Common sense is the best guide

29th September 2020

By COL HAMILTON

WHEN Chase Magazine asked me to write an article about getting into greyhounds, it came just at the right time.

That’s because, a guy I worked with at Telecom 30 years ago has only recently approached me out of the blue to help him get started in greyhound racing.

When I sat down and started to put on the thinking cap about what I would need to advise Robin on, I did not realise just how much he would need to know. Think about it … from catching, weighing, trialling, just the basic handling of a dog and the consistency of it all.

All of those things need to be learned.

I’m 67 these days and I first got into greyhound racing back in 1986. I got a share in a dog with Jim Harris. I knew his son Jim junior and we shared a house together and used to go night clubbing together. The dog was a giveaway that had major injuries.

My own first venture into training was through a dog called Bridgeman Again. It had won a race at Ipswich in 25.66 which was a pretty smart run in those days. I gave it 10 starts and from that came a few placings.

I was feeding the dog on dry food only and terrified about keeping its weight right. To learn the recipe for training I read a lot of books, well those I could get my hands on anyway. But, most were from England and by the time I was reading them, they were already outdated.

But Jimmy Harris gave me the basic idea of training and with a hands-on approach I had to learn pretty quickly.

My first real success came with Best Glider a dog I bought from Nev Robson on the Northern Rivers. I paid $2000 for him after he’d won a race at Tweed in 24.12 and he went on to have more than 100 starts for me … something no one who knows me will be surprised about. From those 100 starts he won eight and ran 25 seconds and 25 thirds. He won four at the Gabba and ran 32.71 winning at Beenleigh.

One of the most important things Jimmy Harris ever taught me was to get my dogs checked over by the right people. He put me into contact with Noel Foster and I have been taking my dogs to Noel ever since. That working relationship has since become a great friendship.

My advice for newcomers into this industry is to buy a well-bred pup. Back in the early days I would buy tried dogs from down south and I got touched up plenty of times. But, you soon wise up. My only wish is that I ‘wised up’ quicker than I did.

Part of the fun of buying pups is hoping the dog will turn out to be a winner.

When I first got into training, I walked my dogs because I thought you had to. It was all we had ever seen in those days … old guys walking a team of dogs around the streets. I soon realised it was not necessary. I stopped walking dogs 25 years ago. I’ve never owned a walking machine.

Because I train out of a house yard in Brisbane suburbia, my dogs do nothing but get let out for a rest in the yard. But, I race my dogs, probably a lot more than most people. A lot of dogs I’ve owned have had more than 100 starts.

But, it is very rare that I trial a dog. Trial tracks are not as well prepared as racetracks. I was told very early on that a dog will retain its fitness for two weeks if it is not worked or raced.

Dogs like Big Dac have been wonderful for me. He had 220 starts for 25 wins and earned $105,000 and is retired as a pet at my home … taking up a lot of room. Roman Express before him was just as prolific. Way back in the Gabba days I had a lot of fun with Amerstar, another dog I bought from Nev Robson, who won six at the Gabba for me. And I bought her when she was already three years old.

I bred three litters out of her and the pups were all crap.

Which brings me back to my mate Robin who is as keen as we all are when we first make the move into greyhound racing.

My suggestion to Robin is that he get involved, but watch all the time. By all means come into the game with enthusiasm. But watching what goes on at trialling, race days, and in races themselves is all important.

Greyhound racing is all about box draws. All dogs have their flaws. What I see wrong with the way most people train is that they over-trial. Once I have a pup fit after three or four months, then I hardly ever trial it again.

And, anyone getting into greyhounds should only ever want to have 500m dogs in their kennels. That is where the money is. I’ve actually never had a stayer in my kennels in all the years I’ve been training.

My feeding routine is a mix of roo and beef for the meat component, a general kibble, a magnesium, fish oil and Slow-K tablets … nothing else. There was a time I went down the path of all those other vitamins, but I gave up on those pretty quickly.

But, one thing I always stress is, getting back to the kennels after a race to pour as much water into my dogs as possible.

Yes, it is all common sense. But, as we all know … how many of us do show common sense?