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In The Kennels: John picks the pups, he has the Midas touch


Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

My father Paddy always kept greyhounds, so my involvement goes back to my childhood.

In those early days most of my dogs were graders - the first really good one I had was Spartacus, which I bought in Waterford from Tom Murphy.

John Fitzgerald is married to my sister Nano and we got involved together. We had Spartacus for his few races around Clonmel but then gave him to Matt O'Donnell, and he won the Easter Cup in 1984; he also reached the finals of the English Derby and the Irish Derby.

We leased a bitch called Cobbling Rose and mated her to Spartacus, and one of the pups, Spartafitz, was probably better than his dad. He won the 1987 Easter Cup and the Paddy Byrne Memorial but he broke a leg in the Cox Cup when a dog fell in front of him.

We continued to have some good dogs, and Making Merry was very special as a tracker and as a brood bitch. Making Merry's daughter was Tinrah Kewell and her litter to Crash included Sparta Maestro, which was brilliant for us.

We have had a number of other good dogs, such as Sparta Pride. What we normally do is to watch out for top bitches and then try and buy a pup off their first litter.

John picks them out; he seems to have the Midas touch. He rears them up to 12 months and then they come here.

Sparta Maestro is at stud and has served about 50 bitches. There have been a few winners from his first few litters but we are really waiting for the pups to come along.

We won the Cambridge-shire at Limerick last weekend with Sparta Kate, owned by Nano and her daughter Maura and picked out by John. She could well have been sold but we want to keep her as the Dunphys have this theory that distance bitches breed well.

Kate now has two track records to her credit and she will probably come in season soon. We won't breed her this time but will race her next year and we are looking forward to that. She was unlucky in the Corn Cuchulainn.

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Dogs are only part-time with me as I am a full-time farmer, but the four kids - two lads and two girls are all interested in the dogs - especially when they're going well.

As for the greyhound game, we have to realise that a lot of things have happened at the same time and people don't have money to spend. Everybody is blaming Limerick Track but I feel it is a great asset and it has a future. What worries me is that the last few crops of dogs don't seem to be as good as the class of 2010.

Phil Gough has lived all his life in Faithlegg in Co Waterford and is famed for his handling of greyhounds bearing the Sparta prefix.