Charlton stalwart Kevin Ashton, 75, has found the secret ‘elixir of longevity’ – for his greyhounds.
He’s the master of extracting 100-plus starts from his charges and five-and-a-half-year-old China Catch ’Em is yet another case in point.
Owned by Shara Quinlan of Rushworth, China Catch ’Em (June ’15 Don’t Knocka Him x Crisp Note) has started 104 times for 15 wins, 17 seconds and 12 thirds. His stakes total $18,400.
So, what’s Ashton’s secret to this ‘fountain of youth’?
“I don’t trial too much,” he said. “I put them up the straight instead of trialling around a circle. There’s no need to ‘show off’ about times when you know they can run.”
And he added: “I just try to make them happy… Post-race, my dogs are treated to either a Macca’s ice cream or thick shake, or a strawberry milk from Coles.”
China Catch ’Em – who commenced his career with a win at Geelong way back on May 12, 2017 – has damaged an elbow ligament, cracked a sesamoid bone and dropped a back muscle along the journey. But each time, Ashton has nursed him back to full health.
In fact, China Catch ’Em was sidelined for six months (February-August) after sustaining the back-muscle injury. So, his 24.40sec win over 425m at Bendigo at his most recent start is only his third win for 2020.
WATCH: China Catch ’Em (2) wins at his 104th start – at Bendigo last week.
“I left him out for a while, but he was annoying me at home,” Ashton said. “So, I started putting him up the straight at Bendigo and he was going as good as ever. I thought I’d give him some serious work and get him back on the track.”
Ashton says China Catch ’Em’s career is obviously in the twilight zone and retirement beckons.
“I don’t think he’s got much longer but while he’s racing well, he’ll keep going. And I intend placing him with GAP once he’s finished racing.”
But things may be different if he’s anything like Carrara Lad, who raced past six years of age until and started 158 times for Ashton. “He is the oldest dog to win a race at Mount Gambier,” he said.
Ashton has done the hard yards in the sport. In his formative training days, he juggled interstate truck driving with his greyhound racing passion and relied heavily on his father, Robert, for assistance.
But Ashton’s main inspiration in the sport is his grandfather, Charles “Chinka” Morris, who was a leading NSW trainer in the 1950s.
“He prepared around 5000 winners in 30 years and had some top hurdlers in the day,” Ashton said. “I spent a fair bit of time with him when he came down to race in Victoria.”
One of Ashton’s best greyhounds was top stayer Favoured Spirit, who won the 1995 Roy Maidment Memorial at Sandown.
But, according to Ashton, his biggest ‘honours’ are winning the first race at Shepparton’s first-ever Sunday meeting and the final race at Robinvale when it closed down.
China Catch ’Em lines up for his 105th start on Wednesday at Bendigo – Race 6 Box 6 at 5.17pm.
And I’m tipping – win, lose or draw – there’ll be a ‘treat’ for his iron dog along the way home.