Milestone marvels still celebrating

Earlier this month, trainers Sharyn Combridge and Adele Powell experienced victories over the 300m flying short course at Healesville.

Ring A Dusty (October ’20 Fully Loaded x Ringading Sister) won in 16.94sec for Combridge and Bear Lee Bandit (February ’20 Black Bear Lee x Inmate) stormed to victory in 16.57sec for Powell.

For both women, the straight track victories on the same day arrived soon after achieving magnificent milestones with kennel veterans.

Junction Village trainer Sharyn Combridge also prepares Little Nellie (January ’19 Kinda Cruel Red x Middle Trucker), who has now completed 105 race starts for 20 wins and 20 minor placings, with her last victory at start 96.

And Adele Powell’s Stanhope kennel celebrated the victory of Smart As Jack (April ’18 Moreira x Rose Magic) at start 100, which was also win number 29!

So, I thought it would be a great time to catch up with the well-respected trainers, to check in on how their fabulous veterans are and discuss what is a big part of their success, the Healesville straight.

VS: Adele, if I can start with you with Smart As Jack. He was whelped back on April 2, 2018, so he has just ticked over five years. He won his 100th start on April 30, and has now won 29 races as well as 29 minor places! How is he?

AP: He’s awesome. He’s just laid back.

VS: Now, his PB at Healesville over the 300m; 16.41sec and he’s got a great time over the 350m of 19.06sec. He has also set Murray Bridge alight over the 350m in 19.00sec. And, he has a win rate from box five of 70 per cent, he certainly loves to jump and run on the pace. As a veteran, what do you think is your key to success with Smart As Jack?

AP: He’s just an awesome dog to train, he trains himself! He’s actually been semi-retired I think for the last six months. He just picks and chooses when he gets off his bed and goes for a gallop these days!

VS: Well, he won his first start for you, back on December 12, 2019, over 450m from box five at Shepparton. I was going through the replays, and he just tore off by six lengths, and in the home straight, he had that big green loping action. What were you thinking when you saw his first victory?

AP: I was relieved! I had nominated him for the 390m, I think it was back then at Shepparton, and he didn’t get a run, so I just put him over the 450m, and I was quite relieved when I saw the big loping action coming into the straight. And, to this day he still brings it out. He still has that loping action every now and then.

VS: He certainly is a terrific dog to watch in action. Explain for our audience how big he is?

AP: Yes, he runs around about 33 kilos, but he’s a very tall dog. Very leggy dog.

VS: Yes, he certainly looks like he has a lanky action. Also, Michael Ryan (owner/breeder) loves him as well, doesn’t he?

AP: The whole Ryan family loves him. The whole Ryan family are involved with him and they love him to death. He’s got a home for life.

“He’s actually been semi-retired for the last six months. He just picks and chooses when he gets off his bed and goes for a gallop these days!”

VS: How much more racing do you think he has in the tank?

AP: I reckon he could go another six months.

VS: One question I’ve got for you, I’m a little surprised, no coursing for Smart As Jack?

AP: I don’t think Smart As Jack would be a good ‘courser’, he gets pretty worked up, he likes to stay inside, and he just gives his all for one big effort.

VS: You mentioned to me earlier that he likes to train himself. What is he like about the house?

AP: Pretty laid back, he just does what he wants, and he gets away with anything he does as well!

VS: What is his kennel name?

AP: ‘JR’.

VS: I think it suits him very, very well.

WATCH: SMART AS JACK (B8) celebrated his 100-start milestone in style at Healesville on April 30 when victorious over 300m, clocking 16.75sec to bring up his 29th career victory.

VS: Sharyn, congratulations to you with Little Nellie. She is going exceptionally well.

SC: She is going marvellously.

VS: She has just ticked over 100 starts on April 27 and won at start 96. Sharyn, prior to your acquisition of Little Nellie, she has coursed, hasn’t she?

SC: She did before I got her. I got her after four starts.

VS: Sharyn, once you picked up Little Nellie, she put two wins together, didn’t she?

SC: When she came to me, she had no form, and within a week of being here, she just owned the place, and she has done ever since.

VS: She has a PB of 16.80sec over the 300m short course at Healesville, which she has only just set as a veteran, which is fantastic to see.

SC: It is! And she is not very big, she’s 28 kilos. But she is very pretty, she’s blue fawn, and everyone just loves her wherever she goes.

VS: She is very pretty and has only just set a PB as a veteran, which is extraordinary, 16.80 over the 300m and a really smart time of 19.54 for the 350m. She has now had 20 wins and 19 minor places from 105 starts. She has a 29 per cent win rate from boxes one and six, and she also has a 27 per cent win rate from box five, which is amazing as well. What do you think has been your favourite moment with her at the track?

SC: I think every time I take her to the races is a favourite moment for me because she just tries every time. She has never faltered from day one, right until now, she is just totally, exactly the same.

VS: Both of you have some wonderful veterans in the kennel and wonderful other runners as well, but I also find it really remarkable and I think it is a great example, as to how much these veteran greyhounds love their racing. Little Nellie earlier this year won the Sportsbet Green Ticks heat over 400m at Warragul. That was a sensational victory, Sharyn.

SC: Yes, it was. She is quite strong the older she is getting. You are inclined to ease back on the distance and Healesville is just wonderful for dogs that are getting older as well. We are lucky that we have a straight track to keep old dogs going.

VS: We sure are. Were you expecting the victory at Warragul over the 400m that day?

SC: Yes I was. She was going very, very well at the time. And she loves Warragul. She has got a very good record at Warragul, she has won at The Meadows on a Saturday night, which was wonderful to see and that was from box five. So, she has done it all from hard boxes.

VS: Watching her win at Warragul earlier this year, that was start number 90, and she came home like an absolute train, which was fabulous to see. Adele, I think you would agree with Sharyn that Healesville is a very important part of a veteran’s repertoire.

AP: It certainly is. I call it a trot and canter up the hill, but they just enjoy their day out there, they love going up Healesville. Injured dogs as well, I had Samba King, he was going to be anything and he broke his hock at The Meadows, and I think he won a further 18 races at Healesville. We need a straight track; we need more than one.

SC: I agree!

WATCH: LITTLE NELLIE (B7) flashed home to claim a thrilling victory at start number 90 at Warragul over 400m  on January 5.

VS: That certainly would be terrific to see, and I know a lot of trainers are making the same comment as well. Ladies, tell me, your animals have been to the races many, many times, given their veteran status, are they still as excited when they see you hook up a trailer, or going through your preparation on race morning or early afternoon, if you are leaving for an evening meeting, are they still as excited to get to the track?

AP: Mine is!

SC: Mine is too! Absolutely.

AP: Mine knows the day before. ‘JR’ knows everything! And I reckon he can read and write!

VS: Adele, talk us through what ‘JR’ gets up to when he works out that he’s heading off to the track.

AP: He goes out to the empty out yards, he’ll dig a hole, he’ll kick up the grass, he just goes nuts, he loves it, and I don’t know how he knows, but he knows. He doesn’t ‘do’ trailers. He goes past a trailer, and he goes, ‘I don’t do trailers’ and he gets in the car. He is very particular where he sits when he goes to get in the car.

VS: And, Sharyn, Little Nellie, what does she do ahead of heading out to the track, when she has a sense of what is going on?

SC: Little Nellie is absolutely full-on. She’s not the easiest dog in the world to handle, for a little dog, and she has just been full-on right from day one. All the stewards know her, everybody knows her, they all call her ‘Come on Nell, come on Nellie’, so she is very well known amongst the ranks.

VS: She is certainly terrific to watch in action as well and to be setting a PB as an advancing veteran is just extraordinary and a great example as to how much they love their racing as well. For Little Nellie, Sharyn, what lies ahead? How much racing do you think she has left?

SC: As far as I’m concerned, she can race as long as she is capable, and as long as she wants to. You are a long time retired in this game and as long as they want to do it, they are quite entitled to do it, as far as I’m concerned. And she just loves it. I don’t think she would know what to do if she never went to the races.

VS: Adele, we have spoken before about another greyhound that is probably at the lengthier end of veteran status, that you would like to see head back to the track at about six years of age. Do you think there is any chance of that happening?

AP: Totally Know (September ’17 Oaks Road x Total Blonde). Yes. I think there is, he just works every day, he actually works my younger dogs. He just loves it. He just goes out there and doesn’t know he’s nearly six. And he just goes out every morning, he can work one or two of them, he doesn’t mind, he loves it. He gets on the walking machine; he is still in the racing kennels. I have never retired him to this day, but he does need a six-month trial. He’d love to go back to racing. I’m very close to trialling him again too.

VS: Please let us know when you do that because that would be wonderful to see. Once again, it is another great example as to how much our greyhounds love their time on the track, and love participating and engaging in activity, which is such a joy for them all as well. It is a great pleasure to watch all this unfold before you as well.

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