LAST Tuesday the greyhound racing fraternity was rocked to its core by the passing of leading Queensland trainer Peter Ruetschi following a car accident.
The 56-year-old had just trained a winner at the Ipswich greyhound track and was on his way home when tragedy struck on the Brisbane Valley Highway.
However, through sadness, the local racing community rallied together, hoping to pay tribute to their fallen comrade by racing Ruetschi’s greyhounds in his name one last time on Thursday night at Albion Park.
Speaking to Australian Racing Greyhound, fellow trainer Tony Brett reflected on his friendship with Ruetschi who he said ‘lived for his dogs’.
“When my dad passed away 16 years ago I came into the industry and I got to know Pete back then – he wasn’t anywhere near as big of a trainer in those days – he only had a few dogs, but he did a good job with them,” Brett said.
“He was always there and he was always the same person – larger than life and a great bloke to have a joke with.
“I got to know him and as he started to get some better dogs and get involved in the industry a bit more we became pretty close.
“Pete was a character – he was a great bloke but he was probably the worst loser I have ever come across.
“He hated losing and if you didn’t know him it would probably rub you the wrong way – but to those of us who knew him we knew how much he loved his dogs – they were like his kids and in his eyes they couldn’t do anything wrong.
“His dogs were his everything.”
Brett also spoke of his devastation following Tuesday’s accident, with his sadness quickly turned into hope as plans were initiated for a fitting farewell for Ruetschi.
“At first it was just a shock – it took everyone by surprise – for the first couple of days we were all walking around like zombies,” Brett said.
“It was a trip he would have done thousands of times – and it is just one of those things where it makes you realise how we all take it for granted that we are going to make it home safe.
“I saw him just before he left the track – he actually had a bit of a dig at me for getting three box 1s on Thursday night – and then 25 minutes later it was all over.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks – realising we were never going to see him again.
“It was hard to keep your focus on anything, but then the idea came about that we all really wanted to race his dogs in his name on Thursday night.
“The problem was that there was no trainer on the property where the dogs were – the other boys who helped Pete only had attendant’s licences.
“I spoke to one of them, Ken [Crawford], and agreed to take the two dogs of Lenny Antonio’s that were in – we wanted to keep them in his name and have a minute’s silence before the main race because we knew [My Awesome Magic] had a great chance and we thought it would be a great way to go out.”
What happened on Thursday night could only be described as destiny.
At just after 9pm local time, the stage was set for one of the most emotional races Albion Park has ever seen, as My Awesome Magic stepped out onto the track as the last greyhound to face the starter racing under Peter Ruetschi’s name.
Handled by Tony Brett, the black and white chaser was only fair to leave the traps and was shuffled back to second last around the first turn.
Despite gaining ground down the back, My Awesome Magic was boxed in on the fence – with all hope of a fairytale finish seeming lost.
However, swinging for home, the son of Magic Sprite and Awesome Knocka hooked to the outside, storming down the centre of the track to score, ensuring there was not a dry eye at the track in the process.
Brett, who has won countless group and feature races throughout his career, said there was a heavy weight on his shoulders leading into the event.
“There was massive pressure – as much as there is leading into any big race,” he said.
“It was the same as any race in that once we put them in the boxes it was out of our control, but I was standing behind the boxes praying ‘Lord just let this dog win’.
“He got onto the fence down the back, but the run wasn’t there and I could see Cyndie’s Magic starting to close in at the same time.
“As much as you don’t wish bad luck on anyone, she got held up at the right time, which was perfect for him, but even then he had so much to do.
“When he was still sitting so far off the leader swinging for home I thought of Pete who used to be behind the boxes screaming ‘go champion, go champion’, and I know he would have pulled the whip at the 700m boxes and he would have been yelling that all the way home.
“The win was a surreal feeling – there was no better way to tribute Pete and on top of that to have the honour of boxing the dog – it was quite special.
“Group races they are the icing on the cake for all the hard work you do – but to win this race just felt like fate – it was meant to be.”
With ‘Big Pete’ watching down from above, Brett was quick to embrace ‘Patches’ after the race, with the two sharing a special moment.
“After the race I went up to Patches I got down at his eye level and he looked at me as if to say ‘is that what I was meant to do?’ and I told him ‘good on you champion – your job is done buddy’.
“I know that’s what Pete would have wanted and he would have loved it.
“Out of the sadness, it was just a great feeling and it is a night I am never going to forget.”