Great satisfaction bringing round shy dog
On leaving college in 2000, I decided to take six months off to train greyhounds before looking for a job – and I have never gone back.
I have always loved greyhounds. You don't make much money at it, but it is very enjoyable. My father Adrian had dogs at home in Kells and the best would have been Bolton Prince, which he sold to Paddy Keane and reached the 1982 Derby final.
I went to UCD to study Agricultural Science and then did my Masters. On the Wednesday and Thursday nights I would go to Navan or Shelbourne and then home for racing at Mullingar on Saturdays. After my Masters, I was employed to carry out a study of the greyhound industry while based at the Vet College.
It was a great opportunity to meet greyhound trainers and gave me a taste for training greyhounds full-time.
I then decided to take time off and started off with just two dogs, but gradually built up the kennel. I have room for 20 dogs now, but have just 11 racing and some youngsters ready to qualify.
To date, I have trained almost 750 winners and the biggest was the €35,000 North West Derby at Lifford in 2005, when Classy Show won at 16/1 for John Butler. That was a huge thrill, but when I was in college, I also won the Midlands Cesarewitch at Mullingar with Bolton Minister, which we bought at the Shelbourne Sales.
People often ask how difficult it is for a woman to be a trainer. To be honest, there are no barriers and some dogs actually react better to a woman. I get great satisfaction from taking a shy dog and bringing him around.
Every trainer will tell you their ambition is to win a Derby, but I would be happy to get my hands on good class dogs and to have Saturday night runners at Shelbourne. I race at Longford, Dundalk and Shelbourne, when I've one good enough, but basically it is all about early mornings and late finishes.
Last year, I was the leading trainer at Longford and I am just in front again this year.
I don't have staff and do all the work with the dogs myself. I use my friend Tom Dillon's gallop. He helps me out there and also comes racing with me. You are out in all kinds of weather, but a winner is a great way to put the cold out of your mind. It's the thrill of winning that keeps me going.
The game is tougher now than it has been for some time. Owning a greyhound nowadays is a luxury and people are very money conscious. Five years ago, I had no room for dogs of my own, now I have three of my own racing.
Obviously, we would all like to see prize money increased, but disposable income is a problem. I would like to see the private tracks getting more support – they are the grass roots – and its imperative that they are kept going.
* Tina McGrane, one of a growing number of female trainers, was champion handler at Longford track last year and is leading the table again this year.