How Billy Raced Into Greyhound Racing History
John and Judy Richardson have all but decided Saturday night's Masters Meteor will be grand chaser Sunburnt Highway's goodbye to racing.
4 May 2022
IT will be touch and go if John Richardson is at Wentworth Park on Saturday night.
John recently underwent surgery and only came out of hospital last Thursday.
The lure at Wentworth Park will be the likely final race start for John and wife Judith’s Wenty hero, Sunburnt Highway, which runs in the Masters Meteor Final (520m) at his 152nd race start.
The son of Oaks Road and Where’s Kitty will be striving for win 52 and an amazing 40 victories at NSW racing’s headquarters at Wentworth Park.
“John might be there Saturday night,” said Judith. “But we are not sure yet.”
Judith, and all of greyhound racing, are in awe of the longevity but continued success “Billy” (as he is known around the kennels) has shown and is loved for.
The winner of the Masters Meteor in 2020, he has been a group finalist six times but those achievements pale alongside his career stats … 151 starts, 51 wins, 19 seconds, 28 thirds and stakes of $355,000.
Sunburnt Highway is just a marvel.
Watch trainer Judith Richardson's wonderful, emotional reaction from last night as her beloved greyhound won his Masters Meteor heat, after what has been a hard week for the Richardsons…
— The Dogs (@Thedogs_com_au) April 28, 2022
“Yes, this will be his last race,” said Judith. “Well, we think it is, he doesn’t!”
Judith tells the story of a rising six-year-old (he will turn that age in August) who just loves to run, to compete, and is not happy without doing just that.
“At home, if we are slipping the other dogs, he will act up until he has had his gallop,” she said. “After that he is happy.
“Normally he is such a relaxed dog, but when the lure starts up he is all business.”
It’s been like that since he was a youngster.
Reared to eight months of age by part-owner Gary Cluse in Casino, Billy has kept giving Gary, John and Judith and their family glorious moments.
“When he won his first race at Wentworth Park way back when he was two years old,” said Judith. “Well, that was special.
“Then, when he won the Meteor it was wonderful, but when he broke Bessy Boo’s record for the most number of wins at Wentworth Park (35) it was even better.
“It’s all about Billy. He deserves every accolade he gets.”
An amazing feature of Sunburnt Highway’s credentials is that he had won his first race (at start 11) even before any of the finalists in Saturday night’s TAB Million Dollar Chase were born.
Judith says Billy has only ever had one injury, and it was a minor chest muscle strain, when he grabbed the lure at the end of a post-to-post slip at Wentworth Park some years ago.
“Other than that he has been perfectly sound,” she said.
Sunburnt Highway won his way into the Masters final with a 29.98 victory by six lengths over another racing veteran Ebby Infrared.
“He is drawn in the four for the final,” said Judith. “I don’t mind the middle for him, but I’d rather he be drawn in an odd number box. He seems to jump better.”
Judith believes Kooringa Lucy is the hardest to beat in the final on Saturday night.
The Richardsons are so thankful for having Billy in their lives.
“He has made our lives for us,” said Judith.
“We never, ever thought we would have a dog like this. There will never be another dog like him, especially with Wentworth Park closing down in the future. His record number of wins will stay the record forever.”
While no decision has been made about John being at Wenty on Saturday night, the Richardsons also face a problem with simply getting to the track.
“Billy goes to Wenty in the car and you never hear him in the hour and a half drive from Dapto to the track,” said Judith.
“But, on Saturday night, we also have My Free Reign in the final of the Ladies Bracelet.
“Unfortunately, the only time we took the bitch with Billy, she stood up all the way. We are looking at taking Miss Free Reign in ‘the truck’ with our daughter Michelle driving.”
John Richardson has made a study of greyhound nutrition, fitness and health something he and Judith stick to religiously.
Their 26-year-old grandson Patrick has become the right hand man around the kennels and Judith says he “lives for greyhounds”.
While she and John have pretty much made up their minds that Billy will retire after Saturday night, they are not willing to say that for certain.
“We have been asked by a few breeders around the country to use him at stud and one breeder in Queensland wants 10 vials,” she said.
“But, I’m not too sure if Billy will want to retire. He’s not going to be a very good pet.”
Judith calls him the 30-second racing machine.
“He arrives at Wenty, and goes to sleep in the car waiting to be kennelled,” she said. “He walks into the scales and to be checked by himself. He is so laid back, but the very moment that lure starts up, he lights up.”