Younger Brigade To The Fore In Group Race Frenzy

IF the commencement to the New Year is any indication, the future of the greyhound racing training ranks is in fairly good hands.

Adam Dobbin

25 January 2021

IF the start to 2021 is any indication, the future of the greyhound racing training ranks is in good hands.

The New Year has sparked a flurry of group and listed race successes from a wave of younger trainers each destined to leave their mark on the sport in the coming years.

On Saturday night at Wentworth Park, 26-year-old Luke Adams landed a group 1 double courtesy of Zipping Sapporo and Zipping Moose’s victories in the National Futurity and National Derby.

That was followed by 35-year-old Karina Britton guiding sprinter of the moment Wow to a mesmerising win in the Group 1 Paws Of Thunder.

Two nights earlier at Sandown Park, spritely 18-year-old Kayla Cottrell continued her remarkable entry into the training ranks, landing listed wins with Fernando Bluey and Fernando Cazz.

Fernando Bluey was superb winning the Australian Sprint (515m) in 29.14 while Fernando Cazz went a step closer to earning a Rookie Rebel berth with a 33.83 victory in the Maidment Memorial (595m).

Only beginning her training journey in August, Cottrell, daughter of successful conditioner Dave Knocker, has trained home 19 winners from just 27 starters.

And Cottrell isn’t the only young trainer in Victoria making waves.

Back in December, 20-year-old Ben Magri annexed the Laurels with Aston Gwen, scoring an upset win in the group 2 bitches feature.

It was a victory that was no flash in the pan either, the Avalon trainer boasting a 21 percent winning strike-rate in the past 12 months despite having in excess of 250 starters.

On January 2, the first group 1 of the New Year was won by Lakeview Walter in dashing fashion.

And while the record books will officially read Monique Whelan as the winning trainer, Luke Whelan, 20, and Harley Whelan, 23, more than played their role in the son of Fernando Bale’s group 1 heroics.

The Whelan setup is every bit the family affair.

Another young Victorian mentor on the cusp of a significant training career is Ned McDonald.

The 20-year-old son of Darren McDonald won with his very first starter in October when People Get Ready scored in outstanding style at Shepparton.

It’s a theme that’s continued in recent months, boasting wins with 10 of his past 13 runners, most of which in the city, and in slick times.

And while they are yet to train in their own right, the presence of Luke and Holly Thompson at race meetings in recent months has made for two very proud parents Jason and Seona Thompson.

Luke, 19, and Holly, 17, both work full-time at the family’s Pearcedale property and are now regular fixtures on race day.

Demonstrating unbridled enthusiasm for the industry, their future in the sport is all but assured.

Same goes for April Mackay, daughter of champion New South Wales trainer Jason Mackay, who in recent months has been front and centre for race night handling duties. 

And that goes for the likes of Tim Britton, 30, Brett Nye, 29, Correy Grenfell, 27, Matt Lanigan, 28, and Jess Hopkins, 30, as well.

It was only back in November that 29-year-old Nye claimed group 1 glory with Last Hurrah’s victory in the Hume Cup at The Meadows, the budding young conditioner only 18 months into his training career.

The ageing nature of the greyhound industry – in particular the training ranks – has been a long held concern when it comes to the future of the sport.

And to be fair it still is.

How does the industry get new blood involved at a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so for a variety of reasons?

What recent results have demonstrated is that there is a steady stream of young trainers yearning for an opportunity to make their presence felt.

It’s important the industry showcases these instances to illustrate that opportunities are out there for the younger brigade prepared to put in the hard yards.

And of course the benefits that can potentially come with the hard work and dedication to be successful.

In the past six months the above-mentioned trainers, each under 35, have collectively won almost $1 million in prizemoney.

If that’s not a good selling tool – what is?