Under normal circumstances, if you had a Victorian Greyhound of the Year finalist and two Group One starters in the space of a fortnight, it would be fair to assume that you had two greyhounds at the peak of their racing powers.
Lethbridge mentor Emilio “Norm” Rinaldi has had exactly that, but amazingly, both dogs are nearing four-years-of-age and are in the last preparations of their career. But then again, Rinaldi isn’t known for doing things in the most conventional of fashions.
This week ARG spoke to Rinaldi, not only about his two veteran group finalists, but about how he has built his own breeding empire and created a rare bloodline in the process.
Rinaldi has two litter-mates engaged in two of Australia’s biggest Group One events this Saturday night. General Destini will jump from box two in the Rookie Rebel over 600 metres, while Destini Fireball will exit box six in the the Zoom Top over 725 metres.
Both are from Rinaldi’s all-conquering Where’s Pedro – Greys Destiny litter, and Rinaldi is very pleased with his old-stagers.
“I’m very proud of them. They’re both coming up to four and they’re both still in there. This will probably be their last campaign, they’ll be going to stud after this.”
Destini Fireball was a finalist in the recently awarded Victorian Greyhound of the Year, won by Xylia Allen, and Rinaldi says he isn’t without hope in the Zoom Top.
“There is plenty of pace, but he’s drawn out wide and he does like it out there on the track. A few of them might stumble out a bit and get tangled up, you never know, fingers crossed we have a bit of luck. We will be in there trying, don’t worry about that.”
“He’s still capable, in Sydney (Summer Distance Plate) they gave him no hope but he lost by a nostril to Dyna Willow. That little bitch Dyna Willow, she is a tough campaigner, she’s a real up-and-comer.”
Rinaldi’s success didn’t just happen overnight, it was a combination of a quality idea, careful implementation and some good luck that has got him where he is today.
“I was in America, we were travelling around and we went to a lot of the different tracks. I was just amazed how strong the bitches were, some of them had a hundred starts and were still going strong, that is unheard of in Australia.”
“I said, wouldn’t it be good to bring home a good American bitch and breed her with Australian dogs and that’s what we did.”
But Rinaldi didn’t just import any old bitches either. He visited one of the most successful kennels in the United States, the Greymeadow operation, which was then run by Jack and Mary Butler. This led to Rinaldi owning both Greys Destiny and Greys Lemon Ice.
“We finished up at Mary Butler’s in Abilene, everyone said that’s the best place to go. She has got some terrific dogs. We got lucky, she doesn’t usually sell them. If they’re good enough to breed on with, she keeps them, if not she adopts them out as pets.”
“At that stage she had four or five different kennels across America in different states. We were just lucky she chose to sell to us.”
To maximise his opportunities, Rinaldi did not just rest on the laurels of importing quality out-cross blood. He also patronised some of the best blood that Australia had to offer, which could well be another major contributor the success of his first litters with the Americans.
Rinaldi has used stud dogs such as Where’s Pedro, Bombastic Shiraz, Brett Lee and Collision among others, and has also revisited some American sires as well.
“I always aim for the very best in the sires, and now I’m just starting to breed with the daughters. Grey’s Lemon Ice has just had a litter to Collision and Greys Destiny has had a second litter to Brett Lee. But her daughter Miss Abilene, she has just had a litter to Kelsos Fusileer (USA) and Xena (Destini Warrior) has just had eight pups to Collide.”
“So I’m mixing it up with the Australian and American lines. Naturally, if you talk to Americans, they say come back into the American lines and if you talk to Australians, they say use the Australian lines.”
Rinaldi has plenty of litters on the ground and is responsible for every single facet of their upbringing.
“We do the lot ourselves, from the womb to the racetrack. We rear them and break them in, that way you know what food is going into them and you are not relying on breaker’s reports or whatever.”
“We’ve got four 50 x 50 metre yards we rear them in and then two seven acre paddocks, which I don’t let them down into until they are about five or six months old. The Collision’s just went down into the paddock this week.”
It could well be the case that those two foundation imports are all that Rinaldi needed to manufacture the cornerstone for all of his future racing. It has given him exactly what he needs and, in some ways, put him a step ahead of the pack.
“I don’t think I’ll import again, I’ll just continue the line I’ve got. I’ve got the daughters coming through now and there’s other trainers and breeders out there trying to catch up to me, importing dogs and whatever.”
“I’ve set up what I wanted to do now so I’ll just go from there. I’ve got a couple of Bombastic Shiraz bitches that will be ready to breed with soon, Cloak Of Gold and Motivator Missy. I’ve got enough to keep them coming through, I don’t want to go and buy any more. My plan was to just get the foundation bitches in and go from there.”
Rinaldi also has no intentions of making his breeding a commercial venture, preferring to breed and race himself.
“We don’t really breed to sell, we haven’t sold any yet, it just depends on if I go broke or not,” he laughed.
“But the others keep winning and bringing in the money so I haven’t had to worry about it and if they slacken off, the Group dogs still keep bringing it in.”
For the two veterans who will turn four in March, Saturday evening could well be their Group One swansong’s. But it is highly unlikely that it will be the last we hear of them.
“They will go to stud and the way people are talking they might be reasonably successful stud dogs.”
Rinaldi summed up his recent journey over the last six or seven years perfectly with one sentence.
“I’ve set the seeds, now it’s just a matter of keeping it going.”
We could well see another chapter added to the Norm Rinaldi fairy-tale this Saturday night at The Meadows.