My best friend reminded me recently of how, when we were in secondary school, we used to try and predict what, how and where we would be in the future. Rich, glamorous, big houses, handsome husbands, gifted children, own a greyhound …. Hold on, own a greyhound? Can’t remember that one. But it happened for me, when I entered a competition in the Irish Independent last May and won ownership of a greyhound for a year. In the process, The Family Rocks Syndicate was born, and my husband Pat, daughter Gayle, son Kris and myself are currently the proud owners of Razldazl Al. You could say that “the rest is history”, but the little beauty has done so well to date, that he is now on track for the 2014 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby in September.
Back in early June 2013, I got the news by phone from Brighid McCaul of the Irish Independent, and a week after that we met with the members of the Irish Greyhound Board at the Grandstand Restaurant, Shelbourne Park. They explained to us that greyhound trainers from all over Ireland had been invited to be a part of the competition and that several had offered dogs for us to see. The next step was for us to choose our dog, and our experience as owners would be followed and recorded through all the highs and lows of the coming year. The prize also included a party for 50 of our family and friends to come and watch our dog race (and hopefully win) at one of the many IGB Greyhound tracks around the country.
Over the coming weeks we visited the kennels of four of the top trainers in Ireland - Fraser Black in Kildare, Paul Hennessy in Kilkenny, Graham Holland in Tipperary and Dolores Ruth in Kildare. We were made very welcome by them all, and we were totally impressed by what we saw. All the dogs were superb. We were shown two dogs and two bitches, each with an outstanding pedigree. Through Barry Coleman, who accompanied us on two occasions, we learned about Greyhound Welfare which is a huge part of the industry. In between these visits we also had a smashing day at the Thurles Sales, where we watched dogs being trialed before the auction and we learned a lot about distances, times and grades.
But a decision had to be made. We were agreed that we wanted a young, unraced puppy, preferably male, from a proven line. We found him in August, at Razldazl Greyhounds, home of trainer Dolores Ruth. Razldazl Al, 16 months old and out of Makeshift and Dundooan Diva, was our number one choice. He was signed over to us at Harold’s Cross Stadium on 1st October 2013.
Al is a handsome devil, and before you say that we are prejudiced, hear this! On the night of the presentation, he was spotted on his way in to the stadium and immediately signed up to appear on the IGB Christmas Party promotional material for Christmas 2013. Throughout the party season, there he was, gracing the pages of the Irish Independent and various billboards around the city, in the arms of a beautiful girl!
All during this time our evenings were spent doing a crash course on greyhounds and greyhound racing in Ireland. We spent hours poring over copies of the Sporting Press and reading and watching trainer interviews on www.igb.ie, the website of the Irish Greyhound Board. As owners, we could also log in to watch race videos online, which we found was a great way to get the hang of things. Up until now, our experience of Greyhound Racing had been limited to a couple of visits a year with family or friends so we knew we had to up our game, and quickly! Dawn Quinn, IGB Limerick, sent us two back issues of The Irish Greyhound Review which we read from cover to cover. We learned about Razldazl Billy and Razldazl George, both Irish Greyhound Derby winners for Dolores Ruth in 2006 and 2011 respectively. We were saddened by the story of Razldazl Marilyn who was stolen from her kennel as a puppy and badly hurt by her captors in their efforts to remove her ear markings, the unique identifier of every racing dog in Ireland. Happily, Marilyn was found and nursed back to health by Dolores and she went on to have a very successful racing career before retiring recently to concentrate on producing her own little Razldazls.
But the real learning took place at the tracks. We became familiar with the names of the dogs and trainers, began to understand the importance of the trap draws, number of bends etc., and by the time Al ran his first trial (over 525 yds at Mullingar on 17 October 2013) we were confident that we had made the right choice. He ran his second trial at Harold’s Cross on 29 October over 325 yds and suddenly, graded a very respectable A7, he was ready to race. It was all up to him now!
On 12 November 2013, at Harold’s Cross Stadium and in the full glare of television cameras, we learned the hard way that champions do not always win their first race. Al was placed 4th to DaVinci Max in a 525yd race, and he didn’t fare much better in his second and third races. We were disappointed of course, but looking back now we can see that he was learning from every mistake he made. Dolores Ruth didn’t get where she is today without learning a thing or two either, and she very quickly realized that Al would do better over a longer distance. Once she made the decision to run him over 575yds he took off, and he hasn’t looked back since.
On 31st May this year we had our party at Shelbourne Park Stadium. In front of all our family and friends Razldazl Al rocketed from Trap 3 in Race 9 and led all the way to win by 3.5 lengths in a time of 31.15. It’s a night we will never forget. He is now classed AAO, the highest grade there is. He has 5 wins under his belt, 4 of them in a row!
Would we recommend Ownership? Absolutely! It’s an amazing feeling to watch your own dog race, let alone win! We are so proud of Al! He has come so far so quickly, who knows what the future holds for him?
He’s all grown up now. The other day I saw that he is being offered at 50/1 for the Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby 2014. Are we seeing a legend in the making? Watch this space ………
9th June 2014