Melton greyhound trainer Andy Stewart, who masterminded a homebred Group 1 fairy tale when rank outsider Midwinter stormed to victory in the 2016 Silver Chief Classic, has sadly passed away at 76 years of age after battling cancer.
“Andy came home after racing Cardamom one night and he could hardly get out of the car,” wife Judy explained.
“He said I’m getting too old for this but it was the start of the cancer. It was a long battle and the last 12 months were terrible. With COVID, people hadn’t been able to visit and weren’t aware how advanced it was.”
Retired teacher Stewart, dubbed ‘the Scottish Soldier’ by race caller Ron Hawkswell, and Judy were catapulted into the limelight at The Meadows on January 2, 2016.
$41 roughie Midwinter, a son of Cosmic Rumble and Tania Two Shoes (named after the Stewarts’ daughter), claimed a memorable victory in the Silver Chief.
Midwinter (3) on his way to victory in the 2016 Silver Chief Final (image enhanced).
“It was fantastic. We’ve never had a night like it!” Judy recalled.
“There’s a great photo of Andy coming back after the race and he looks like he’s seen a ghost.
“He took forever and when I asked him what he was doing he said he was trying to work out what he was going to say. Midwinter was 40/1 so he didn’t have a speech prepared!
“Our neighbours, who had never been to the greyhounds before, came with us that night and when we got home they’d decorated our place with streamers and balloons and we had a great party.
“We had the funeral on Friday and our grandson Darcy recited the whole Midwinter race-call word for word. He had it down pat. He started with ‘At the boxes’ and went for exactly 29.99 seconds, which was the time for the race.”
Midwinter went on to win 13 of his 63 starts and $166,380 in prizemoney.
His litter brother Slick Ice was also an outstanding performer, winning 23 from 52, banking $93,280 in earnings and contesting the G3 Silver Bullet final.
Barnstormer, which won 11 races and ran third in the G2 Great Chase in 2009, was another standout, also coming from the same dam-line, as did Stewart’s final greyhound Cardamom, which won 18 races and was a finalist in the G1 Hume Cup in 2017.
“I’ve still got Midwinter and Slick Ice here with me,” Judy said.
“Their beds are inside and they have the run of the place.
“Where the kennels used to be, we put Andy’s recliner out there with the dogs’ beds and they would lie out there with him. They could sense what was going on.”
Married for 52 years and together for 54, Andy and Judy Stewart were a partnership in every sense.
Judy and Andy Stewart with star litter brothers Slick Ice and Midwinter. These days the retired seven years old pets having the run of the Stewart property.
Andy credited Judy with the fateful decision to tackle the Silver Chief with Midwinter, while it was also Judy who fuelled her husband’s greyhound racing passion when buying his first dog off successful trainer and Andy’s workmate Stan Wardle.
“Stan was Andy’s boss and I rang Stan and bought a pup for Andy’s birthday,” Judy explained.
“She was the first dog we had and we called her Judy’s Surprise. She wasn’t that great but we actually had a litter with her and it included Pharoah King, which won the Great Chase.
“My daughter Tania did her tribute at the funeral and said that she’s only heard Mum use the ‘F’ word twice. Once, was when Dad was playing Neil Diamond too loud and the second time was when he bought a dog out of Superman’s litter. She didn’t come cheap!”
“She was called Pearlee Surprise and she was the grandmother of Midwinter and Slick Ice. Their mother was Tania Two Shoes.
“Slick Ice was faster than Midwinter but he couldn’t get the 525m, while Midwinter was really a 600m dog.
“Cardamom was a very good dog too; he won over $100,000. Barnstormer ran third in the Great Chase but he got sick and wasn’t 100 percent, otherwise he would’ve gone closer.
“We were only little trainers – self-taught really – but we were a pretty good team!”
The couple has a coveted Group 1 trophy and a host of racetrack memories to prove it.
Andy was also a committee member at the Melton Greyhound Racing Club and bred former star chaser Campaspe Will, trained by the late Norm Walls, also of Melton.
Melton GRC Secretary Sue Delaney described Andy as “a special man” and said Judy and Andy were renowned for making regular visits to retirement villages with their beloved retired greyhounds to entertain the residents and spread the word about the gentle breed.
Andy’s talents were not limited to greyhound racing, as he played table tennis at a high level and his love was cake decorating won him many awards Australia wide.
He is survived by Judy, children Brett and Tania and four grandchildren.
WATCH: Midwinter (3) stunned everyone including breeder trainer Andy Stewart when taking out the 2016 Silver Chief at The Meadows at the huge odds of $41. Results