And in the final instalment, Shaw delves into matters of welfare, family background and breeding questions with the Sharp’s in relation to not only Aston Profit but their much-loved team of greyhounds.
VS: I think it is interesting to note, Jessica, Jason and Liam, when we look at the milestone runners that you’ve got, some really well credentialed veterans racing right around the state of Victoria at the moment. Even those greyhounds that race just at veteran’s level. Aston Profit is running in Mixed company. There are a lot of detractors about greyhound racing, but they don’t seem to get it in their heads that these dogs are super-excited to turn up to the track and they love to run!
JS, JS & LS: Absolutely, yes, yes!
VS: Jessica. You spoke with me before we started this recording, and you believe that your preparation with your greyhounds is not typical or a little bit out of the ordinary. What do you believe is your family’s key to success, or your point of difference when you are preparing your animals to take them to the track. Particularly when we look at all your fabulous victories as well. What do you think is different that you’re doing when you present your animals on race day or race night?
Jessica: We can only talk about what we do, and I am nowhere saying that we do a better job than anyone else. We clearly love our dogs, all of them as individuals, but I am sure other trainers do that as well. It is hard to say we do this, and other people don’t. In general, I think we try to give them the best life we possibly can, the best diet, exercise, a lot of handling. We have a lot of staff as well, so you know they get used to a lot of people, travelling and all of that. I really don’t know; we believe a happy dog will obviously perform better at the track in general. You try and do everything to make sure that dog is healthy and well, no injuries, and all you want is to come home safely with your dog at the end of the day.
VS: The proof is in the pudding when we look at the rate of success for your kennel, and as you said before, a happy dog, obviously that is key to everything; and their emotional well-being is just as important as their physical well-being too, and we are obviously seeing that with their attitude at the races. And when we look at the roll call of some of the great names that you’ve got and some of the prolific winners – Aston Merit, Run Machine, Junk Food Junkie, Devel Sixteen, Aston Lavinia and Hadouken – and you’ve recently retired Daniel Avocado and he’s another story all on his own. And we are now talking about Aston Profit who has won, not quite five races in a row, but to win at start 104, 101, 100, 99, 98, which is extraordinary. When you are tipping over 30 career victories, and she has had 31 so far, you are heading into elite territory, aren’t you?
Jessica: Yes, and that is the most wins that we have had with one dog. We had Kouta Mayhem (28 wins) and Dodgy Dealer (30 wins), but she (Aston Profit) has got the most wins from this kennel, which is fantastic.
“I think we try to give them the best life we possibly can, the best diet, exercise, a lot of handling.”
Jessica: He does, yes. She has been ‘off the pill’ for quite a while already, so she could ‘come-on’ at any time, which would be sad for us, as she would be leaving us then. We also have her sister, Aston Lavinia, and she is a beautiful race dog as well. She has been off to the breeding barn.
Jason: Aston Profit will keep racing pretty much, as long as she is free of injury. She always has, her whole career, so she will go until she comes ‘on-season’ and is ready to have a litter. She’ll keep racing.
VS: Jason, looking ahead to her next start, you’ve got her booked in for Geelong on the 20th (Friday just past) over 400m.
Jason: Yes, that’s correct, she is in the final. She was in Grade 5 heats last Friday.
VS: Which, of course, she won and going very well. And Geelong is a bit of a special track for her, that’s where she racked up her first victory as well. In terms of breeding, has Ray got any particular sire in mind for her at this point?
Jason: We haven’t heard anything from Ray Borda yet, and he normally decides all of that on his own. So, we’ll just have to wait and see. We will find out when everyone else does.
VS: No matter what she has, I have no doubt they will be beautiful as well as very capable and able as well. Your family’s involvement with the sport really doesn’t go back that far in time. When we look at the rate of success that you have had, which is extraordinary, and the amount of staff that you’ve got handling the dogs as well. Jason, in terms of your first engagement with the sport, you were firstly an owner, weren’t you?
Jason: Yes, I worked with a guy down at the wharf and he had a litter of pups. Jeff Britton whelped them, or something along those lines. His name was Jarrod Sharp (no relation) but a very good friend of ours now, and a couple of other boys down the wharf, the three of us, bought that ‘first dog’. I think he won his first three starts and won a Vic Breeders at Shepparton. He was a handy dog. And that was it, we were hooked. We went from one dog to lots of dogs. It got out of hand.
VS: Jessica, you didn’t have any prior engagement with greyhound racing in your life?
“It is a sense of, you know, you are so proud, like a proud mum.”
Jessica: No, I was born in Sweden. I was actually a bit scared of dogs, as I grew up in a flat. So, I never really was keen at all to anything with dogs. But I absolutely love them now.
VS: It is an amazing opportunity to think about how you have not been previously engaged in the sport at all. We look at other racing families, particularly in the horse codes and you will see successive generations and there are too, successive generations in greyhound racing as well. Pretty much you have picked it up as newcomers. And you have taken to the track in absolute spades, and your kennel is going so well. Your three children, we’ve got Liam on the phone tonight, Dylan and Mia as well, all proud and actively engaged in greyhound racing. Liam, what do you think the sport means to you?
Liam: I get a sense of enjoyment and I find it really interesting the way that the sport is run, and the way the sport is going in the future. But then I also really like the dogs. I really like handling them at the track because you get a lot of one-on-one time with this one dog, and you get to know them and their personalities. Just seeing all the dogs going all the way, from being born here, until mum re-homes, and they go out to a loving home. And you get photos of them on a couch and all that, it is very fulfilling.
VS: Well, that is a lovely life span that you guys as a family are covering as well. If we can touch on that, you are breeding, rearing the pups, and then obviously you look after them while training them. After their racing careers, you are re-homing them as well. Jessica, what do you think is the most fulfilling aspect of a greyhound’s life, or what point of their life do you find the most enjoyable with all the aspects that you cover?
Jessica: I really love not the whelping so much but when they are little puppies. You get to know them so well, all the way to when they get to the kennels and when they have their first start at the track. It is a sense of, you know, you are so proud, like a proud mum. Because remember from when they were six weeks old, and we have them out playing in front of the house and all the family all go out and play with the pups outside. You remember and we take photos and it’s just fun. And then you see them at the racetrack and think, I can’t believe this, that is a nice achievement. Of course, you want every dog to win and be successful but not all of them are. It is still an achievement, as long as they hit the track, and if they make it to the track, to me they have done their job. And after that, we take it for what it is, if they are not suitable or whatever, we move them on to become pets.
VS: Certainly, you go to great levels to ensure those that are not suitable racers, and as we all know, not everyone will be successful on the track, you ensure that these dogs all go off to a happy household somewhere.
Jessica: Absolutely. We probably have at any given time, maybe five or six that we are actively looking for a home for and there is no rush. And we always try to educate new families with any help we can. We have about five to 10, probably now, that are coming back every six months to get their nails clipped. You know it is so nice to see the dogs, say two years after they have left our kennel. And they ring up and say, ‘Jessica, we are too scared to cut their nails, can we come’. It is a nice feeling to see them again and to see that they are so spoiled and loved.
VS: I think a lot of people, that perhaps don’t know anything about greyhound racing, might be surprised to hear that a kennel that is prolific with victories, that yours is, goes to great levels, not only to rehome them and look after them, right from their birth to the other side of their racing careers, when they are rehomed into a normal household just as a pet; but to those that had no capacity on the track, that weren’t going to be a superstar. You are worried about their nails and inviting new owners that take on your greyhounds to visit you anytime. And the follow up is there, and you have a handle as to what is going on with their lives, which is terrific to hear. I believe that you are all great ambassadors for the sport! So, to all of you – Jessica, Jason, Liam, Dylan and Mia – congratulations, I think you are an absolutely wonderful advertisement for greyhound racing!
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