Gone to the Dogs

Last Friday night I said to my ever-reliable turf consultant and punting advisor, Lezzy, “Let’s relive that past and go to the dogs.” In a past life we bred, raced and trained a succession of what have been known colloquially as “pan lickers”, “long tails”, “striders” or whatever suits your vocabulary.

On Saturday nights we’d gather at the track; “First bunny at 7.40 – home of the quinella” was the catch cry on local radio. We’d congregate; have a verbal “exchange of notes” before doing battle with a betting ring comprising 32 bookies. In wintertime we would cluster around barrels of coke-filled fires and consume saveloys. I remember Bert Jones resplendent in a grey dustcoat, as he scooped piping hot savs from green drums of pink greasy water, grabbing them between fork and thumb in a left-handed maneuver that defied description. Instantaneously slapping them on a slice of greaseproof paper and yesterday’s bread before splitting end-to-end for your choice of sauce or mustard. I was a sauce man. By night’s end his left thumb would be bright red, almost incandescent; half cooked from boiling water and dyed with sav juice.

Greyhound racing is enjoying a renaissance thanks mainly to the advent of Sky Channel and last Friday night it was the heats of the Hobart Maiden Thousand. Like everything old, everything is now new and this year the race is called the TATTSBET 1000. It is a genuinely timed-honored event restricted to dogs, mostly youngsters, who are still deemed to be maidens; not won a race. I say time-honored as both this event and the Hobart Thousand were the 1940’s brainchild of former greyhound enthusiast and administrator M.A.“Arthur” Morgan. Morgan is generally considered as the father of Tasmanian greyhound racing and his influence is recognized nationally. It was his foresight back then that saw the establishment of a race worth “a thousand pounds” with an unheard of, five hundred pounds to the winner. It was then by far the richest greyhound race in the country. As a lead up and along side this prestigious event grew the “Maiden Thousand.”

Come ‘Thousand” time Lezzy and I would witness 32, 8-dog heats run over three nights as trainers from all over the country would descend on Hobart straight after Christmas in the hope of snaring some genuine riches. A perennial visitor was Charlie “Chikka” Morris who would head south from New South Wales with teams of dogs all named with the “Mount Hall” prefix and owned by “Mrs. J.R. Blanch”, whoever she was. Hec Watt, who raced champion bitch Zoom Top and Stan Clerverly who took the riches with an equally impressive star in Benjamin John, often joined him.

I recall the 1969 final where these two superstars of Australian greyhound racing locked muzzles in an epic final. Benjamin John taking the honors in a showdown that old timers spoke about for years after. The build up was akin to the 1986 Cox Plate clash of Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star. These were heady days and Morgan’s foresight put Tassy on the map in an era when the state was just finding its sporting feet after the Second World War.

Armed with what seemed like a library of form guides, rating sheets and speed maps Lezzy and I headed to Elwick Racetrack, the new home of the Hobart Greyhound Racing Club. In the gate and Lezzy said “I’ve done a bit of work on these tonight and ‘Teddy’s’ got a few in.” “How many?” I said. “Eleven,” Lezzy answered. That’ll do me I thought. “I’m gonna back ‘Teddy’s’.” I said.

‘Teddy’ is E.A. ‘Teddy’ Medhurst a champion among the Tasmanian greyhound training ranks who more than holds his own on the national stage. As youngsters we knocked around together at the dogs as we “fiddled about” with a few pups and ‘tried’ dogs in the hope of getting a winner. We’d never miss Monday and Wednesday trial nights at the old Tasmanian Cricket Association (TCA) ground where everyone wore overalls and toweling hats; most had a greyhound muzzle in their back pocket and a stopwatch in hand.

Inside the new grandstand high above the galloping and trotting tracks we can see the dog track, which seemed a lifetime away.  An ever-dwindling group assembles as only the owners, trainers and a few old (very old) punters attend these days. No coke fires, no savs, one bookie, almost everything had changed. Race one arrived and the hare began his journey. Even he is different. His colour has changed – most likely full of product – he sits up higher and looks like an oversize Guinean pig. No whine, no explosion of the boxes opening, no roar of the crowd, just everybody staring at screens. No one looked in even the general direction of the dogs. No wonder, they were that far away they looked like ants. At the old TCA ground “You Beauty” won nearly every race and you were that close to the dogs you could almost touch them. In fact on one cold and frosty night a non-chaser pulled up in the straight near the starting boxes. With that, the ever-alert Dennis “Bottley” Green coaxed the wayward participant to the fence with a half-eaten sav. He simply reached out and held the dog over the fence until a red-coated handler arrived. Seems everything is different.

In the meantime while I’m staring and dreaming ‘Teddy’ lands the first winner. No luck in the second but he salutes again in the third and fourth; a treble after 4 races. Then in the side door comes a bloke that looked like Johnny Pearce resplendent in blue overalls. I felt a little more at ease; at least he seems to have stood still. Then ‘Teddy’ popped up again in the seventh. The eighth however went to ‘Flying Pete’ trained by 60-year participant Peter ‘Diamond’ O’Donnell; a rarity in anyone’s eyes with “Good onya ‘Diamond’!” the unanimous cry. The ninth race went to ‘Teddy’, and with no runner in the tenth he rounded the evening off with the last two winners in races eleven and twelve. In all 7 winners from 11 runners on a 12 event card.

A good time was had by all. We head to the car in reflection mode. I said to Lezzy, “Can you ever remember anyone training that many at one meeting before.” “Never” came the succinct reply, adding “Viv trained a heap, but not seven, at two tracks one Saturday night back in the sixties.” ‘Viv’ being the late, great Vivian ‘Viv’ Beresford aka “J Vivian”

Teddy Medhurst: gone to the dogs? No way. A legend in Tassy greyhound racing? I reckon. At very least, a man well worthy of mention.


  1. Has the world gone crazy since I gave up the punt. It was always Mowbray dogs on a Monday night and Elwick on a Thursday night. I always thought TD on the ticket stood for ThursDay.
    And I always assumed Teddy Medhurst was a Boags man. Never leave his out of the Devenport quaddie on a Tuesday arvo.
    The world has gone mad. Hobart dogs on a Friday? The next thing I’ll hear that Teddy had a Cascade to celebrate.
    Are there no certainties left in this world?
    Certainly brings back memories for me Daryl. Cheers.

  2. The dishlickers are repositioning themselves in the marketplace and enjoying a comeback – even getting some folk on course apparently. Though they do not hold the beauty of the horse in my eye, the attraction is obvious, especially with a race held so regularly. Saddened to hear of the move to Elwick as the other charm is being so close to the action – I have memories of Olympic Park on Monday nights and many other tracks in the 80s….Angle Park, Gawler, Strath, Pt Lincoln, Sandown. The Meadows still gives you that feeling of being at a Lego racetrack. Devonport, from memory, was inside the trot track.
    I recently tried to explain the hurdles to my son – he was amazed. Not a punting proposition but some of the tumbles were dramatic.

  3. Daryl Sharpen says

    Devonport was inside the trotting track. Hurdles (upturned brooms) were a wonderful spectacle. We had some canny trainers of hurdlers down here with the dogs being handicapped of tenth’s of a second behind. I can’t recall handicapping that way anywhere else. Most were taken back a yard at the boxes. But in Hobart the boxes opened by tenths of a second later! Only ever saw two dogs win off one-tenth behind on the flat. Hurdlers were a different proposition; they could make up the leeway with a good jump. Saw one win off 5/10’s behind. Good memories Crio.

  4. DS, why is the pink so advantaged at the Hobart greys? Thought I was the only one who realised this until having a punt at the pub in Naracoorte a complete stranger noted my joy in cheering the 8 home, the same dog he had backed, that he came up and said, “Always the pink in Hobart.” He later said to me, as we were scratching about in search of another winner in Adelaide, “You can never leave those Bale dogs out.”

  5. Daryl Sharpen says

    ‘They’ say that over at those ‘short’ boxes there is reasonable camber on the track and by the time the dogs hit that first bend they can power down like the bike riders. It is the same with the trotters there too, and the dog track is virtually inside. That’s one theory. Lezzy tells me the other advantage down here is at Launceston off the red – race on Monday nite. Seems if they stand up, up the straight they either rail thru or if already in front slip away. That is inside the trotting track too but has more turn than Hobart. The ‘old’ Launceston track -White City – was the same with the red.

  6. Daryl – I spent a great year in Tassie based in Devonport in the late 70s. It’s the only place I know that ever ran a race meeting featuring both Trots and gallops at the same venue
    However I must admit the dogs eluded me as I became involved in Trotting
    Is Shane Yates still doing all the calling on the Nth Coast these days ?

  7. Daryl Sharpen says

    Oges you would have been a Darrell Alexander man. Or R.S Burgess or Terry Knowles or Horrie Jenkins? Re trots & dogs – they have since done it a few times at the Elwick track after they put all codes there. And once had an all three codes meeting there. Mind you, combination meetings have been common in Tassie for years since the 60’s from my memory and probably going back long before. As a kid we’d go to Brighton, its the galloping training complex now and about 20K out of Hobart heading north. On New Year’s day they’d have 2 trots and 5 gallops including a Corinthian. Also at St. Marys (east coast) had St Mary’s Cup on New Years day for both trotters and gallopers. Trotters would go on the grass – no bell lap needed. That only ended a few years back; within last 10 years. Yatesie; what a great. Still calling – him, Colin McNiff and Matty Robertson share all codes pretty much statewide now.

  8. Have been a mate of Terry Knowles ever since my year in Tassie – and have raced a couple of Pacers with him. I wil
    be in Tasmania in March as bowls will have finished
    (my biggest blue in life was not staying in Tasmania after my year was up and it took me a long time to work out it was the people and natural beauty I missed when back in South Oz )

  9. Daryl Sharpen says

    Tassy update: Four semi-finals of the Tattsbet (Maiden) Thousand last night. Teddy produced three (3) of the four (4) winners and a second. With first two over the line into the final,Teddy has four to line up next week. He might not be a Graeme Bate but not a bad effort just the same. We wish him well.

  10. Daryl Sharpen says

    Update: Teddy quinellaed (is that a word) it. Favourite from the J Harms box (8) with the rank outsider. Good times keep rolling on the island. The Sharpens eat for another week at least. Tassy Derby this Sunday D Weir & Rainbow Storm look too good.

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