While greyhound racing’s famous ‘Mepunga’ bloodline was enjoying its greatest triumph on a chilly night at The Meadows recently, the mastermind behind the operation was 2000 kilometres away holidaying in the warmth of the Sunshine Coast.
Barry Smith has achieved so much as a greyhound breeder. He has bred a Melbourne Cup winner (Speedy Micky in 1987) and an Australian Cup winner (Spread Eagled in 1990) and but his breed’s performance on 26 July, 2014, when capturing a treble that included the Group 1 Hudson Pacific Maturity (Mepunga Hayley) and the Group 2 AWM Distance Championship (Mepunga Tiara), was his finest hour.
Now, with the Group 1 Nationals in full swing, Smith is hoping his current purple patch will continue over the next few days and result in his bloodline representing Victoria at the Nationals in Perth on 23 August.
After winning their respective heats last week Mepunga Tiara will contest tonight’s Victorian final of the National Distance Championship at Sandown Park, while Mepunga Armagh will race in Saturday night’s Victorian Final National Sprint Championship final at The Meadows. Only victory will earn them a Big V Guernsey.
In terms of numbers, Smith isn’t a big breeder. In fact, he describes greyhounds as his hobby.
He breeds just three or four litters per year while running one of the biggest dairy farms in Victoria’s Western District with the help of two of his sons.
“We have over 1,400 cows in total. We have an arrangement where there is a family on one side of our farm that milks 600 of our cows, while two of my sons, myself and an employee milk another 850.”
“I also have a son and a daughter who live on the Sunshine Coast, where I am currently holidaying for five weeks,” Smith said.
Smith, who lives near Warrnambool at Mepunga East, took the step of naming his greyhounds with the Mepunga pre-fix in the late nineties.
“Mepunga isn’t even a town. It’s just a small farming community with a Church and not much else.”
“I started calling my dogs Mepunga because for years there was a group of four or five old guys aged between 85 and 90 years old who lived in Mepunga that followed all of my dogs really closely.”
“They would read the form guides in the paper looking for my dogs but struggled to keep track of them, so I started naming them all Mepunga to make it easier for them.”
“The first big race I won with a Mepunga dog was the (Group 1 National) Derby in New South Wales with Mepunga Blaze, and I’ve been using the name ever since. Only one of those old guys is still alive today,” he said.
Smith says he has had a greater focus on his pups in recent years, which he believes has been key to his current crop of stars.
“The more time you put into your pups, the better your chances of success. It’s about quality, not quantity, which is why I only breed a handful of litters each year.”
“My pups are introduced to a drag lure and the bull ring from a very young age which gets them used to chasing and the noise of the lure, so that when they get broken in it doesn’t phase them.”
“I believe that educating pups from a young age has been a big part of my success,” Smith said.
The likes of Mepunga Hayley, Mepunga Tiara and Mepunga Armagh are trained at Anakie by Jeff Britton, who holds Smith in the highest regard.
“As far as breeding and rearing pups go, Barry is as good as anyone. His line seems to be getting better and better,” Britton said.
If all goes to plan over the next few days, Britton will be venturing on a holiday of his own later this month with greyhounds contesting one, or dare we say both, Nationals Grand Finals.