This may look like a modest piece of machinery – and it is – but last weekend’s Group 1 Sky Racing Topgun winning trainer Ted Medhurst says it’s the best investment he has ever made.
Two years ago, Medhurst purchased the standard two-dog walking machine for just $200, and the Tasmanian trainer insists the item has been integral to the success of his superstar greyhounds, Bell Haven and Buckle Up Wes, who have won a combined $821,000 in prize money.
“It’s pretty plain, just like me, but it is the best thing I have ever bought,” Medhurst said.
“I paid $200 for it, and have spent another $150 in improvements, including enabling it to have adjustable speeds.”
While walking machines are commonplace in the home of many greyhound trainers, it is his clever use of the machine that has seen Medhurst extract full value from it.
It has been much publicised how Buckle Up Wes won the Sky Racing Topgun at The Meadows first up from a 10 week spell with a ligament injury on the back 25 minutes of daily walking at a “gentle pace” on the machine.
“I couldn’t gallop him for several weeks in case he made his injury worse, and with the Topgun coming up, which I thought he was a big chance to be selected for, I had to keep his fitness up, so exercising on the walking machine was the perfect way for him to get enough miles into his legs to be competitive in the Topgun,” Medhurst explained.
What is less known, however, is the key role the walking machine played in enhancing the career of gun stayer Bell Haven, a winner of 26 races and 272,000 in prize money, most of which was won after she was introduced to the walker.
“From speaking with a few old time trainers such as Teddy Sallows, I am of the opinion that stayers need more work than sprinters.”
“With sprinters, free galloping in between races is enough to keep them fit, so I wouldn’t normally use the walking machine as part of their normal exercise routine. But with stayers I believe that incorporating walking as part of their regular exercise routine does them the world of good, and gives them that extra bit of fitness they need to run the extra distance,” he said.
At the time Medhurst purchased the machine – in August 2012 – Bell Haven had shown enormous potential as a stayer, winning 13 races, all in her home state.
It was from that point on, however, that she took her career to another level, as she began making regular trips to the mainland where she became one of Australia’s premier stayers.
Bell Haven made 10 group finals in Victoria and NSW in the second half of her career, winning two Group 3 races and being runner-up in three Group 1s.
“When I bought the walking machine, I got the impression from the guy I bought it off that he felt he had the better end of the deal. But it’s the best $200 I’ve ever spent and it has well and truly paid for itself,” he said.
Given the outstanding success of Buckle Up Wes and Bell Haven, that would have to go down as one of the greatest understatements in racing in 2014.
Bell Haven (3) is narrowly beaten by Destini Fireball in the 2013 Zoom Top at The Meadows, one of three Group 1 races the Tasmanian stayer was runner-up in during a stellar career that climbed another level once she began exercising on Medhurst’s walking machine. Pic Clint Anderson.