Do you believe in serendipity?
For Murtoa owner/trainer Josh McDonald, that’s probably the name of his first book.
Josh had his first winner this week; a 20-month-old dog called Magnet Force, in the first at Horsham. It was only Magnet’s second start after finishing number two the week before. So far it’s a great story, but the tale has some history…
Josh admits he was enthusiastic – but never any good – on the punt. Given his interest in betting on the dogs he thought there might be a better way, so he bought himself a greyhound. His first trainer didn’t quite work out, so he bit the bullet and had a crack himself; got a licence and a few dogs and asked around the traps for some advice.
After struggling early and learning the hard way he finally made the transition from punter to trainer.
“There was a lot to learn” Josh admits. “How to tell the dog was alright after a race – always so much to look out for and always learning something new.”
“They are sports stars, these greyhounds. Real athletes, and like real athletes they’ll never be any good unless you put the effort into them.”
Josh wasn’t looking for a pup, but it appears a pup was looking for Josh.
“I went to pick my dogs up at a kennel and there was this one pup in a litter that singled me out and kept staring at me. Every time I went back this one pup was looking at me… It got the better of me one day, so I just went back and got her. She was only nine weeks old.”
“I wasn’t looking for a pup. I had only been training less than 12 months and didn’t think it would be fair on the dog because I didn’t think I knew enough.”
Soon after purchasing the (as yet unnamed) dog, Josh took off for Christmas holidays and put off the naming until he got back.
While he was away, a heartbreaking incident changed everything.
“We had a good friend here in town – Brad – who took his own life that New Year’s Day. He was really well known around town; a really good bloke. There I was thinking about a name for this pup and all this happened… I came up with Magnet, which was Brad’s nickname, and it all fell into place.”
“Brad’s Dad came to watch her at her first start. I remember the weather was fairly dreary that day, but about 30 seconds before the boxes opened this rainbow came out. I’m standing across the track and this rainbow appears over the boxes on the other side… I swear Brad’s always there.”
“They say things happen for a reason. I’m not a big believer but this sort of proves it.”
Josh was moved to do something more. He and a mate attended a course at the Edenhope Hospital to learn more abut suicide awareness and mental health.
“There’s no funding for it, so all these people are running it off their own bat. They’re busting their chops answering phone calls at 3am and driving themselves all over the place to help people in need – all using their own money and petrol.”
“I know a lot of blokes who think they’re a burden to their family and friends so they don’t talk about any problems they have; but that just doesn’t work. You’ve got to talk to someone. There’s no money to help get the message out and support the people helping others.”
To that end, Josh is putting his money where his mouth is. He has pledged 25% of Magnet Force’s winnings to mental health charities.
“If she can win races and get prize money – the money’s nothing – we give it to people who can help others. Job done.”
This little pup might have known something when she singled out Josh that day. It’s early doors, but she might just have stared her way into a partnership that saves lives.
And if that’s not serendipity, I’ll eat my hat.