On a night dedicated to the ladies of the industry, the 50 Shades Of Greyhound event at Sandown Park was certainly a night to remember, and it wasn’t just the topless male waiters that made the night so memorable. Underneath all the glitz and glam of the occasion, it was impossible to forget the real reason all the ladies were decked out in pink, it was in memory of Judy Hayley.
Karen Leek’s Billy Rocket took out the main event of the night, The Judy Hayley Memorial run over the 515 metre distance. Billy Rocket jumped $2.35 favourite from box eight and after finding the lead early and taking the outside route to the finishing post, the 35 kilo fawn dog held on to win by 1.35 lengths over Lektra Brave (box seven) and Kirky Courtz (box one) in a time of 29.74.
“The win was very, very, very special because Judy was one of my very best friends.” Trainer Karen Leek explained.
“I was honoured to be there and win the race; it meant more to me then winning the Melbourne Cup. I am still on a high; I can still feel myself grinning internally.”
The $6,260 to the winner final was certainly not the Melbourne Cup; it was the sentimental value of winning the race in memory of Judy Hayley that made the occasion so special. After winning the race Billy Rocket made his way down the cat walk that had previously been graced by models who where dressed by Jimmy Bartel’s wife Nadia. As the pink crowd cheered for the extra $5,000.00 donated to the McGrath foundation because he won from the pink box, Billy Rocket was happy enough wagging his tired tail as Karen Leek made a heartfelt speech.
“It was just amazing, I have not had a reception like I had on Thursday night since the 80’s when everyone used to love it when their friends would win a race. Now it can be a bit competitive.”
“I have had so many congratulations from people on Facebook, text messages, people ringing me as well as people coming up to me on Thursday night, it was just fantastic!”
Karen and Judy had been friends for many years, meeting each other while organising to put a stud dog over a brood bitch. The connection was instant as they joked about having to drive the stud dog over to serve the bitch.
“I have worked out that I have known Judy for over 30 years; we met through her having a stud dog and a friend of mine having a bitch that needed to be served.
“Judy was just a fun loving girl. She was about 65 when she died, but Judy didn’t know she was that old, she was very active playing netball. Judy loved life; everyone that met her loved her.”
Leek was involved with two greyhounds that made it through to the Lady trainer only final, winner Billy Rocket and West On Knight, trained by Linda Britton. West On Knight had been in the care of Leek leading up to winning her heat and into the final where she unfortunately had to scratch.
“I was upset that I had to scratch West On Knight, because I knew how much Linda wanted to have a dog running in Judy’s race.”
“Billy Rocket was the only dog of mine I had that was able to run the 500; I always hoped to be able to take him down for Judy’s race.”
Billy Rocket, named Rex by Leek’s nephew Billy, is also a special story in itself.
“We picked Rex and his brother Tex (Texan) up when they where about 3 months old. My nephew Billy had come down from Townsville at the time and I him asked if he wanted to pick the pups out. He wanted to call the two pups that we picked out Rex and Tex.”
“I heard this dog name on the radio when Rex was getting broken in; I thought its name was Billy Rocket. I said to Billy that it would be a great name Rex. Turns out I heard the name wrong on the radio, it was Lilly Rocket, so I called up and got Billy Rocket put aside.”
Leeks nephew Billy keeps up to date with everything his not so little greyhound does on the racetrack through Facebook and the GRV website.
“Billy came down hoping to watch Rex run around in the Silver Chief, but Rex did a tendon in his left toe in the semi’s and didn’t make it through. In hindsight it worked out okay. Having the month off allowed him to be eligible for Judy’s race.”
The son of Mogambo – Lovely Time has had 19 starts for 8 wins and he continued his 100% strike rate at Sandown on Thursday night, with his win the third victory at the track. Leek not only owns and trains Billy Rocket; she bred his mother Lovely Time from her bitch Miss Amberbee.
“Rex has a lot of personality; I play around with him a bit. He lies down and then I can flip him over when I am lasering his toe, he lies on his back and puts his head in the air and carries on. He thinks he is pretty smart he does!”
“Rex loves life and loves running, you have to watch him otherwise he will run himself into the ground.”
As for what’s next for Leeks special fawn chaser; she wants to ensure his toe has made it through Judy’s series before she makes any plans.
“He pulled up quiet well, he is a bit tired in himself. I think fronting up four days later after not being 100% fit going into the race was a bit tough. His mind is always more switched on then his body!”
“I will probably drop him back to one turn for a little bit to try and toughen the toe up without having to go through two turns. That’s my biggest concern, getting his toe right.”