By MIKE HILL
UP in North Queensland Harold Hovi is referred to as ‘The Magic Man’.
And it’s a tag Hovi, who we feature in this month’s The Trainer column, is happy to live with.
Based at Gumlu, 134 kilometres south of Townsville between Ayr and Bowen, Hovi only ever has a few dogs in work but he has an amazing winning strike rate.
It’s was during one of his winning night’s that Townsville race caller Joe Dyer coined ‘The Magic Man’ tag.
Hovi currently has the highest winning strike rate of any trainer at Townsville with a figure just above 30 per cent.
From 82 starts this year his team has collected 25 wins, 10 seconds and three thirds.
And late last month, Hovi rugged up a winning trifecta with Plyometric ($2.40 fav), Gunnadoo Bella ($5) and Acquista ($3.60) in a Townsville 380m fourth grade event.
He only had four runners at the meeting.
The bird breeder-turned greyhound trainer first picked up the lead and collar about 45 years ago.
“I had a couple of dogs with a syndicate including friend Charlie Currie when I lived on a property on the Bogie River,” he recalls.
“We had a dog and a bitch for about six months.
“I was a young fella in those days with no training experience and the dogs were slow.
“It was a three-hour trip to Townsville.
“The bitch fell over in her last start and we were walking out the gate before the race was over.
“I got out of them after that.”
It wasn’t until 2010 that Hovi, a station hand working on the 10,000-acre cattle property Molongle, rekindled his interest in the sport and he’s been on a learning curve ever since.
Before that he was breeding birds for about 20 years, mainly parrots and finches.
He attributes former Townsville conditioner and now Tasmanian-based Pat Ryan as having the biggest influence on him as a trainer.
“I met Pat one night in the wash bay at the Townsville track after trialling my first dog.
“From that night on a great friendship blossomed and Pat helped me enormously.
“He gave me a lot of assistance and guidance before moving to Tasmania.”
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: About 45 years ago. I had a dog and a bitch with Charlie Currie and a couple of others. The greyhounds were slow. I gave it away after about six months and didn’t returned to the sport until 2010.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: Pat Ryan and John Khon. John gave me a lot of tips early, however, it was Pat who had the biggest influence on me before he moved to Tasmania.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: Well I’ve only ever had two pups here. I like to start when they’re about 10 months old getting them walking with the lead.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: I like to start racing them around 22 months of age.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: A fierce chaser.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Basically I like to give them six or eight trials – a couple of slips before letting them come out of the boxes.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: I don’t have a set training regime for any of them. I vary it to stop them from getting bored.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: I used to but I haven’t later because they say there are too many crocs in Molongle Creek.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: It varies depending on how the dogs pull up. If they’re tired they won’t get anything for a few days. Then maybe a run up the straight. I try to keep them as healthy as I can without running them.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: Yes, I do it myself.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: I treat most of them. If they get a bad injury I given them a spell.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Gunnadoo Delta. He was in the money in 40 of his 56 starts, winning 14 races – seven in best eight company.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: Townsville … it’s the only track I’ve raced my dogs on. I didn’t like Cairns.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: More prizemoney would help. We’re isolated up here, we have no options. We don’t have the opportunity to race at different tracks with different prizemoney like trainers in other regions. It’s a nine-hour drive if we want to race at Rockhampton.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Listen to everything someone says, but you don’t have to do everything they say. Commonsense plays a big part in training greyhounds.