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In the Kennels: Winning the Christmas Oaks was a dream

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The number of late entries has caused the Gain 600 to be postponed until Saturday week (stock image)

The number of late entries has caused the Gain 600 to be postponed until Saturday week (stock image)

SPORTSFILE

The number of late entries has caused the Gain 600 to be postponed until Saturday week (stock image)

Since we won the Gain Christmas Oaks at Shelbourne everybody has been brilliant. Twice a day I walk the two dogs on the Embankment in Belfast and I've been something of a local celebrity.

The celebrations were great here in the Markets. I am a bread man and deliver to the shops, and they were all delighted for me.

I was never involved with the dogs at all. An uncle, Sean Curley, goes to Shelbourne every Saturday and when doing my rounds I would get brown bread for the dogs for Scotty Adair and we became friendly. He introduced me to Harry Sharp and I learned from Harry how to go about it.

Anyway, we bought two bitches from Erwin Birkmyre and named them Cromac Belle and Cromac Katie. Harry had them first but then I decided to do them myself and, along with a few mates, built a kennel behind the house. I also use Seamus McGarry's pool and gallop, he has been a great help.

That first year I ran Cromac Belle in the Puppy Derby and she beat Champagne Jackie in the first round. It was a good run and she went on to reach the semi-final. It was the first competition in which we had ever entered a greyhound and it was fantastic experience.

We do the best we can with the dogs but I am so grateful to Scotty and Harry and, of course Seamus McGarry.

My wife Mary does a lot of the work and she does all the grub. The bitches are fed better than I am! I go to work at 4am and our wee lad Niall feeds them and lets them out. Then I get back at 12.0 and I give them the dinner and let them out late at night.

I nearly had to give it all up last year because of an accident with a spanner. I badly dislocated a shoulder and woke up in hospital to learn I had severed an artery. I was in absolute agony.

I nearly lost the arm and almost got rid of the dogs. But the brothers and brothers-in-law all rallied around me and in time I was able to resume.

We have a young bitch, a half-sister by Wise Thought to Cromac Belle called Cromac Enako. She won a couple of races at Drumbo but came in season. She looks fairly useful and hopefully we'll get an excuse to go to Shelbourne with her.

But we've had a great time with Cromac Belle and the whole family got involved with the weekly trips to Shelbourne.

The brothers had a few quid on her each time. It really was a dream winning the stake with her.

Belle came in season last summer but I would hope to get the Irish Oaks out of her this year. It would be great to contest that classic with a genuine prospect.

The whole family has embraced greyhound racing and we love it. What's better, we've met so many lovely people.

Jim O'Kane is a bread man from Belfast who got involved with greyhounds only two years ago and recently won the Christmas Oaks at Shelbourne with Cromac Belle.

Irish Independent