Tony Stewart, Greyhound Owner & NASCAR Driver
While NASCAR super star Tony Stewart loves the words “Gentlemen, start your engines,” his stall of greyhounds loves the sound of “And here comes Rusty.” At the start of every Winston Cup race, Stewart follows the pace car to the start finish line and then works on getting his car up toward 190 mph, along with 41 other drivers, as the green flag drops. His dogs chase a mechanic dog bone that speeds around the dirt track at West Palm Beach Kennel Club at around 38 mph trying to beat out seven other competitors after the wooden doors to their cages are raised simultaneously. “I love anything that involves racing,'' the 29-year-old Indianapolis native told us during a break before qualifying his Home Depot Pontiac for the Pepsi 400 in July. “They [the greyhounds] are fast, too. I think I have some champions on my hands.”
He got into greyhound racing nearly seven months ago when he met Walter Gribben, who has more than 30 years experience with racing the frail looking dogs, through a racing colleague. Looking at it as another way to be competitive, Stewart bought eight greyhounds the first time around from a breeder in Oklahoma. Then a few months later, he purchased a litter of puppies from a breeder in Florida. Currently, he owns 13 dogs, many named after people in his personal and professional life.
“I have Zippy, named after my crew chief, and Rocket and Rookie named after me,” he said with a laugh. There's also TSR (Tony Stewart Racing) Mojo, TSR Ms. Krista, TSR Ms. Lucy, TSR Ms. Chaos, TSR Ms. Rosie, TSR Monte Carlo, TSR Ms. Kelly, TSR Ms. Angie, and TSR Ms. Phyllis.
Stewart was hesitant at first to talk about his fleet of dogs that costs more than $53,000. He said there has been some controversy surrounding the sport in recent months but feels that the dogs love what they do. “They are happy when they are racing,” he said. “They have a good life.”
Gribben agreed. “These dogs eat good and in no way are mistreated,” he said with conviction in his voice. “When they get older and can't race anymore, we have an adoption program where they are placed in homes with good families. I wouldn't be in the sport if it were true (that they were abused).”
Dog trainer Mike Rowe said that while the media claims that there have been some incidences of greyhounds being mishandled over the past few years, he feels that on the whole, the animals receive good care throughout the industry. “If they were abused, they wouldn't get out and run,” he said from the kennels in West Palm Beach where Stewart's dogs are kept along with 40 of Gribben's dogs. “I think that today, with the tracks offering adoption programs, there's a positive attitude about the sport.”
There is a world of difference, as well as some similarities, between dog racing and car racing. For instance, Stewart brought home a purse of $189,475 for a few hours work at the prestigious Brickyard 400 in his hometown in Indiana on August 5. While he raced in circles in the Midwest, TSR Mojo ran the 1/4-mile oval course in West Palm Beach, Fla., in a little over 30 seconds, placing second and winning $223 for his efforts. As in NASCAR, several dogs during race day got DNF's (did not finish). And, the dogs are weighed before each race just like NASCAR officials put race cars through the test.
But the fact that it is a financial investment is not the issue for Stewart. It's the competitiveness, the hunt for a win that keeps him involved, he said. As with car racing, Stewart knows that it takes top-notch equipment to be up front. When choosing his team of greyhounds, he looked at bloodlines and records of the dog's ancestors and then hired top people to manage them. He depends on the knowledge of Gribben and the dog's trainers, Mike and Frances Rowe. “We are like the pit crew for the greyhounds,” Mike Rowe said, as he ran his hand over the back of Ms. Krista as she relaxed in her cage. “We make sure they are tuned up for the race.”
A normal day for the dogs begins at 6 a.m. when they hit the outdoor running pen. To prevent any problems, the males go to one side of the yard and the females to other, Rowe said. The entire group goes out again at 10 a.m. and again at 3 and 7 p.m. and are kept in cages in between. Usually twice a week, each one will hit the exercise yard to run through a regime of physical exercises to strengthen the muscles in their delicate legs. “After a race or a workout, they are rubbed down with Absorbine Jr. to help the muscle pain,” Rowe said. “They are petted and pampered. They are housed in an air-conditioned building and even have carpeting in their cages.”
The dogs are also on a strict diet, which consist of spinach, mackerel, pasta and vitamins among other foods and are fed at exactly the same time each day. “They are very lovable and intelligent dogs,” the trainer said. “Some are standoffish, while others won't leave your side. It's really like babysitting 50 kids. It takes a lot of patience and understanding.
They all have their own personalities.” The dogs are the happiest when they are off to the track, he added.
Like her owner, TSR Ms. Krista is already showing her champion status. The 2-year-old female greyhound has 24 starts this season, with six wins, five-second place and four third place finishes. Her owner holds the record for the most wins in his sport this season on the heels of capturing the Rookie of the Year title last year. TSR Mojo also struts his stuff. He boasts 16 wins in 67 starts along with 15-second place and 10 third place finishes. Although Stewart is not there for 99 percent of the races, he took in a dog race at the West Palm Beach track last November in between practice sessions for the inaugural Homestead (Fla.) race. “It was fun to watch,” he explained. “I was cheering them on to win. I was like a fan for a day.”
And the dogs are already starting to make people take notice around the kennel Club. “Oh yeah, I know about Tony Stewart Racing,” said Renee Kratovil, a trainer and part-owner of two dogs at the West Palm Beach club during a matinee race in mid-July. “They are doing really well. For instance, Mojo is a maniac. He will pull out front every time. He's good.” Although she recognized the name Tony Stewart, she admitted she didn't know much about him, except that he raced cars. “I am keyed into greyhound racing,” she said as her eyes drifted toward the dirt track.
Vinnie Jones, Greyhound Owner & UK Actor
Whether it's the dogs or the horses, Vinnie Jones loves getting down to the track - especially now that he's an owner. BBC Sport Online's Charlie Henderson caught up with him to speak about his passion for racing.
Many footballers have trouble coming to terms with life out of the limelight once they leave the professional game.
Vinnie Jones has successfully filled that void with a critically acclaimed step into the acting world and a burgeoning film career.
However, perhaps more significantly, he has found a sporting passion which more than sates his competitive appetite.
Jones has been interested in greyhound racing from a tender age but now he has doubled up and added horses to his portfolio of professional sporting interests.
"I was into greyhounds at 10 or 11-years-old," Jones explains.
Jones has enjoyed the dogs since the mid-70s
"Family friends had a lot of dogs and we went to Wembley, Walthamstow, all over really, so it has always been there."
Jones famously introduced Brad Pitt to 'the dogs' when the pair were filming Snatch, Guy Ritchie's follow up to Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
However, since then Jones has stepped up his interest and, after being a regular punter, he now owns "quite a collection" of greyhounds.
"In the last few years I've started buying my own dogs and I've got about 20 now.
"Some are down in Hove with Derek Knight, others are with Gary Banks at Walthamstow - they're all over the place."
Jones enjoyed his greatest success to date when one of his dogs came home fourth in the dog derby.
"It was the first time I've ever entered and from 143 runners to get into the last six is awesome."
But Jones, as his career suggests, is not happy achieving success in just one field and has recently added another string to his bow.
"I know more about dogs than I do horses but I've got a growing interest now that I've got my own horse - Sixty Seconds."
There is a "buzz" when the stalls open
Jason Weaver rode Sixty Seconds into second on its first outing before Frankie Dettori gave his friend a taste of the winners enclosure.
Due to a tight filming schedule on the his latest film, The Mean Machine, Jones had to watch the horse's latest outing in his trailer on set.
Sadly, after coming first at Leicester, Sixty Seconds finished outside the places on the first day of the Newmarket Guineas meeting.
But Jones remains upbeat about the John Gosden trained horse and still dreams that it will race in the Derby.
"When the traps or stalls open up the buzz is amazing and in the big races I'm terrible - I can't eat and my partner John Ward's the same.
"We're like a pair of teenagers, but then again that's why you're in it - it's all about winning."
Jones suffered the same feelings prior to football matches, but that is where the similarities end.
"In football you could do something about it, but with a dog or a horse it's different, you're helpless.
"There's more adrenaline in football and if you're not running around enough or getting the tackles in you can change that.
"With Sixty Seconds we got a second and a first, yet third time out, when we're odds on favourite, he just ran against the waves.
Jones has his eye on more sporting glory
"We hit a brick wall and Frankie got off not knowing what had gone wrong.
"But what people forget is that horses and dogs are just the same as humans - they have their off days."
To emphasise the point Jones recalls his playing days with Wimbledon.
"I went out in the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and I had no legs. After all the preparations there was nothing in the tank."
Defeat at Highbury in 1997 curtailed any hopes Jones had of adding another footballing medal to the one he picked up with the Crazy Gang in their memorable FA Cup win over Liverpool in 1988.
But now he has his eye on more sporting silverware and a double of types.
"It would be thrilling to line up in the derby with my horse and to win the derby with both dogs and horses really would be something."
Ken Strawbridge, Greyhound Owner
The first time I ever saw a Greyhound, I didn't know what it was. I was being "introduced" to the US Army at Ft. Riley, Kansas. I formed my lasting impression of summer in Kansas then; it's either 106 degrees F or it's raining on you. Anyway, the Army gave us a 3 day weekend over the 4th of July and allowed us to leave the post. I chose to go over to Abilene, KS because it was the only town I'd ever heard of anywhere near Ft. Riley. I stayed in the "Super 8" motel and became reacquainted with things I had forgotten about. Air conditioning, meals that I didn't have to stand in line for, a bathtub; you know, things that don't exist in the Army. So I was driving around Abilene and I saw all these strange looking animals. They were definitely farm animals being raised on farms. Just laying there out in pens enjoying the sun, or the shade, as it pleased their fancy. What were these creatures? I didn't know. They kind of looked like deer, but I couldn't place 'em. This 'disturbed' me, but I was too proud to ask - My father was a displaced Illinois corn farmer and I grew up in rural Illinois. I was embarrassed that I didn't know a farm animal. Oh well, back to the Army. 20 years later, they opened Greyhound tracks in Wisconsin. I was working in our Illinois backyard and came up with an idea. I ask my wife if she would like to go see a Greyhound race. We drove up to Geneva Lakes. I walked in, bought a program, found a racer named "Flying Speed", liked the name, bet $2 to win on him, and collected $18.60. We had a nice lunch, then went down by trackside. I was just fascinated by the way the Greyhounds' eyes were riveted on the lure and their athletic ability. Twelve years latter, the wife has left and taken our pet Greyhounds with her. I'll be at Geneva Lakes tomorrow afternoon. Two of my Greyhounds will be running. It will be a magnificent Wisconsin September afternoon. There is no place I'd rather be on this Earth than to be at Geneva Lakes watching those pups run.
Donna Moore, Kennel Owner
We began with 1 dog in 1994 and have taken the theory.... that greyhounds are like potato chips, you can't have just one.... to the ultimate extreme. Now we have a racing kennel and farm.
In the kennel:
- Biggest Hambone (other than Ripley)...MC Hurrycain
- Turnout Pen Enforcer....Talentedmrripley
- Biggest Troublemaker....Ellen Ripley
- Likes to be Bossy.....JNB Keeper, Rancho Foxy
- Biggest Love.....Jolly Mon Sing
- Noisiest.....JNB OK Morgan, Robpeterpaypaul
- Quietest.....Lynnie the Pooh and Trubee
- Biggest Smiler....Perpetual Smiler
- Biggest Kisser....Any Frosty River pup
My personal favorites: Tempo Cyrix, JNB Littledipper, Switzler Onyx. I have the official title of Business Manager spelled "gofer". I do make sure everyone gets paid which puts me at the top of the pecking order. I also do the bloodline research and decide who gets bred to who which can put me on the bottom of the pecking order even faster. I've worked at a lot of different jobs in my life; started out as a Admin Specialist for the US Army in Okinawa, then Purchasing Agent (and later a Civil Engineering Technician) with the US Forest Service. After Reagan downsized, I spent a couple of years in college, forever remaining a junior majoring in History. I have run a Sports Collectible retail store, tried to control obnoxious people as an event Security officer, and ultimately finished up my non dog related work as a Human Resources Specialist for St. Joseph's hospital. I can honestly say I have never had as much reward as I have working with the dogs.
Charles Moore, Greyhound Breeder
I have been involved in greyhounds for over 10 years. Jim VanWinkle and I have been close since kids, and Jim and his wife have raised some excellent dogs out of Beau Liz. He's My Man to name just one. He ask my wife and I to go to Wheeling for a stakes race He's Man Man was in. That was the beginning of the disease I acquired. Jim had a friend that had a litter of Right Connection pups for sale at 6 months old and ask if we would want to be partners. Out of that litter came our first brood. Right One. It was her daughter Downtown Dolly that sold at the brood auction last fall for more than I paid for my first house. (that will probably age me) Later we bought two females from two large litters they had for sale in the Review. The rest is history. Debatella whelped Hotshot Salesman and Pooky's Rowdy whelped Deuce's wild, one week apart. My wife and I do this as therapy, after a long day on the phone and in the office we do chores and love the pups. We only live about 90 miles from Abilene, so we always try to get their for the finals.
Kate Shue, Greyhound Owner
I'm another of those people who got interested in racing through adoption. We adopted our first Greyhound five years ago. CJ was the first one I'd ever seen in the flesh, but my husband and I were both hooked instantly. We adopted the 2nd a month later. The fifth one we brought home was a littermate to the first one. By this time we had become friends with their breeders, and through them had learned that the **** I had been told by some adoption people was just **** and that racing was great. When our friends told us they were going to breed our boys' litter sister, I begged and pleaded until they agreed to sell me a pup. I didn't even care if he could run, I just wanted a black male just like his uncles. In May of '99 the puppies were born and there were 2 black males. Until tattoo time I agonized over which one I wanted, then at the last minute we decided on partnerships for both. Meanwhile, we moved 150 miles southwest to Cross Lanes. I was absolutely sure that my boys were going to be great racers and didn't want to miss a minute of the fun. Nothing like optimism, huh? I also found some new racing friends across the country, both here and in an earlier chat forum that's now defunct. The folks in both places (some are the same folks) have been wonderful to me, patiently answering my gazillion questions. The next year I joined the NGA for the first time, and in September of '00 the boys came home to Tri-State to try their paws at racing. We got lucky! Both turned out to be good. Gabe (Gotta B An Angel) couldn't sprint his way out of a paper sack and never broke his maiden, but once he graded in he found his niche in 7/16 races and was doing well until he blew a hock last July. He was a beautiful closer and a thrill to watch. He's on our couch now with his uncles and the rest of the herd. Mike (CJ's Angel Buns - named after our first Greyhound and my husband) is still at TS. His specialty is 3/8, but he holds his own in 5/16. He and his litter sisters finished 2 (Mike),3 (Wag's Angel) and 4 (Sweety's Angel) in the puppy stakes at WD last spring. He finished 4th in the WV Distance stakes in August. Since then Mike has been consistently in AA and A at TS, though he's been down with a string of injuries since early October. First an ankle, then a shoulder and now a stopper bone. I'm going through severe withdrawal not having anybody running now. While all that was going on, our house herd continued to grow. We've adopted 12 (one of whom has since died), acquired a brood brood (who we hope will become a Mama by late spring) and brought Gabe home, so there are currently 13 hounds in the living area of the house. In our basement we have an adoption kennel with a capacity of 16, and it's usually full of beautiful hounds looking for families. I'm lucky to have a husband who loves the dogs as much as I do and works his buns off with the adoption program. We're both home most of the time, so it's Greyhounds 24/7 for us. We wouldn't have it any other way!
Cyndi Napolitan, Kennel Owner
I'm from Michigan - moved to PA. Started out in 1992 with NGAP - god help me - adopting greyhounds. Yes - I never knew better - was a David Wolf fan for a few years until my eyes were opened. Took a tour around the country with my travel trailer and visited 11 greyhound farms - Hi Marena! and 19 greyhound race tracks. Woke up with a totally different attitude. Yes, I saw what greyhounds were really made for!!! AND LOVED IT! I knew my life had to be with racing greyhounds after that trip. I struggled trying to see where I could fit in. Did some volunteer lobbying with the NGA - went to a AGTOA convention - heck, I went around track management, breeders, kennel owners, etc. Just call me a groupie greyhound hangout person... Met my mentor - Robert Mackey- Cardinal Kennels. He basically gave me the courage to become a kennel owner this year and to allow myself to believe in the dogs. I owe it all to him and a lot of support from my family. Now, we will see how the kennel business goes at Dairyland. I have to honestly say - I am friends with track management, trainers, breeders and kennel owners.
Earl Peacock, Greyhound Owner
Born and raised as an army brat in 1951,I retired in Texas from the petrochem project management/construction business a few years ago and now have managed to literally, go to the dogs. About 6 years ago, my wife and I would go to Gulf to watch the dogs for some weekend entertainment. One night after the races, the boss said she wanted to go look at the dogs in adoption. The grey we met, now nicknamed No-toe’s Cleo’s, smiled at us and that was that! After being broken in by Cleo for a couple/three years at home, I thought it would be fun to have a dog to race. We’ve now got 7 track dogs; the first 3 a learning experience the hard way, three that just went to the trainer and Goodbye Guy.
Bryan Kates, Kennel Owner
I am from Dorchester, Ma, moved as a tyke to Duxbury, MA. Nice town to grow up in. I have been interested in Greyhound racing since I was in about the 7th grade. My Grandfather owned some racers, and ran them at Raynham and Taunton. I Have a BSME form Mass Maritime academy, but have stopped using the ME and just mostly have kept the BS. I have been been with one company for almost 16 years. I have transferred around and lived in Boston, NJ, So. Cal, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, UAE, and lastly(so far) west of Chicago. On the way met my wife Carola, and have two kids, Alyssa (6) and Brendan (4). Carola loves greyhounds and loves visiting the pups so that helps. Alyssa and Brendan are funny. They are a bit intimidated of the pups we don't own and are a bit bold on the ones we do own. Since Brendan sees them eye to eye he is a bit nervous. One of our pups Endless spot is a jumper so Brendan got tackled and prefers to pet him behind a gate. They are my number 1 priority and greyhounds are two followed by my job. While still single in 1989 I went to my first NGA auction with no clue other than I wanted to buy a pup and this was the best way I felt to do just that. I read those ads in Update and the review and wanted to see first hand how the pup ran before I bought it. Anyways....I really had no clue on much of anything else (should have consulted with my grandfather). Sooo....I got there and to be honest I was a bit nervous and only ended up bidding on one pup, Flying Farmer and missed out. I bid all that I had on me. 5K and he went for 7K. If I had started earlier in the process I would have surely have gotten a pup. Flying Farmer did go on and race for 3 years, running mostly A at Hollywood so he would have been a nice buy...but I had no idea on being a member of the NGA, getting a racing licence or where to even run him. I guess I could have figured it out, but that would have been while sitting there holding onto a pup, with only a rental car...I still laugh at the thought of that... Well then life came into the middle of my greyhound dream, Marriage, overseas transfer, little ones and so on. Fast forward to April 2000 auction. Before the auction I got my NGA membership, contacted a kennel and had some cash. I bought a pup named Rooftop Sonny. He has had a good career and he will be coming home with us when he is done racing. There were some bumps in the road, but it has all turned out nicely. Like Donna said in hers greyhound ownership is like potato chips....I have now 17 pups in full ownership or in partners. All this in not quite two years...So far the best buys have come from the auction (my original theory). My first full litter looks like not a single one of the 4 are going to make a track. This has been a great experience and I have met mostly super nice people who are willing to help.
Vera Filipelli, Track Employee
My father used to play the horses at Wheeling Downs before it was converted into a greyhound track. Once the dogs came he was hooked and took me there. I was a single mother when I went to work at the track as they were the only place hiring in the area at that time. My brother and I both were hired. He moved on and is now a retired Black Hawk pilot from the Army. I started as a leadout and from the moment I touched a greyhound I have not been able to get them out of my blood. I have worked at four different tracks and was involved in the openings at Tri-State and Dairyland. I worked in all areas of racing and also trained a kennel for a while. Now in the Marketing and Publicity arena, I really have a chance to showcase greyhounds and give them the attention they deserve. I am very fortunate that I have made so many contacts over the years that are invaluable to my job. It does help being at the most established track in America, with trainers that have a combined experience level of over 500 years. I am also very active with our local Greyhound Pets of America and have seen greyhound adoption come so far in the past 20 years. This is a greyt sport and my goal is to keep on promoting our champions and the responsible people involved in the industry for as long as I am able to do so. Here's to many more years of enjoying our sport.-
Robert Van Matre III, Greyhound Owner
I was born in Pensacola , Florida, but was raised in Jacksonville,Fl. Spent 8 years in the Air Force and then went to work for the Government I retired from there 5 years ago in 2002. I am married and had three children and now have 4 grandchildren and love them all.... I always went to the races here in Jacksonville and always wanted to own a few pups and watch them run. First set back I had to have 4 bypasses done and that slowed done the effort somewhat. Then I found Global Greyhounds and asked a few question on who was the best and things of that nature. I made up my mine to go with Mr. Cary Alsobrook of Charter Kennels. I bought 4 dogs that day and they should be at the tracks Apr May time frame. The first is out of Oshkosh Hightech x Polynice and it is a male three others out of Oshkosh USA x Greys Time Frame and all of them are females. I also took an option on several other pups with Mr. Cary and had to call him and tell him I would not be able to get them for my wife started having heart problems and I knew what that cost would be so had to back out and lose what I had in them. Then Mr. Cary and I was talking and he let some of the funds go towards an auction group so I got in on 6 pups that are racing at DL right now and he applied the rest to one of my pups. What can you say about someone that would do that for you. So instead of being out the money I got pups what a fine man. I have now gone ahead and bought two other dogs from Mr. Cary Alsobrook so I have 6 Fall Auction 2001 pups and 6 of my very own. All this I owe to Charter. So thanks to them. I just got my first commission check and that makes it real now. Love reading and seeing what everyone has to say on GlobalGreyhounds.com.
Mark Adams, Mesa Greyhounds
I saw my first Greyhound when I went to pick up a date from her home. She got the dogs in a divorce. I thought they were pretty cool.
About 2 months later I was in Missouri buying some horses and saw 2 HUGE fawn Greyhounds chasing some stray dogs and coyotes out of a pasture of colts. Those 2 were magnificent and I was duly impressed. I got started in the business about 20 years ago. My first dogs were pups I bought from 3 NGA Board members, 2 in Texas and 1 in Florida. None of those pups ever made the track. I got hosed big time. I swore then I'd do my best to insure that anyone buying from me would get a fair deal. I've always done my best to live up to that. About 12 years ago I started writing for the Greyhound Update. We did the All World awards, etc. back in those days. Two years later my tenure at the Greyhound Review for the NGA began as I took over the South Florida Scene column. I'm the one that coined the HOT HOT HOT feature that was so hot hot hot in the Review for many years.
My specialty in the business is breeding. I pride myself on the tremendous number of stakes dogs I've bred (see Nov 2002 Review, left page of my ad for list).
Jason Johnston, Greyhound Breeder
I basically married into the business. I have been involved in this industry for about 5 years now. I knew of greyhound racing but had never seen a live race until I met my wife and her family. Paul Hennigan, my father in law, has been in the greyhound industry for about 30 years or so. While dating I would go out and play with the pups and help out a little. Before long Paul had me leading, feeding, and helping with some of the training. Needless to say I got more and more interested in the greyhounds and their traits, characteristics, and bloodlines. It kind of developed from there. I bought my first pup from a guy Paul was in partnership with and I guess the rest is history.
Don Conaster, Greyhound Trainer
I joined the Air Force in 1954, in Jan 1958 I went to England for a year tour after doing a 2 1/2 year tour in Tripoli, Libya at Wheelus AF Base. In England I was stationed at Chicksands RAF station. One day this friend of mine named Tom Fox suggested we go to the dog races. At the time I had no idea what dog races were all about but I was always up for anything new so I said OK. We went to a small "flapping" track called Henlow Camp. All betting was with bookies. The first dog I bet on, a dog named "The Lone Ranger", won and that was the night that my career was launched!!! I got out of the Air Force after a 10 year stint, and went right to St. Pete and worked for Sonny Alderson. That was in Dec 1963. We went to Denver and ran at Mile High the Summer of 64. At the end of the meet I took on a trainers job with Lou Tandy's Thunderbird Kennel. To make a long story short, I have done it all, raised dogs, trained dogs, been a kennel owner, and actually bought my first puppy in 1959 while still in the Air Force. Here I am now at the end of my career, training dogs for the Rick Bartley kennel up in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Old enough to retire and too hard headed to do so!! Two years ago I had a mini-stroke one Sunday morning in the kennel then Cancer took a run at me but prostrate surgery got rid of that nasty little devil. Never know what is next, but as long as the dogs are running in Iowa and I am capable of going to work 7 days a week, I reckon I will refuse to retire. Heck I won't be 66 until May. Old enough to retire, too young to get married!!
Steve Schlachter, Greyhound Breeder
I spent my first 17 yrs in a Northwest Missouri town of 600 people on a farm. When I was #3 on the local county DRAFT list, I joined the Navy. During screening, they informed me I qualified for the Nuclear Submarine Service, but I had to complete some skill training in order to get into the submarine service. In New London, Connecticut they had one of the tests I had to complete, which was, do a free ascent from 50 ft. below the water to the surface without any breathing equipment, just a life vest on. RIGHT, I said to the instructor, do you know I am from Missouri and "you have to show me"?? They did, so I had to do it. This tower of water was 50 feet deep and they had a compression chamber at 50 feet and you equalized with the pressure of the water on the outside and then just stepped out and go to the surface, making sure you blew the air out as you accelerated to the surface due to the life vest. As you all know, the air in your lungs at 50 ft. is twice the amount you need to get to the surface. What did I get myself into??? I made it and retired after 22 years, but my point in telling this story is just like the greyhound business that followed later. You must work hard and believe in what you do. After my 22 years in the service, I retired a second time from Northeast Utilities after 18 years of service operating a power plant. Plainfield Greyhound Park opened in 1976 and I went to my first greyhound race opening night in January. I saw dogs like Blazing Red, Tell Jimmy, Irish Cadilliac, Flying River, Dereks Cadilliac and many others during that era. I raised my first litter of pups out of "The Headliner,Imp.", who was standing at Dale Chamberlian's farm along with Westy Whizzer in his later years. I was hooked and to this day I am still looking for my first derby win. I had 2 greyhounds that I bred exclusively early in the business "Shadytex" (Grandmaster X Dortex), purchased from George Fulton when she was at Hollywood and "Precept" (Dillard X Abella) purchased from Kieth Dillion when she was at Southland. I am now fully retired and raise 1-2 litters a year here in Connecticut on my farm to keep myself busy and still trying to get that "Mr. Ripley".
Mark Spahos, Greyhound Owner
Went to Dairyland back when it was packed in the early 90's. Had no idea what dog racing was all about. Bet a $2 superfecta because superfecta sounded like a cool bet. I went outside to watch the hounds up close and the apron was packed with excited people. A dog named Moon Rocket won the race and the other dogs came in perfect order. I went to the teller and told her I thought I won. She laughed and paid me 400 big ones. My betting has gone down hill ever since.
Kelly Clark, Track Employee
I started out as a lead out at Bluffs Run because my Friend, and Current racing sect. at Bluffs, Mark Pendgraft, got a job and said it was easy money. I was going to college and the job worked out perfectly with my schedule, the cash was good too. After i graduated i realize that I was happy doing what I was doing and that I didn't need another job. 13 years and 4 tracks later i have done every job in the racing department and now I am on to a new adventure with the internet and trying to bring information with technology to a new breed of fan and gambler. Even after all this I still feel in aw as a watch a greyhound run full tilt and still keep there wits about them throughout the race. If i had a choice give me the big hearted ones over the front or nothing specialists.
What does racing mean to you?
What feelings do you get when you watch your dogs race? These questions were asked of some racing greyhound owners and this is what one of them had to say:
Hoo boy! What feelings do I get? Before a race - stark fear. When my boys race I think I must feel like a mother whose son plays football. I know odds are against them getting hurt, but the chance is still there. I love them, so I don't want them to get hurt. But I also love them enough to let them take that fairly small risk doing what they love.
During a race - excitement. And pride when they run reasonably well. When the boys were still babies I looked forward to the thrill of watching my own dogs race. When it finally happened it lived up to all my expectations and then some. And a couple of times I've watched a race with strangers nearby, hearing them pull for one or the other of my boys because they had bet on him. Then when he won, I couldn't keep myself from grinning at them and saying "That's MY dog!" Hey, dem braggin' rights is more fun than money!
After a race, if I get to pick my boys up - the feeling is just love for my little beasties. They're always glad to see me and walking them out after a race is often the only one-to-one time we get. If he ran well, I tell him how proud I am of him. If he didn't, I remind him that I love him no matter how he runs.
But I love to watch any race, whether my boys are running or not. I'm still in awe of the thunder those little bitty feet can make. And I'd almost swear I can hear them hollering YIPPEE!!! as they fly past me intent on those two bunnies. Yes, in politically incorrect WV we still use stuffed toy bunnies instead of bones. Spunky and Sparky. Whoever heard of naming a bone?
I love the way some of them come back with their lead outs after a race, heads down, tongues hanging out, until they see the familiar face waiting to take them to the wash room, and then they perk up again and the tails start wagging. And I love even more those few that prance off the track, ready to go do it again. I love the excitement of the dogs going to weigh in. Most of them know where they're going and why, and they can't wait to get started. But there are always a few new pups that have to stop and sniff every blade of grass along the way and get everybody all tangled up. And I love the sound of 8 dogs barking in the starting box. It's such a happy bark!
I love watching people at the races. Trainers, owners and bettors usually seem to have their own sets of superstitions. I have a few of my own. But it really tickles me to see some little old lady decide to bet on #4 because he "tinkled" in the post parade, then go to the pay window after the race.
One of my favorite things is watching puppies learn a little more with each race. But maybe my most favorite thing is watching a closer in a distance race. I don't like box to wire wins (unless my dog wins). A closer that keeps digging in after a slow break until he has picked off all the competition can put a lump in my throat. That's a dog with speed AND heart.
What else does racing encompass? The thing I most often notice is the friendship and cooperation between most breeders and most kennels/trainers. They're there, first and foremost, to beat each other and win. That's their business and their job. But they'll almost invariably help each other when the need arises. The love they share for the dogs is a pretty strong bond. If they were only in it for the money, as is so often accused, you wouldn't see trainers picking up other kennels' dogs after races when somebody got detained, and you wouldn't see everything from kibble to dog trucks being loaned back and forth between kennels.
-Kate Shue, Greyhound owner