they’re about 12 months old.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: After they have been broken in and had their spell, usually three to four months.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: I think there are a few things that make a good pup – breeding is No. 1, rearing, handling and a trainable mind.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: I like to give my dogs 10 trials at Albion Park before I start them over varying distances.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Same routine for all our dogs.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: I treat all our dogs as pets, not race dogs, lots of love and attention. I believe a happy dog will perform to the best of its ability.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: It varies with each dog, but usually once a week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Using the dog walking machine and sometimes the bull ring or a sprint up the straight.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: I do it myself.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: Yes, unless a vet is required.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Silver Stunner.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: Albion Park and outside of Queensland, The Meadows is an amazing track.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: I would love to see the greyhounds under their own code. And also to keep the Greyhound Adoption Program powering along.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Talk to as many knowledgeable trainers as you can and listen to what they have to say. Don’t start your greyhound journey by taking a giveaway dog to train. Be patient and buy a well-bred pup.