Most elite greyhounds are trained by one of a select handful of professional trainers, but every now and then one slips into the hands of hobbyists.
When this happens it is a fairytale for all involved, and it brings hope to the thousands of people trying to get hold of that elusive champion greyhound.
A recent example of this is Peter Rocket, who isn’t the greatest greyhound to ever grace the track, but he was very, very good.
Good enough, in fact, to change the lives of Pearcedale couple Keith and Lisa Hellmuth, who trained and own the greyhound respectively.
Peter Rocket was recently retired after a career that spanned 67 starts for 22 wins and 29 placings, and he won in excess of $320,000 in prize money, granting the Hellmuths “an early retirement we can now think about”.
The Hellmuths both work full-time, Keith as a plasterer and Lisa at the Commonwealth Bank, with the couple only ever training one or two greyhounds at a time as a side hobby over the past 20 years.
Peter Rocket is far and away the best greyhound the couple has ever had, and here Lisa shares the experiences that came about from owning a champion greyhound.
Lisa Hellmuth gives Peter Rocket a cuddle.
Q: Let’s start with Peter Rocket’s background. He is a son of Where’s Pedro and Belron Blue who was born in August 2010. Who bred, reared and educated him?
LH: He was bred by our neighbours Ron and Isabel Partington. We bought him at three months of age and named him ‘Blackie’ (kennel name). At the time we were looking for a couple of pups to train, as the greyhound we were training (Raya Riot) retired as she was injured. We noticed that this was a repeat mating from five years earlier that produced Violet Crumble, Jeddy Boy and Kelandy, so we thought we might pick up a handy pup as Belron Blue had produced a couple of city winners. We reared him at home with another pup.
Q: At what moment did you realise he was something special?
LH: We broke him in at Tooradin Trial Track and he was the easiest dog we have broken in. He just did everything right from the first go. From his first trial, we knew we had something special, but never did we think we would end up with a dog that was a champion. After that first trial, we didn’t have to do anything else, we gave him a couple of months off and then started to trial him at the race tracks. It didn’t matter where we took him, his times were incredible and they just kept on improving. At that point we said to ourselves, all we have to do is put in 100% to keeping him fit and he will do the rest.
Q: How much prize money did Peter Rocket win and how have you spent this money?
LH: Peter Rocket won an unbelievable $328,000, something we never thought we could win. He has made us debt free with an early retirement we can now think about. We only looked up his record the other day, and found he had 18 starts at The Meadows and was only unplaced once there, and that was fourth. At Sandown Park he had 18 starts and was only unplaced on four occasions. We feel that in itself is incredible.
Peter Rocket wins the 2013 Horsham Cup in what was his first appearance in a group final.
LH: We had never been in a Group race final before and at that stage never thought we could ever win one. Well were we wrong? We knew he was good enough to win it, but there is always a doubt that there may be a quicker dog, and you think about how much trouble he might get into during the race. I screamed when he past the finishing post in first place and that was the start of something really special. With all the media and attention that night, I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to say or who to thank. My mind went completely blank. Keith did a runner (as males do) as he was too shy to be interviewed. It was something we both weren’t used to. Despite that, it is our favourite memory about him.
The Horsham Cup win was Lisa’s favourite moment in greyhound racing.
Q: You must have been so proud that Peter Rocket showed his Horsham Cup win was no fluke, as he competed at the top level from that moment up until his retirement 16 months later?
LH: After his Horsham cup win we decided to give him a go at any group race that was on offer and to our excitement, he kept on making the finals. He made 15 in total. By the 15th I was absolutely loving all the attention, the media, the dinners and best of all was all the people and new friends we have met in greyhound racing. We had people talking to us about the dog, saying hello, telling us what a great chaser he is. We didn’t even know a lot of these people at first, and even now we still go to the race track and have great conversations with people that know Peter Rocket.
Q: He managed one other major race win during his career, the Group 1 Megastar at Dapto. You would obviously have fond memories of that night as well?
LH: Absolutely. We were approached to nominate for that race and he drew Box 8 in his heat. He had never been to the track before so I wasn’t overly confident that he was going to win it. He played up badly going into the box and at that stage I thought he didn’t have a hope. But when the lids opened he jumped really well and ended up winning. He had made it into the final, where he was up against top greyhounds like Glen Gallon, Proven Nitro, Zulu Zeus and Double Twist. Double Twist was leading and Peter Rocket caught her around the first turn and knocked her out of the race. That was an emotional race for me as we had beaten Glen Gallon, who was a champion.
Keith Hellmuth hand-slips Peter Rocket at home just days before the 2013 TAB Melbourne Cup.
LH: It was different. In fact, the only thing missing from his big wins at Horsham and Dapto was that our family wasn’t there, so when he was invited to the (Group 1) Topgun and the (Group 1) Temlee (both at The Meadows), we had our family there cheering him on. Both those nights were incredible, coming second and third (respectively) and sharing the excitement with family and friends was amazing.
Q: You have now retired Peter Rocket just shy of his fourth birthday. What was the thinking behind that decision?
LH: We made the decision to retire him because of a recurring muscle injury, and he is now at stud. We hope that he produces pups that have the same speed, heart and desire to chase as he did. He is the hardest chaser we will ever own and would run through a brick wall if he could. We could take him to any track, never been there and he would put in 110%. One example was Wentworth Park, when he ran in a Golden Easter Egg Heat. He had never been there before, travelled from 7am in the morning, ran 29.52sec first look that night, and we then took him home on the same night. Unfortunately, no one could know how quick he could run as in most of his races he came from behind or he got into trouble at the start. But we believe he was just as quick as any of these dogs going around today, including the record breakers. But a dog needs a big heart as well as speed and Peter Rocket had a huge heart with a desire to chase. He never gave up. Very few dogs have what Peter Rocket has. He is, and will always be, our true champion.
Peter Rocket’s extensive trophy collection. Pics Clint Anderson.