‘It’s bloody cold this morning girl, you still up for your walk?’ I’m sitting at the kitchen table, bent over tying my laces, still half asleep, lethargic. Jenny Girl will always be up for a walk and replies by wagging her tail and getting just a little too excited for a 4.30am stroll around the neighbourhood. It’s when I grab her lead that the excitement becomes too much for her, jumping and carrying on like a pork chop sizzling in the pan.
The advantage of a 4.30 am walk is, we have the road to ourselves, and I can have a chat with her and not look like those crazy people who talk with their pets; I am one, I just don’t want to look like one. Every third or fourth stride she turns her head, just to make sure I’m still there; she really needs to get around the whole lead and collar thing. I know she loves the time we spend together, just quietly I don’t mind her company, she never argues with me and is always happy to see me; really living up to the claim of man’s best friend.
Jenny Girl started her life on a farm out west of NSW, with her sister, the only survivors of the litter. ‘We should all put in and save these girls, won’t cost much, maybe $100 a month’ it was “Clumpy” one of the drivers who make deliveries to the coal face.
‘Each! $100 each, are you kidding? What do they feed them caviar?’ I didn’t know much about Greyhound racing; apart from always back the number 1 box, a standard rule for the inexperienced punter, especially after a few beers.
‘Yeah if we get 5 blokes we all put in $100 a month, that’s $500 a month’
‘So, you can add up, but what does the $500 get us, 2 greyhounds nobody wants?’
‘My nephew charges $200 a month per dog, plus half the prize money, the dogs will be saved and we have a bit of fun in the racing game’
It wasn’t hard to get another 4 blokes to chip in, so I became part of “The Baker Boys” racing syndicate.
The first time I met Jenny I wasn’t sure she would be running too far, Clumpy brought her for us to have a look and she jumped from the back of his car and laid out on the floor, exhausted from the drive to Wollongong. ‘Come on girl get up and walk around’ Clumpy was trying to be positive. “Come on just walk around a little’ but Jenny was having none of that, she wanted to lie around and that’s what she did.
As time went by and the pups grew, it became clear that the nephew was not really in the racing game, more the dog sitting game and at $200 a pop making a nice profit. As a group, the baker boys became very frustrated with the lack of racing from our racing dogs, so another trainer was needed.
Rich made a few calls and the dogs were moved to Nowra to be trained with Glen, a quiet unassuming guy who had a way with the dogs. He loved the dogs in his care and for me this was a blessing as there are so many stories of mistreatment, The Baker Boys didn’t want any relation to that stain.
I wasn’t putting much thought into Jenny’s prospects as Mark one of the Baker Boys and a greyhound man from way back, would always say “They probably won’t be fast enough for the track, we may have to send them to race in the country’ This was not Mark’s first greyhound, his father owned racing dogs so I listened to what he said.
Jenny aka “Another Sprite” was in fact a very fast dog and started to put a few wins together at Nowra, then Dapto on a Thursday night. She was moving up in the world. Her name was the main topic of conversation in the office, incredible how a 30 second race could be discussed for days on end.
The phone call came through to the coal face office, it was Glen and Jenny was nominated and accepted for a race at Wentworth Park, a city race. To those not in the know, to race in Sydney is the big time for greyhound racing, Mark or his father had never owned a dog good enough for Sydney.
‘It’s a tough race and she’s only a rough chance at best’ Mark ever the pessimist.
‘I don’t care mate, this is our girl and she’s racing in Sydney, haven’t you heard of Steve Bradbury at the 2002 winter Olympics?’ I would ask, confident, cocky as ever. ‘She’s in the race mate, so she’s a chance’
I was very excited; I even had tea shirts printed up for the Baker Boys. As the night grew closer the excitement at the coalface grew and by the time Friday night rolled around it was no exaggeration to use the cliché “fever pitch”.
We arrived early and took our place very close to the bar; we needed to calm our nerves.
Glen was confident, Rich and Mark put their defensive coats on suggesting that she was outclassed, she was, but she was entitled to be there so we all hoped.
Green light on and she pinged the lids and got out in the front, from the grandstand we had the perfect view and she led into the first turn. Holding her nerve she lost no ground around the back straight. The baker boys all looked on with tension on our faces; she had a real chance, she could do this. Mark was not about to start getting excited; experience taught him that. Rich, Ema and I on the other hand cheered loud, hard and out of our seats riding her home. The pack hits the final turn and Jenny Girl is still in front; but only just. It was a tense last 50 meters, Jenny in front whilst the favourites tried to chase her down, they couldn’t and Jenny Girl crossed the line and with the win came fame and a place in history in the hearts of the baker boys.
Mark actually had tears in his eyes and this brought us close together in a group hug.
We made our way to the catching pen; we needed to pat that girl. So after her urine sample was taken, we got to rub our Jenny Girls belly. She looked at me that night, as she does now and in her eyes the question was ‘Did I do good, did I, did I’
Jenny had a distinguished career; 37 race starts, 7 wins, 1 second place and 9 third placing’s, total prize money $18,000. Half of which went to Glen the trainer, the other half to the baker boys, most of which went behind the bar at Dapto Citizens Bowling Club. It was a fun time whilst it lasted, but like all good things it came to an end. She retired in 2015, her racing career brought so much joy to the baker boys, I don’t think she would ever understand how much conversation she was part of during that magic time.
She lives in Figtree now with Ema and I, part of the family. We have our walk in the mornings and she likes to spend the rest of the day relaxing on the lounge; she earned it. She still looks at me from time to time and asks that same question with her eyes, ‘Did I do good, did I, did I’
‘Yes girl you did good, and if any dog barks at you, ignore them, how many times did they race
and win in Sydney’