WHEN I was a teenager my father decided to purchase a greyhound pup. It was our first foray into owning a racing animal and we duly trekked out to western Sydney and bought a six-weeks old black dog by Milimsimbi out of Spring Rev. I was given the task of naming him after he’d broken in, with a good report I might add.
I had just finished reading Joseph Heller’s funny anti-war novel Catch 22, so decided to name our future racetrack star after the hero of the book, Yossarian.
Sadly, a few weeks later the breakers rang to announce that Yossarian had done himself a nasty injury and might not make the track. We gave him away to a couple who said they wanted to see if they could patch him up and maybe get him to the track.
Some months later we were told Yossarian was unable to get around a bend, but was fine up the straight.
In those days, the only straight track in NSW was at Wyong.
So Yossarian had his first start over 300m at Wyong in late 1975 and was beaten half a head into second place. He was third and fourth at his next two starts, but then broke through for a half-head victory at start number four.
A few days later my father and I received a framed colour picture of the win and a cheque for half the prize money.
I recount this story for two reasons. The first is the people to whom we had given Yossarian were under no obligation whatsoever to send any prize money, or a picture of any wins, to us. That they did so simply highlights to my mind the kind of generous and largely unselfish people who make up the greyhound racing community.
After all, although Yossarian had earned prize money at three of his four starts, the amounts would probably have only just covered his feed bill.
My second reason for writing about this story is due to a comment made by local trainer Jason Caley on this website in response to another article posted here.
Jason wrote, ‘I do have an issue with the authorities in each State not providing straight track racing in each and every state that is TAB class (aside from Victoria) but that in my view would prolong many chasers’ careers and provide a more consistent product to punters, owners and admirers alike as we have addressed in the past. Circle tracks with at least one TAB class straight track option in all Australian states would in my view be a great outcome for the dogs.’
Given that Yossarian would hardly have been Robinson Crusoe when it comes to not being able to negotiate a bend very well, or at least in a properly competitive sense, I can only agree with Jason.
Victoria has the Healesville straight track, and as a punter who invests exclusively on Melbourne greyhounds, I can assure readers the form out of that straight track is well worth taking close heed of, just as it used to be when the likes of Wyong and Appin were operational in NSW.
Additionally, straight track racing should allow a lot more greyhounds to have longer racing careers, as long as track management schedule one or two events for older animals per meeting. Of course, straight track racing is also extremely useful in the education of younger chasers, so it is arguably a positive at both ends of the career spectrum.
Since I first put this article together I notice that elsewhere on this website, in response to another piece, the straight track view is also supported by commenters such as lonewidow, Bob Whitelaw and dogem53.
So there is a clear groundswell of support for straight racing among people who appear to have far greater knowledge than this writer when it comes to the mechanics of the racing greyhound, and I thank them all for their valuable input.