HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE: BARRY SMITH
Barry Smith is one of Victoria’s most successful all-time greyhound breeders.
The man behind the ‘Mepunga’ greyhounds, Smith’s story is legendary, having spent four decades breeding and rearing countless winners while running a successful dairy farm in the Western District.
“My wife Andrea and I live in a small place about 22 kilometres out of Warrnambool on the Great Ocean Road and it is called Mepunga. If you blink when you go through it you’ll miss it,” Smith laughed.
“We use the Mepunga prefix so people around town can follow our greyhounds as there was a time when a few local old timers liked to back our dogs but were struggling to identify them in the form guides.”
Smith’s long list of champions include Mystic Hope (National Distance Championship) and Spread Eagled (Australian Cup) before the Mepunga name came to the fore with the likes of Blaze (National Derby), Nicky (Adelaide cup), Hayley (Maturity Classic) and Blazer (Maturity Classic) all winning at Group 1 level.
“We’ve owned about six (group 1 winners) and the breed has pushed out about 10,” Smith said around the time of his Hall of Fame induction in 2017. “Breeding group winners is enormous. When you breed them, rear them and own them all the way it is a real big thrill.”
Smith’s success could be put down to a few things, including raising his pups on an unlimited supply of fresh milk.
“They get all the milk they can drink. Being a dairy farmer, it doesn’t cost me a lot of money and they love it.”
“But I don’t think there’s any secret to my success. You’ve got to put everything into whatever you do in life and if you get the result at the other end then that’s the thrill that you get out of it,” he said.
The beneficiaries of Smith’s success include the trainers he farms his greyhounds to. He has had a long association with the Britton family that started with Allan Britton, a GRV Hall of Fame trainer, and has filtered down to Allan’s son Jeff Britton and partner Angela Langton.
Langton, who has also bred and reared a number group winners, said Smith’s attention to detail is what sets him apart.
“Barry does a fantastic job with his rearing,” Langton said. “He sends his greyhounds to our place at about 16 months of age, once they’ve been broken-in and had a bit of a spell. You can always tell they’ve been fed well because they’ve got big backs on them and they’re beautiful and shiny. They’re always very outgoing, they’re not shy of anything and I think the secret to Barry and his rearing is that he spends a lot of time with them when they’re young.”
“He gets them used to noises and makes a little lure that he has in his paddocks. They learn to drag on the lure and socialise with each other all the time, so their pups are very well educated before they go to be educated (broken-in).”
Jeff Britton added: “When they come to us they look like race dogs…there’s nothing about trying to pick a dog up…they’re ready to go.”
Smith is one of only three people in GRV’s Hall of Fame under the category of ‘breeder’, alongside Tony McGrath and the late Rod Deakin.
Joy McDowall, who trains a number of Smith’s greyhounds at the nearby town of Nullwarre, said he was very loyal to his trainers.
“He has been offered big money for some of his race dogs but he always turns it down because he would never take a dog away from a trainer,” she said.
McDowall added that Smith is well known for his ability to check greyhounds for injuries.
“Barry checks dogs for local trainers from his home every Sunday night, and he often checks over 50 greyhounds in the one night. People travel 30 or 40 kilometres to bring their greyhounds to him from places like Warrnambool and Koroit, and he will never accept anything in return,” she said.
Greyhounds bred by Barry Smith include:
Mepunga Blazer – winner of 2017 Maturity Classic
Mepunga Armagh – 28 wins, $180,000 prize money (retired 2016)
Mepunga Hayley – 13 wins including Group 1 Maturity Classic, $201,000 prize money (retired 2015)
Mepunga Tiara – 17 wins including Group 2 AWM Distance Championship, $195,000 prize money (retired 2015)
Mepunga Nicky – 15 wins including Group 1 Adelaide Cup & Group 2 SA Oaks, $180,000 prize money (retired 2011)
Mepunga Spark – 19 wins including SA Oaks, $73,000 prize money (retired 2001)
Mepunga Blaze – 12 wins including Group 1 National Derby, $126,000 prize money (retired 1999)
Mepunga Streak – 26 wins, $64,000 prize money (retired 1998)
Spread Eagled – 27 wins including 1990 Australian Cup & Silver Chief, $116,000 prize money (retired 1990)
Mystic Hope – 21 wins including National Distance Championship, $40,000 prize money (retired 1988)