Twenty years ago as a hobby owner working and living in Sydney, Gary Pettersen made the decision to head out of town and to start training greyhounds himself. He had owned a couple of greyhounds over the previous five years with mixed success and thought that he should give training ago too. Like very few, the first dog he trained was an instant success, winning lots of races around northern NSW. Single Lord was a quality greyhound showing Gary that the thrill of owning a winner was greatly increased when you trained it as well. “He was a wonderful dog for my first fore-ray into training. I kept thinking, how easy is this!” Gary said. Like most, it would be sometime before Gary’s next champion came along.
Fast forward twenty continuos years in the industry and Gary has the potential staying superstar Starliner (Pure Octane – Borgata) engaged in this Thursday nights final of the Group 3 Big Dog Cup at Albion Park. With close to $50,000 in prizemoney so far, a Starliner victory in the Group 3 final would be Pettersen’s biggest success in greyhound racing so far.
Making the success of Starliner even more rewarding is that he is a real home bred dog that Pettersen bred himself. Starliner was whelped in October 2010, the first litter of the Pettersen owned and raced Borgata. He wasn’t the stand out in the litter and of the three dogs born Pettersen kept only him with the two others sold as pups. ‘I kept two of the bitches and him. He was pure white as a pup. One of the bitches broke in faster than him but unfortunately she didn’t chase. She won first up at Albion Park sight unseen and could have been anything.’ Gary said of a bitch called Starline Stella. ‘I bred and raced the mum Borgata (Whisky Assassin – Starliner Sal) and she showed enough promise and deserved a litter. Starliner is the result of that litter.’
Borgata raced with ability in Northern NSW winning 10 races from 67 starts. She was also placed in another 25 winning about $12,000 in prizemoney. Not bad for a northern rivers dog. Pettersen had bred and raced Borgata’s mum too – Starline Sal (Exceptional – Tears Of Sal). Like Borgata, Starline Sal raced only around the northern rivers. From 30 starts she won only 2 but Pettersen took the risk and decided to breed a litter. There was something that he saw in her that he liked. She had only the one litter and Borgata was the best.
From 35 starts so far Starliner has won 18 and been placed in 11 more. He has only ever raced at Lismore and Albion Park and since stepping up to the 600m journey he has been outstanding. At Lismore his record is 3 from 3 all in best of night. At Albion Park his 600m record is 13 starts for 8 wins and 5 placings. ‘He really is a dream dog. I’m so lucky to have him and I can’t speak highly enough of people who have helped me out over the years with advice” Gary said. ‘Trainers like Ron Ball and Tony Brett have been sensational and they are always congratulating me whenever he wins a race. They are genuinely happy for me and the dog doing well.’
It hasn’t been smooth sailing and the past twenty years have been tough for a number of reasons. ‘With the rain we have had at home at Woodburn, there have been times that the kennels under the house have flooded. I haven’t been able to gallop the dogs for weeks at a time. The dog beds are 8 inches off the floor and the rain water has come up 6. I can’t thank the help and support of my friend Neville Robinson enough. He helped keep the dogs dry, helped with their training, and provided the use of his straight track whenever I needed. He has been wonderful’ said Gary.
“When I started training myself I was after a city dog. One you could take to Albion Park to compete against the big guns” he said. With Starliner he is the big gun and the others are competing with him. Future plans for Starliner include stepping him up over the longer staying journey and heading to the upcoming 710m group races at Albion Park. Melbourne will probably call after that. ‘I have no doubt he will run the distance, he is such a clean winded dog. At Lismore he breaks 30 seconds every time which is usually the sign that they will stay’ said Gary.
Thursday nights Group 3 final looks set to be an open race with all finalists deserving of winning the event. For Gary and Starliner perhaps they are deserving just a little more.
Gr. 3 BIG DOG CUP FINAL
Albion Park 600m – Race 8 at 9.08pm local time.
Prize Money: 1st $25,000 2nd $6,500 3rd $3,500 4th $500
Box 1 – HONEY BOUQUET……….. JOHN CONLON
Box 2 – STARLINER………………….GARY PETTERSEN
Box 3 – BOGIE DAWN…………………ROBERT GILTINAN
Box 4 – CAKES AND PIES…………RON BALL
Box 5 – WITHCOTT WIZARD…….ROBERT GILTINAN
Box 6 – METZ MAGIC………………..RON BALL
Box 7 – IRMA BALE……………………GRAEME BATE
Box 8 – AMADEUS STRIKES…….TONY BRETT
Box 9 – EUROA KATERINA……….RICK KUHL
Box 10 – RAGING ISA………………….TONY ZAMMIT