• Tuesday, 18 Apr, 2023,
  • by Victoria Shaw

Sonia’s breeding with ‘Speed’

Not quite two years ago, I interviewed greyhound breeder and owner Sonia Davis and spoke with her about incredible veteran, Speed Star, just prior to his retirement.

Speed Star, an October ’16 son of Fernando Bale x White Spyro, amassed an incredible record of 113 starts for 47 wins and 38 minor placings.

His swansong race appearance in June ‘21 at Geelong, was just as remarkable as his strike rate, bowing out with an incredible 7.5 length victory.

With Speed Star’s progeny now hitting the racetrack, I thought it would be a great opportunity to follow up with the Davis family.

“We had two winners last week. They were Speed Star’s first two winners, so we were very excited about that.”

And while finding out about some little ‘Speedies’, I also asked Sonia about her family’s wider canine interests, specifically breeding some delightfully cheeky pugs.

Breeding greyhounds and pugs may surprise some, but what I discovered while talking to Sonia, is the differences in regulation around the commercial breeding of domestic pets in Australia compared to breeding greyhounds.

Below are a few excerpts from my latest interview with Sonia, in which she revealed her excitement about the next generation of ‘Speed Stars’, as well as some impressive facts concerning the breeding, ownership and welfare of greyhounds in the state of Victoria.

VS: This is very exciting that Speed Star is now at stud. How long has he been standing at stud and where is he located?

SD: He’s been standing at stud for about a year and a half now. He’s located at a local rearing place, down our way at Mincha, and the lady that looks after him is Belinda King.

VS: What do you think are his defining aspects that potential greyhound trainers, owners and breeders would be seeking?

SD: His temperament. He is a beautiful natured dog, and he’s thrown that into his pups. He is clean, he is quiet, his early pace, he’s throwing on to them. All his pups are natural chasers, just like him. You can’t go wrong.

VS: His first litter has just taken to the racetrack, what can you tell us about his progeny?

SD: Okay, so he’s got three pups racing around Rockhampton at the moment with Dallas Beckett, who is a top trainer in Queensland, and they have been racing for about a month. They’ve been in the prizemoney every start. We had two winners last week. They were his first two winners, so we were very excited about that.

WATCH: Well-named sprinter SPEED STAR (B3) bowed out on a winning note at Geelong back on June 25, 2021, careering away from his rivals to claim his 47th career victory at his 113th appearance.

VS: Let’s allude our listeners to the fact we’ve got Little Spyro, and she has had five starts for a win and three minor places, you’ve also got another lovely little girl, Mini Star, and she’s had three starts for a win, a second and a third, and you’ve got Legendary Spyro, who’s had four starts for a second. Now they have run some pretty fair times for the 407m at Rockhampton, I think the best time I could find so far was 24.13sec. That’s not mucking around, is it?

SD: According to our trainer at Rockhampton, he is absolutely rapt with the times for their age, being only 16-17 months old. They are running times that 20-22 month old pups are running. So they are well and truly ahead with their times and he thinks it is only a matter of time and they’re going to be very close to breaking 24 seconds shortly.

VS: Let’s just touch on their mum as well. Your brood matron, Little Bertha, she was from the same litter as Chop Scotch.

SD: She was. We actually owned Chop Scotch as well. He was a fantastic dog, he was a strong 500m dog and the bloodlines, George Farrugia bred, the mother was Blame The Fame, a full American import. We thought it matched Speed Star well, so we thought we would give it a go.

VS: Sonia, you don’t just breed greyhounds, and very nice ones as well, you also breed pugs.

SD: We certainly do, they are a bit of a different mix. We have some different reactions when people find out we breed greyhounds and pugs, but they all get along well.

VS: Sonia, do you have as much control over your pugs that you breed, once they go to a private home, compared to what you can keep an eye on, with the assistance of the greyhound racing industry’s help in monitoring the welfare of greyhounds that you breed and sell?

SD: Definitely not. Once we pick suitable owners for them and send them off, we do keep in contact, (but) we don’t have any control of them, no. Whereas GRV, as you all know, do kennel returns, and GRV knows the exact location of every dog throughout their life. We don’t have any control over the pugs, whatsoever, no.

VS: Sonia, can you shed a bit of light on Speed Star’s mind-set? His last start at start number 113, clearly a veteran, and won that in such fine fashion. How excited would he have been going to the races? Obviously, no one whispered in his ear ‘Speed Star, this is your last time on the racetrack’. He would have arrived at the races with just as much delight and excitement as he would at start number 23, I have no doubt. How did you find his approach to race day or race night?

SD: Oh, just like any other race start that he had, just wanting to be there, giving it his all and just enjoying himself, he just loves racing. You can see by the way he raced that he loves it.

VS: Well at his first win, I think he won by five and a half or six lengths, which was also at Geelong over the 460m back in 2018, and then to watch a replay of his last start at start 113, win number 47, which is just mind-blowing, and at one point in that event when Ronnie Hawkswell declares him 15 lengths in front, I mean that says it all, he’s a veteran, he is so good at what he does, and most importantly, he is enjoying what he is doing. 

So, how is he enjoying retirement anyway?

SD: Good, he’s fantastic. He’s a bit cheeky, he likes to climb out of his yard sometimes, so a special yard that he goes out during the day. He’s just enjoying it. He lays in the sun; he is enjoying retirement. He is a beautiful dog. We go and see him regularly, he knows who we are and he jumps all over us just like a puppy. He’s going really well.

VS: And if anyone listening to this interview would like to contact you concerning breeding with Speed Star, how can they go about that?

SD: They can contact either myself or Craig. A lot of people know who we are, so just give us a call. We can organize either an AI or some frozen straws.

VS: And, if anyone is looking for a beautifully bred pug, I’m sure Sonia Davis can help you out too!

Pawnote: With Friday being Geelong Cup night, the first of Speed Star’s four appearances at Group level came in the 2018 Geelong Cup, while he also qualified for the finals of the Ballarat Cup (2018), Warragul Cup (2020) and Bendigo Cup (2020).

Victoria ShawVictoria Shaw

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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