Tuesday 23 January 2018

Long trek to Shelbourne a labour of love

Gerry Whyte

There's nothing I love more than bringing dogs to Shelbourne Park. It's a huge journey for us from Lifford but I just love going up there and I rarely go across the track. I spend most of the time on the far side chatting with the owners and trainers.

Going to Shelbourne is a day's work. We have to leave here around 3.30pm and if we have a dog in a late race it would be about 1.45am before we get back. You'd be tired the following day but it's all worth it if you have a winner.

Normally nowadays we would be in Shelbourne two nights a week and we've been lucky this year with a lot of winners. Last Saturday was unbelievable when we had a double on Oaks final night and it could have been a treble as Fridays Pixie was unlucky. Fridays Scolari was off the track for six months with a serious injury and Carroll had been a very sick dog. It was great to see them running so well.

Our father had no involvement with greyhounds and it was my brother Patsy that got us involved. Actually, most of the people training greyhounds in Donegal nowadays would nearly be Whytes. They're all my brothers and we're based around Lifford, virtually looking down on Lifford track.

It's a terrible pity that Lifford is now only racing one night per week. I'd love to see it reverting to at least two per week. We have been criticised for abandoning Lifford but we have waited six weeks to get an A2 dog on the card and we had no option but to start racing at Shelbourne.

The Sunday meetings at Lifford used to be unbelievable but all the buzz has gone. It would be great to see it come back to where it was a few years ago.

I worked for 22 years in a factory but it closed 15 years ago and I started into the dogs. My brother Paul is also involved and we have two young lads, John Paul and Daryl, who do most of the walking for us.

People often ask how we came up with the Fridays prefix. Actually I sent away for the Mondays prefix but it was already gone and Fridays came back. We stuck with it. A couple of years ago we bought a few bitches from the great Dessie Loughrey, we bought another from PJ Fahy and we are breeding from them.

At any time I would have about 15 or 20 racing dogs and we would start them off up with Dessie. He's a brilliant man.

I believe in feeding the dogs well and galloping them well. You have to feed them the best if you hope to get the best out of them. Obviously we would love to win a Derby or Oaks but we don't gamble and so if we can keep turning out the winners at Shelbourne we will be happy. But we would love to see Lifford returning to its former glory.

* Gerry Whyte is one of the leading trainers at Shelbourne Park this year but he is based in distant Lifford in Co Donegal.

Irish Independent

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