By MIKE HILL
MICHAEL Hickmott is one of a few trainers who can still remember racing at the opening of the current Townsville track back in the 1970s.
Hickmott, who we feature in this month’s The Trainer column, was in his late teens when the loam/sand track inside the Townsville Showgrounds began operating.
“I had ventured south to Sydney for work a few years earlier and while I was down there I started training greyhounds for an aunt,” he said.
“I returned home when I was 19 and brought two greyhounds with me. Townsville was in the process of starting up although Cairns was already racing.
“For 12 months or more I would travel to Cairns prior to the Townsville track opening.”
Hickmott lamented that many trainers at that first meeting had since passed on.
He remembers rugging up a favourite in one of the races at the club launch, but he was unable to land a winner.
A carpenter by trade, Hickmott says he’s an old-fashion trainer.
“I walk my dogs four kilometres in the bush every morning,” he said. “Some dogs have to get out and away from the sprint lanes and straight track work.
“My style of training just seems to suit my dogs.”
He said it was an early start for the team each morning.
“I usually start walking about 4am or a bit later. I have to get everything done before I head off to work at 7am,” the trainer said.
Michael grew up around greyhounds. He said his parents lived at Richmond in western Queensland and always had them as pets, while his grand-father was a roo shooter and always used greyhounds.
Over the years he’s had some outstanding dogs, none better than the super sprinter Gozo Farmer, winner of 39 of his 57 starts, including the Dapto Cup and victories at Wentworth Park and Albion Park.
Others good chasers included Townsville Cup winner Happy Valentine, Archie Valentine, Post Box and more recently Moving Target.
Hickmott also has big hopes for a couple of unraced brothers that are closely related to Group performers Snug, Fab Fit and recent Country Cup victor Elegant Eleanor.
The pups, by Fabregas from Elusive Diva (Surf Lorian-Tad Smarter) are almost 17 months old and ‘they look the goods’.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: In the early 70s when I started helping my aunt, who lived in Campbelltown (Sydney).
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: Roy Stanbury from Campbelltown.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: I usually begin when they’re 14 months old.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: About four months.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: A really keen pup that wants to chase the lure straight up.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: I always use box eight in a field to give them the opportunity to learn how to race and get to the rail if they are a railer.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: Sixty per cent of the time it’s all the same, and 40 per cent different training depending on the injury or the different workload required.
8: Do you have any unique or unusual methods you would like to share in regard to training?
A: It’s very important that dogs are happy, walk on different tracks or pathways and use motorbike on straight track.
9: Do you swim your dogs as part of your training regime?
A: I did try it, but most dogs only use their front legs, so I gave it away. Also, the pool took lots of cleaning.
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week, unfortunately we only have the one track available.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: One gallop in between races with motorbike – no work at the track – and walking.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: Yes, sometimes I call friends for a second opinion.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Gozo Farmer, Valentine’s Boy, Archie Valentine and Happy Valentine.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: Wentworth Park because it hasn’t changed much and also has lots of good memories.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: Encourage smaller trainers to breed and opportunities for younger trainers to get their own greyhound and get into the industry.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: Listen to everybody, work your own plan and learn from your mistakes.