Aspiring young Allansford trainer Sam Grant never fulfilled his greyhound racing dreams.
Sam’s life was tragically cut short when his car and a freight train, on its way to Warrnambool, collided at a railway crossing on March 19, 2013. He was only 22.
But the tragic event has never been forgotten by the Warrnambool GRC which will honour the memory of Sam’s short life with the Sam ‘Barbie’ Grant Memorial (450m) on Thursday night. Incidentally, it would have been Sam’s 30th birthday.
Warrnambool training stalwart Debbie Goudge, 59, has Nimble Blaze engaged in the $3250-to-the-winner final and the night will tug at the heartstrings for her in more ways than one.
“Sam was larger than life… And he loved his dogs,” Debbie said. “He had an infectious personality and was full of confidence.”
Debbie recalls a funny incident – well, not amusing to stewards – when the exuberance of youth came to the fore after Sam won a race.
“He was a young fella starting off in the sport and his winning greyhound had to be swabbed. And there he was, waiting outside the kennels, chatting away on his mobile phone.”
And Debbie also sadly remembers the heartbreaking incident that claimed Sam’s life.
“It was early morning, and the sun must have been in his eyes… I’d say he didn’t hear or see the train. It was a freak accident and an absolute tragedy.”
Debbie says the night will hold added poignance if giveaway greyhound Nimble Blaze (Aug ’18 Mepunga Blazer x Mepunga Rosie) – owned by her mum, Maureen – wins the Memorial.
A respite support worker at ‘Getaway House’, assisting disabled children, for the past eight years, Debbie says “it would be a proud moment”.
“I can get very emotional,” she said, choking back tears. “It would be an amazing feeling winning it in Sam’s honour, and also for my dad.”
Debbie, who literally grew up with greyhounds, took over training duties from her father, Peter Bloom, 82, around 12 years ago.
“Dad is suffering from dementia, but I still regularly go down to Lyndoch aged care and tell him about the dogs.”
Nimble Blaze was given to Debbie by good friend and legendary Mepunga East breeder Barry Smith.
“He broke a bone in a foot at his first start and spent three months on the sidelines,” Debbie said. “But in that time off, he’s really matured. He’s improving all the time.”
Nimble Blaze won a Maiden by 7.6L at Warrnambool on November 5 and followed up with a second placing in a heat of the Memorial last week.
“I think he’ll be a stayer, but last week showed he can mix it with the best in his grade,” Debbie said. “And I reckon box seven will really suit him in the final.”
The Sam ‘Barbie’ Grant Memorial is Race 5 at 7.31pm.