Scott Fraser 2
I met with Keith Sobey from the Centaur Group by chance at the Property Investors Show in London. The Centaur Group were promoting racehorse ownership as an alternative investment and I noticed a few photographs of racing greyhounds on their stand. I approached them and we struck up a conversation which ended up taking a good half hour as we got on to the topic of greyhounds.
A few weeks later I had a more detailed meeting with Keith Sobey (Chairman of Centaur Global) and I agreed to get involved in a couple of horses butthe main topic of conversation was greyhound racing. Keith explained that they had a "wonder dog" by the name of Centour Corker and were hoping to stand him at stud as he had just suffered a career ending injury. When I got home from that meeting I checked on "Corker's" race record and it was clear
he was an outstanding animal - how he did not win Stayer of the Year thatyear I do not know!!My appetite to be back involved with greyhound ownership was well and truly whetted and I made it clear to the guys at Centaur that I would be more keen to be involved with dogs than horses. I took a share in a promising (and expensive) young pup (Centaur Blackcat) who unfortunately suffered a serious injury after only a few runs and was re-homed by one of the co-owners. As a replacement Centaur offered me shares in both Centaur Galloper and Centaur
Thunder, both of whom had recently transferred to Jimmy Fenwick's kennels at Newcastle so I was now able to get to watch the dogs racing on a regular basis and had definitely got "the bug" again.
It was around this time that Keith also approached me about becoming involved in the Centaur Corker Stud Plan and we arranged a meeting to discuss the plans. Following a short period of consideration I agreed to take a share in the plan which included not only a share in Corker himself but also each of our then five brood bitches, Ballybeg Pumpkin, Honcho Girl, Murlens Chance, Up In Lights and Morphes Pearl all of whom had pups on the ground but were as yet too young to race.
To cut a long story short, after a while, it became apparent that there was some "friction" between a few of the Stud Plan Syndicate and drastic changes were required if we were to have any chance of success. Keith asked me to attend a meeting with him and Jimmy Fenwick to discuss the situation and a venue and time was agreed. Little did I know that this meeting would prove to be a defining moment in my greyhound ownership plans.
The upshot of the meeting was that both Centaur and myself would "buy out" the remaining members of the Stud Plan Syndicate and that Jimmy Fenwick and I would manage all the stud, brood bitch and racing plans from that point onward - something I was hugely excited about. However, whilst at that meeting Jimmy asked if I/we would be interested in buying a young pup who he felt was "a bit special". A price was mentioned and some negotiation took place. I knew I couldn't afford to buy the pup outright AND increase my financial commitment to Centaur Greyhounds as it was then to be called so I asked Jimmy if he would sell to the Centaur Group. Jimmy explained that he knew Centaur would want to change the pups' name to have the Centaur prefix and that Jimmy really wanted the dog to continue with his own "Geordie" prefix. A compromise was reached, I would buy 50% of the pup and it would
race under it's current name - GEORDIE PARKER.
I am not going to bore you with the rest of the "Parker" story I would just ask that you visit any of the usual result websites and look for a moment at his race career to date - then imagine how I it feels to be able to say "that's my dog". I have known from early on that Parker would most likely be a "once in a lifetime" dog and I have travelled the country in the last 2 years ensuring that I enjoy every minute of his racing career, both good and bad and I sincerely hope that we have a few more months with him before he retires.
In tandem with GP proving his superstar status on the track Centaur Greyhounds was undergoing a major overhaul. Breeding plans were agreed for all brood bitches, financial budgets were implemented, strategic planning was agreed and goals were set. One of these goals was to significantly broaden the "Centaur" prefix and to do this we would need the help of top trainers throughout the country. Fortunately, we had some real useful young pups in training and, as GP was now in the hands of Charlie Lister we asked him if he would take a young dog for us who we felt had the ability to be a useful sprinter (Centaur Striker). Charlie readily agreed and 9 months later he won the National Sprint at Nottingham. Another one of Centaur's clients (Trevor Alderson) who is in the main a horse racing enthusiast agreed to take a 50% stake in a very fast bitch provided it could be trained by his close friend Terry Dartnall. Once again, arrangements were made and within a year Terry had won two 6 bend competitions at Crayford and Monmore with Centaur Trooper. Sadly, Trooper suffered a career ending injury in the summer but I'm pleased to say that she is fit and well and is now in pup to Geordie Parker.
Brian Clemenson, who had trained Corker, had intimated he would be happy to train for Centaur again so with Brian, Terry and Charlie involved we were pretty well covered for top trainers, except in one area, Walthamstow. In my opinion, Walthamstow is the premier track in the country and it was important to Centaur to have a major presence there. Unfortunately, we had no relationship with any trainers attached to the track so I took it upon myself to contact the person who, in my opinion, was the top trainer at the track and indeed was also the current Champion Trainer in the UK - Mark Wallis.
Without wishing to appear sycophantic, I can honestly say that the decision to contact Mark ranks right up there with my decision to buy a share in Geordie Parker as one of the best I've ever made. From day one it was apparent that Mark and the staff at Imperial were keen to be involved with Centaur and their help, advice and encouragement have been invaluable to us in the last 18 months. Between us we have been able to encourage new owners into the sport, guys like Gavin Cheeseman, John Porter, Alun Watkins and Kev Gardner, all of whom were "horsey" men before being convinced to get involved with the dogs. I'm pretty sure if you asked any of these guys where their preferences lie now they woul quickly tell you that it's the greyhounds.
Mark has so far trained 5 of our home bred dogs/bitches with the following results . . .
Centaur Iris - Open race winner
Centaur Fuji - Open race winner
Centaur Driver - Open race winner
Genesis Sister (ex Centaur Yankee) - Open race winner
Genesis Alix (ex Centauir Spear) - Open race winner
He was also instrumental in helping us purchase both Centaur Decree (Ocean Trailers Puppy Champion 2006) and Centaur Cappo and on 03/11/07 he guided Centaur Gemstone (the first of 20 or so 2006 pups ready to hit the track) to a debut win in a P9 race at Walthamstow.
With our 2006 litters now arriving on the track we have a lot to look forward to and already have 4 of our bitches in pup . . .
Up In Lights whelped a litter of 12 to Droopys Vieri last month while Murlens Chance (Droopys Scolari), Centaur Trooper (Geordie Parker) and Centaur Spirit (Centaur Para) will all hopefully produce pups before the end of 2007.
Mark has already been to Ireland with us to see for himself the quality of the rearing/schooling arrangements made for all our pups and I'm sure that we will continue to produce high quality greyhounds who are capable of competing at a high level for years to come.
It is interesting to note that from our first batch of litters (whelped in 2004) we have a ratio of 43% who have run/won in Open class and in particular it is pleasing to see that each and every Corker dog/bitch that has gone to Walthamstow has proven to be capable of winning Opens over 6 or 8 bends. This is a fantastic feat for a stud dog who has, in the main, covered bitches who would not be regarded as "top class" and it is still a mystery to me why he is not more widely used.
Earlier this year we welcomed two new Directors into Centaur Greyhounds inthe shape of Michael Gill and Ian Craig. Both guys are keen to see the breeding side grow and develop into what will hopefully be one of the most respected set ups in greyhound racing. With their additional impetus and support we are really looking forward to the next few years and would be delighted to welcome any potential new owners/partners into the Centaur Greyhounds partnership.
I don't think our ownership/partnership model is really understood by many people and this is not the place to discuss it, suffice to say that if anyone would like to find out more about our plans then please feel free to contact me via this website or our own sites, www.traptoline.com or www.centaurglobal.com.
In summary, greyhound racing has been in my blood for almost my whole life but it is only in the last few years that I have truly appreciated the highs and lows of ownership and breeding in particular. My appetitie for the game is stronger than ever and I class myself as extremely fortunate to be able to work with the fantastic trainers/breeders mentioned earlier in this
article. However, the real stars for me are and will always be the dogs themselves, the excitement you feel when the hare starts to move and one of "yours" is in the traps is the same today as it was 30+ years ago and I just hope and pray that feeling never leaves me. Let's just hope that the sport itself has the same optimistic outlook that I have.