Many of us who are passionate about the industry and enjoy the thrill of the chase as much as our loyal speedsters do could never imagine not having dogs in our lives. Unfortunately, we do not always have a choice in the matter. This was the harsh reality faced by devoted trainer Billy Brown who was forced to give up his greyhounds when confronted with a serious illness, however as a testament to his unconditional love of the sport, he fought through and has now bounced back bigger and better than ever.
The Toukley identity, has had greyhounds for as long as he can remember, growing up in Tamworth in an industry saturated family;
“I have had greyhounds since I could lead them. I got my trainers license when I was fifteen”, Brown said.
Training many country propositions in his home town, Brown had a successful career with many of his provincial dogs winning races and turning into handy chasers.
“I never had any champions, but I had some good dogs. I only used to race around the bush but had success. I used to work with Harry Sarkis breaking in his dogs and I also raced the first litter of pups out of Tenthill Doll, although she only ever had the one pup that was much good”.
Since moving down to the area from up North, Brown has worked with a small team from his central coast property with the assistance of his lovely wife Bev and niece Julie.
“When we moved down here my niece Julie moved in with us. Her mum passed away when she was young and she lived with her Nan until we moved here and she has been with us ever since”.
“She is a great help with the dogs and she handles them at the track. I had polio when I was young and now have a really bad foot so she does a lot with them”.
With everything going well for Brown, his world was turned upside down four months ago when he was rushed to hospital and required urgent surgery.
“I was crook one day and my mate came around and insisted that Julie call an ambulance to take me to hospital. I said no at first but they still rang them and the ambulance bloke said to go to hospital just in case and if there was nothing wrong they would bring me straight back”, Brown explained.
“I got to the hospital and fifteen minutes later I had a heart attack. They sent me down for an angiogram and I had to have triple bypass surgery”.
“The doctors said I would not have left the hospital if I didn’t have the operation”.
With all he knew suddenly changing, Brown was sceptical about what his future would entail. Whilst he came through the surgery well, Brown was convinced his training career was over, and subsequently gave his dogs to fellow trainers Joe McFadyen and John Crossley to train
In the meantime, Brown endeavoured on a new hobby whilst in recovery – breeding budgerigars; “I wasn’t going to get back into the dogs, I was going to let my licence expire and I got myself all set up with the budgies with the breeding boxes and everything, but after a while I realised I could only sit around and watch them fly for so long without getting giddy”, Brown chuckled.
After three months on the training sidelines, Brown was able to take his former kennel members back on and admits that having greyhounds in his life thoroughly helped with the recovery process.
“Getting back into the dogs helped me to get better because rather than sitting around watching birds or the TV I had something to do all day. They gave me a reason to get up in the morning”.
Now back in the training game for six weeks, Brown’s chasers have certainly done him proud with four starters resulting in two winners and two placings.
At his first start back for Brown, Echo Courtz saluted over the 400 metre trip at Unibet Gardens paying a massive $19.20. The son of Bo Fraizer notched up his fifth career win in a handy 23.16 seconds. The three year old chaser has raced on eleven different tracks throughout his 28 start career with the victory his first triumph at a TAB meeting.
Returning to Unibet Gardens last Saturday with three runners engaged, Brown had reason to celebrate with Kidatee Terry scoring a strong win over the 515 metre distance from box seven. The son of Bit Chilli began well and gave nothing else a chance claiming the race by one and a half lengths in 30.11 seconds. Also putting in honest performances were kennelmates He’s Kainane and Echo Courtz who both ran third in their respective races.
After everything he has been through of late, Brown was understandably elated to see his dogs perform well; “It was like winning the lottery especially with the last one (Kidatee Terry) as a few people were asking why I still had him because they didn’t think he was chasing, so he really showed them.”
“It was the biggest thrill I have had for a long time.”
With life finally starting to get back to normal for Brown and his family, he has been able to reflect back on those who have helped him, also thanking McFadyen for all he has done for him over the last few months; “He is the biggest character and is as honest as the day is long. I cannot speak highly enough of him. He is a great young trainer”.
Although he has had tremendous support from family and friends, in the end it has all come down to Brown and the dedication he has shown to himself and his dogs. After enduring a turbulent few months, Brown and his family can now enjoy life and the hobby which they adore, commenting that there is nothing else he would rather be doing.
“I love them and when it comes down to it I don’t think I could get a greater life than having my dogs”.