By MIKE HILL
STEVE Keep has been around greyhounds most of his life.
As a nine-year-old living in Casino, NSW, he remembers helping his grand-mother Lila Simpson (mother of leading Northern Rivers trainer Peter Simpson) with her dogs.
Keep, who has been in the sport almost 50 years, is featured this month in our The Trainer column.
“I would go over to my grand-mother’s place most days and help her,” he said.
“I kept on doing that until my late teens, early twenties when I went out on my own.”
Over the years, he has had some handy chasers, including Sottie Allover – winner of the 2003 Galaxy at Tweed Heads, and his dogs have ‘run second in the Grafton Cup a few times’.
After living in Casino for 50 years, Keep and his partner Shannon Scott relocated to a 100-acre property at Warragai Creek, near Grafton, just over five years ago.
“We utilise about 20 acres for our greyhound operation,” Keep said, who has 15 dogs in work.
He’s also broken in some brilliant sprinters, including Group 1 winner and leading sire Cosmic Rumble for Steve Kavanagh, multi-Group performer Snozz for Jason Mackay and the outstanding bitch Miss Hot Gossip.
“I’ve been breaking in dogs for many years,” the trainer said.
“I’ve been doing Steve Kavanagh’s dogs for 10 or more years and I did Tony Lockett’s while he was in the sport.”
Keep’s been on a winning run in recent months – he won the ‘trainer of the carnival’ award at Grafton in July and more recently rugged up his first winner at Wentworth Park.
It was a special moment for the trainer.
In fact, he landed a winning double at the Sydney track with super-consistent sprinter Copperhead Rogue and Lucille Rumble.
“Previously I had been to Wentworth Park about six times for three seconds,” Keep said.
Copperhead Rogue (Sulzanti-Dixie Trick) only began racing earlier this year and already has an impressive record of six wins and 10 minor placings from just 18 starts.
Keep is a trainer who follows the motto: have dogs will travel.
He’s not afraid to venture beyond the Northern Rivers if he can place his dogs in suitable races.
In recent months he has ventured as far away as Newcastle, Gunnedah, Sydney, Wauchope and Capalaba.
1: How and when did you get involved in greyhound racing?
A: When I was about nine years old with my grandmother.
2: Who has been the greatest influence on you as a trainer?
A: My grandmother Lila Simpson, uncle Peter Simpson and aunty Tammy Simpson.
3: At what age do you start preparing a pup for racing?
A: Two weeks after break-in.
4: How long does it take to prepare a pup for its first race?
A: Depending on pup about eight to 10 weeks.
5: What makes a good pup?
A: A good pup shows you its potential from day one.
6: Do you do anything special when preparing a young dog for its maiden compared to a seasoned performer?
A: Yes. Maiden dogs will need more trials, and you have to be patient.
7: Do you have a set routine for all your greyhounds or do you vary training for individual runners?
A: We train our dogs the same … it doesn’t matter if they go over 300 metres or 500 metres. We just give them a week off every four to five weeks – they’re not machines.
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?
10: How frequently do you like to race your dogs?
A: Once a week 90 per cent of the time.
11: What’s your training routine for dogs between races?
A: Give them a run up the straight four days before their next race.
12: Do you do all muscle work on your dogs or do you use a professional muscle man?
A: I do my own.
13: Do you do treat all injuries to your dogs yourself?
A: Yes, unless they need vet assistance.
14: Which is the best greyhound you have trained?
A: Sottie Allover … she won the 2003 Tweed Heads Galaxy.
15: What do you consider is the best greyhound track in Australia and why?
A: It depends on your dog and how the track is prepared.
16: What does the industry need most going forward?
A: It needs to get younger people involved, an increase in country prizemoney, and the people at the top of the tree need to listen to people who have been in the game for years not just five-minute trainers or administrators.
17: What is the best advice you could give someone just starting out as a trainer?
A: My opinion is for anyone wanting to start off: Look after your dogs, be patient and worry about your own backyard not what everyone else is doing and be a good sport, not a bad loser.