HERE’S Gerrie O’Keeffe’s plan… And there’ll be no TEARS if he doesn’t pull it off!
The 69-year-old Neerim Junction trainer has a “fixation” with stayers and staying races.
And that’s why he devises a “silly plan” every year to win the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Collar in New Zealand.
O’Keeffe won the race – held at Auckland GRC in Manakau – with Ring The Bell in 2017 and 2018.
His litter sister, Bells Are Ringin (pictured above with O’Keeffe and former AFL star Brendan Fevola) won the 2016 Group 1 Sandown Cup for O’Keeffe – at $38.40!
“Every year there’s one race I want to win, the Silver Collar, and it’s dear to my heart,” said O’Keeffe with unbridled passion. “And, at 779 metres, it’s the longest race in Australasia.”
O’Keeffe says when he took Ring The Bell over to the “land of the long white cloud” he was four years old and was to become the first greyhound to ring up consecutive Silver Collars.
“After his second Silver Collar win, I left him with Ray Adcock who was in his late 80s at the time. He passed away last year, aged 92, and was known as the “master”.
“He’s the laziest dog in the world but is treated with the respect
According to O’Keeffe, when the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth II embarked on a royal tour in New Zealand in the 1970s they paid a visit to Auckland GRC.
“He (Prince Philip) gifted the club a sterling silver collar named in his honour. It stays in a bank vault for 364 days a year and is released for the event’s presentation,” he said.
“And I believe the club gave Prince Philip a greyhound, named Royal Commission, which won a Silver Collar.”
Around six months ago, O’Keeffe approached 15 trainers and asked for their ‘older’ stayers.
“Decency and ethics are wonderful things and Rob has them in spades,” O’Keeffe said.
O’Keeffe has already put his plan into action, with Here’s Tears winning first up for him at Ballarat on April 27 – and paying $19.50!
Here’s Tears – a younger full brother of retired superstar Tornado Tears – has contested eight Group 1 finals, winning the 2020 Fanta Bale Super Stayers.
Now in the ‘twilight zone’ and approaching the ripe old age of five, Here’s Tears (Sep ’17 Fernando Bale x Tears Siam) continues his preparation for next month’s NZ assignment.
He steps out later this afternoon as $1.45 TAB fixed odds favourite in a GDR Special Event (650m) – Race 4, Box 2 – 5.57pm – at Sale.
It will be start 91 for the ageless champ which has won 25 races, with 19 seconds and 12 thirds, and $451,595 in prizemoney.
But back to O’Keeffe’s Silver Collar obsession…
“Taking a dog to NZ is difficult – there’s a 45-day treatment process, which begins in Australia, and a 48-hour quarantine period prior to flying out,” he said.
“I fly to NZ on May 24 and Here’s Tears flies out the following day. Everything has been aimed at getting the dog over there in peak condition and so far, it’s going to plan.
Rob Britton with Here’s Tears after his 2020 G1 Fanta Bale Super Stayers triumph.
“It all fell into place about six weeks ago when Rob (Britton) got back to me.”
O’Keeffe advised Here’s Tears would have a 600-metre trial a week prior to the Silver Collar heats on June 5. The final, on June 12, carries a $NZD55,000 – approx. $AUD50,000 – first prize.
“We hope to proudly represent Australia in the final,” said O’Keeffe with a sense of patriotism.
O’Keeffe added – win, lose or draw – Here’s Tears would be retired in NZ as a pet.
“He’ll probably pass away on the couch in 10 years’ time,” he quipped. “He’s the laziest dog in the world but is treated with the respect he deserves.”
In 1785, famed Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns wrote: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
But try telling that to Gerrie O’Keeffe.
WATCH: HERE’S TEARS (4) salutes at his first start for Gerrie O’Keeffe – at Ballarat on April 27.
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