There wasn’t a Group 1 trophy, huge cheque or track record in sight but a double at Healesville last Friday was about as satisfying as it gets for veteran Devon Meadows trainer Graham Laidlay and wife Pauline.
Laidlay, 76, and five-year-olds Challis Magic and Challis Sprite, home-bred Magic Sprite – Challis Miss litter brothers whelped back in April 2015, defied Father Time in a remarkable training performance.
Centurion Challis Sprite won his 23rd race at start 102, while the injury-plagued Challis Magic chalked up win number 22 at his 72nd appearance, amazingly at his first start since dislocating a shoulder just seven weeks ago.
“They’re going great for older dogs, especially with the injuries Challis Magic has had,” said a justifiably proud Graham.
“He did a stopper bone in 2018 and our vet Des Fegan said we’d be lucky to get him racing again. He missed about eight months but since then he’s won another ten races.
“He’s also got two crook wrists, which is why we go to Healesville, so he’s not going around a corner. Without all his problems I think he could have won another 20 races, while Challis Sprite has been pretty well free of injury.
“You have a lot of hiccups. It’s not just a matter of putting a collar and lead on them and going out to the track.”
Longevity goes hand-in-hand with the ‘Challis’ breed.
Challis Miss, mother of last week’s evergreen Healesville heroes, started 71 times for eight wins, while another member of her lone litter, Challis Annie, won nine from 62 and will soon be mated with champion sire Barcia Bale.
“The litter has won 81 races and $140,000 in prizemoney, mostly just going around the bush,” Laidlay explained.
“A couple we sold early on won in the city. Harvey Mills (11 from 87) won a heat of the Silver Chief and Bont’s Magic (7 from 87) won over 600m at The Meadows.
“The reason Challis Miss only had one litter was that I made a big mistake!
“We always keep our bitches to see what they produce but we had too many dogs at the time. When we sold Harvey Mills I told the buyer he could have the broodbitch too but he didn’t want her so in the end we put her in the GAP. That was a big mistake!”
“We’re both dedicated – you’ve got to be. If you’re not going to do it properly you shouldn’t do it at all.”
Pauline pays tribute to Graham’s dedication as a key element to their dog’s lengthy careers and never-ending zest for racing and her husband is quick to repay the compliment.
“We’re both dedicated – you’ve got to be,” he offered.
“You’ve got to do it properly and I couldn’t do it without Pauline. If you’re not going to do it properly you shouldn’t do it at all.”
Laidlay’s involvement in greyhound racing dates back to 1960 as a teenager and barring a late change of plans he would have handled 1962 Melbourne Cup winner Saskagay.
As fate would have it, Saskagay was the mother of Graham’s first city winner Myagay, which came in 1967 at Sandown.
Making Friday’s Healesville double all the more incredible, retired carpenter/joiner Laidlay only has three race dogs in work, Challis Magic, Challis Sprite and another sibling, Shirdale Tom (6 from 36), which is still racing despite dropping two back muscles.
The Laidlays are planning for the future too, with two 12-month-old pups, also by Magic Sprite, and the forthcoming Barcia Bale – Challis Annie mating.
“When do you finish? When you’re 80 or when you go in the box?”
“I’m not sure who will wear out first – me or the dogs. But if my knees get any crooker I might have to get you out here to help!” Graham laughed.
Greyhound racing is very much a family affair for the Laidlays, with Graham and Pauline passing their love of greyhounds down two generations.
Their greyhounds are raced by the Three Cheeky Monkeys Syndicate, so named after granddaughters Jasmine, Ashleigh and Ruby, who are part of the ownership group, while a fourth ‘cheeky monkey’ in Annie arrived after the syndicate was formed.
Pictured above: Challis Magic with Pauline and Graham Laidlay, three of their granddaughters and handler Ty after a win at Healesville last October.
Graham Laidlay with his winning double Challis Magic and Challis Sprite.
Challis Magic and Graham Laidlay enjoying some quality time at home.
WATCH: Challis Magic (7) hugs the rail in the last race at Healesville on Friday, bringing up a double for Graham Laidlay and the Cheeky Monkeys Syndicate.