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Kraken career reaches 101 not out

For nearly 45 years William (Billy) Hartigan has trained greyhounds in and around Horsham.

Bill and wife Helen having a strong family history in the sport, and only last year the couple both retired from their full-time jobs, with Billy previously employed by Vic Roads and Helen holding a longstanding nursing career.

Retirement has freed the couple up to spend more time with their greyhounds on their couple of acres just out of Horsham, a property set up to accommodate their lifestyle change.

Previous top line greyhounds under Billy’s charge stretch as far back as the early 1980s, including Zulu Ben (Bowetzel x Zimbabwe) and full brother to Chief Babwe, both of which stood at stud, and the latter raced by legendary race caller Bill Collins and television presenter Ron Casey.

And, more recently, Bill trained Westar Return for well-known greyhound racing administrator, John Hutchinson, with that greyhound winning in town as well.

But Billy Hartigan’s most recent kennel hero is more than a milestone winner, with recent victories at both his centennial race and his 101st race start, with those successes proving to be a delightful double for the greyhound trainer who has been recuperating from significant spinal surgery. Helen has taken tutelage of the kennel and racing engagements while her husband is recovering.

“Once he gets himself balanced, and when he gets on the rail, you’ll find him hard to beat.”

It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with the Western District trainer over the phone recently, and congratulate he and Helen on the achievements of four-year-old Kraken Tex (Fernando Bale x Kraken Lass).

While discussing Tex’s most recent wins, I reminded Billy of his greyhound’s victory over the classy Oriental Amber in December last year.

Billy recalled, “He went really well that day. We all thought Rodney Clark’s dog (Oriental Amber) would probably win but Tex didn’t know that…he just wants to chase.”

“He sure does love the big long straight at Horsham. Once he gets himself balanced, and when he gets on the rail, you’ll find him hard to beat.”

Billy has had Kraken Tex for most of his racing career, since about the time of his seventh race start, as owners Kevin and Helen Eyles trained him briefly before handing him over to Billy for the remainder of his career.

In addition to winning at start number 100 and 101, Billy maintains that the biggest thrill with Kraken Tex so far was winning the Horsham Greyhound of the Year Award in 2020.

“We have had greyhounds for a long time, and so have Kevin and Helen, and they had never had a greyhound win a Greyhound of the Year award anywhere before.”

“We’ve had four or five other dogs with them over the last three years or so, and I was very pleased to be able to achieve that for all of us.”

Billy and Helen have five race dogs at the moment and have just received two greyhounds from pre-training that belong to prominent breeder/owner Ray Borda. They also have a Wormburner pup they’ve been trialling.

Kraken Tex is dark brindle, which is a bit different to many of the other Fernando Bale dogs currently racing, and as Billy pointed out, “Tex will make a lovely pet when he has finished racing.”

“Kevin and Helen (Eyles) take great responsibility with their greyhounds and will make arrangements concerning rehoming ‘Tex’.”

“He is a great natured animal who loves a pat and his ears being scratched.”

“But, immediately ahead, there is probably another six months of racing left in him, and he is running as well as he ever has.”

The greyhound connection runs very deep on both sides of Billy and wife Helen’s families, with Helen’s parents training greyhounds out of Dimboola, as well as providing catering for the Horsham Greyhound Racing Club for many years.

Billy’s parents also raced and trained greyhounds and, interestingly Billy’s mother, Margaret trained around the time of the Horsham club’s opening in 1975/76.

“He is a great natured animal who loves a pat and his ears being scratched.”

And, unlike her horse racing counterparts, Margaret raced and trained greyhounds in her own name, which was not possible with horse racing in Australia at that time for women.

“I would like to thank Kevin and Helen for giving us the opportunity to train Kraken Tex.”

“Kevin gives some really nice greyhounds to a lot of very capable people and then one day Kevin just said to me ‘I’ll send one over to you…’ and that was Kraken Tex… and he’s been fantastic.”

Fantastic indeed, with the hard-chasing provincial sprinter amassing 18 wins, 36 minor placings and over $40,000 in prize money from his first 101 starts.

Looking ahead to Kraken Tex’s next race start, Billy said it would be nice if he could have a few more inside draws, as he describes the veteran as “chronic for the rail.”

“When he has won from box 7 or 8 it makes it very special, because he is a completely different dog when drawn anywhere near the inside.”

No matter what the box draws hold for Kraken Tex going forward, I’m sure the centennial winning greyhound will be very pleased to be joined by Billy at the races again soon.

WATCH: Kraken Tex (2) defeats super sprinter Oriental Amber (8), who has since gone on to break two track records.

WATCH: Kraken Tex (7) wins his 100th start in convincing fashion at his home track last month.

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Victoria Shaw
About Victoria Shaw - Australia's only female race caller and the only woman in the world to have broadcast four codes of racing in this country and overseas. Victoria has co-hosted international racing awards and hosted racing forums focusing on women's inclusion within international racing communities including Poland, Morocco, Spain & the United Arab Emirates. She has called races on the Victorian thoroughbred picnic circuit and at numerous greyhound tracks around the state as well as the 2020 Waterloo Cup. Victoria is fascinated by the incredible efforts of racing animals as well as the people that love and prepare them, no matter where they are in the world.
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