Punters might have thought it was the dogs standing on top of the victory dais at Addington that heralded a new wave of stars from the Fahey team. But really it was the pups that Dave Fahey found standing on top of their flooded kennels the following morning that signal the best is yet to come from Canterbury’s million-dollar man.
Dave and Jean Fahey owned a rain-sodden Addington last Wednesday night, when in little more than an hour debuting youngsters Winsome Merc, Sensative Harry, Doubleo Tom and the champ-in-waiting, Johnny Midnight, gapped their rivals with supersonic wins.
It was just a peep into the future, however, for the husband-and-wife team which dominated greyhound racing this year, bagging virtually every feature race in an unprecedented winning spree that all but topped $1 million in stakes.
What racegoers didn’t see was the rescue mission Dave Fahey mounted at 4.30 the next morning, in storm-ravaged Sefton.
Just 5km from his training base, the new 16ha property being developed by his main owners, Opawa Racing, was in flood, and with it the first of a new nursery of racing pups in danger of being swept away.
“I think we’ve lost one pup, but we got the others out they were standing on top of their kennels waiting to be rescued,” Fahey said.
The Opawa Racing operation, which has virtually turned Fahey from a part-time hobby trainer into a full-time headliner in the past five years, is set to go into overdrive in the new season.
Robin Wales, Graeme Campbell and Ron Todd, best mates since they left school to work in a bank, already own almost half of the Fahey dogs under the Opawa Racing banner.
But, instead of just buying the best from Australia, as they’ve done so successfully since 2004, they are now breeding their own, from a 10-strong band of bitches, whom punters once cheered home as Winsome this and Winsome that.
About 100 pups a year will be whelped and broken in at their new base, where they’re building kennels “and I’ll get the pick of them”, says Fahey.
There’ll be litters from Winsome Gem, Winsome Secret and eventually from NZ Cup winner Winsome Daisy, who was retired last week, the country’s highest ever stake winner with $141,914 in stakes.
Fahey unleashed the first of a phalanx of regally bred youngsters at Addington last Wednesday in Super Jazz, the most precocious of the first litter from 14-race winner Jupiter Jazz, the original dog Opawa gave Fahey to train.
“We’ve had only the one litter so far but there’ll be another four or five litters coming through in the next couple of months.”
Fahey is adamant he’ll keep his team to a ceiling of 30, even when the new talent stream comes online.
“If you have more than 30, it’s too hard to do it properly,” says Fahey, who is helped only by his wife, plus one fulltimer and one part-timer.
The culling Fahey already employs will become even harsher as he moves on older dogs to concentrate on age group races like the derbies and oaks.
Even punters’ friends like $90,000 earner Fanta Claws will be struggling to keep their places in the boutique kennel.
So strong is his team, Fahey expects to line up a dozen dogs in qualifying heats for the $250,000 Platinum Paws at Addington in October.
And it’s not just established stars like Winsome Ashley, McCracken and Miss Koonawarra who will head that line-up.
Fahey is already ranking new-kid-on-the-block Johnny Midnight up with that trio, not surprised by his 16-length, 15-length and 18-length demolitions in his only three starts.
Fahey knew he had something special when the dog ran 29.88 when qualifying over 520m.
“Winsome Ashley had run 30.20 but his time was unheard-of and it was the first he’d been that far.”
But Fahey was forced to ease up on the dog when he pulled up sore, troubled by a shoulder joint.
Fahey prides himself on being able to detect and treat injuries before they get worse, spending two-thirds of his time meticulously checking over his team.
“Anyone can get a good dog, but the art is in keeping it there.”
Most of his team are treated regularly with ultrasound and laser machines.
More recently Johnny Midnight has been troubled by a corn and it was still niggling at him when he clocked 29.84 last week, the third-fastest 520m time run at Addington, and the fastest mid-section on record.
“He’s been feeling it a bit at the end of his races and he was lame walking off the track on Wednesday, but the next morning he was fine. It’s just about right.”
Fahey is confident Johnny Midnight will break the record eventually “he’s still a bit overweight too”.
But Fahey warned punters not to ditch this season’s quadruple group one winner Winsome Ashley because of her recent form slump.
Winsome Ashley made a comeback after tearing stomach muscles only to injure a shoulder joint last start.
“But she’s fine now and will be back galloping next week and racing by the end of the month.”
Courtesy : Sunday Star Times