Greyhound racing suffers more than its fair share of negative criticism; however when a story comes along that involves devastating heartbreak with greyhounds the cause for a happy ending; it makes us all appreciate how lucky we are to reap the numerous rewards from this fantastic sport.
Holmesville greyhound enthusiast Warren ‘Hank’ Pearce was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident back in 2011, with wife Jennifer, left to raise their 9 beautiful babies by Elite State out of Fernando, who were just 4 weeks old at the time.
Hunter Valley training duo Robert and Natina Howard purchased one of the pups with daughter Jorja, having chosen a black bitch that is now known as Zipper. An imposing winner of 8 races from 15 starts including 4 minor placing’s, the 26kg pocket rocket has notched up some impressive personal bests around the one and two turn circuits including; a blistering 25.09 at Muswellbrook (429m) (track record 24.72), 22.85 (400m Unitbet Gardens) and 30.16 (515m Unibet Gardens).Trainer Natina, is elated with how well her charge is going for the Pearce family, who have been through so much in recent times.
‘Her early speed is unbelievable. Unfortunately she’s had so many injuries and is just coming back from a few that put her out for a while. It’s fantastic to see how well she is going for Hank. We wouldn’t be here today without the Pearce family’, said an emotional Howard, who now trains Zipper’s fittingly named brother; Not Quite Hank.
‘Not Quite Hank was sent away to get broken in and did have some problems along the way. The trainers at the time couldn’t get her going, so we offered to take her and every time I put her in the boxes I think of Hank. It’s very emotional and amazing when she wins because she has plenty of ability that Hank would be proud of’.
A winner of three races from just 10 starts, the 24kg lightweight is truly electric at box rise and continues to improve with every start, much to the delight of her trainers and owner; John Philp, who is a close friend and neighbour of the Pearce family.
‘John and his wife are terrific people. It’s great she is starting to fire for them. Obviously what happened was a tragedy but it’s beautiful to see what has transpired. We know his looking down on all of us with a smile’.
Natina’s husband Robert, who was forced to retire from his full time occupation after a hampering back injury, now looks to greyhounds as his saviours, as Natina explains:
‘The doctor told Rob to get a hobby because he couldn’t work anymore, so we decided to get back into training. They are like our babies and always give us something to look forward to when we get up in the morning. We would be lost without them.’
Robert and Natina left the sport for 10 years after the birth of their children and have returned in stunning fashion, rapidly making their mark around the popular Hunter Valley circuits. The adoring duo experienced a memorable day at Muswellbrook last Sunday, when they secured a running double with Not Quite Hank; who clocked a flying 19.41 over the 328m and Zipper recorded an equally impressive 25.32 over the 429m distance. Having a small team at their Greta property is ideal for the couple, in making sure each greyhound gets the training methods that match their personality; according to Natina.
‘The most important thing is remembering that every greyhound is different and has to be trained accordingly. I don’t believe in using the same method for every dog. You have to find out what makes each one tick’.
For two families who have been united through greyhound racing is a truly touching tale to anyone. It is inevitable there will be a few more supporters for the Howard family when their greyhounds step out onto the race track, with undeniably a proud Hank Pearce looking down on his wonderful greyhounds, who bestow talent that can only be defined as a gift from above.