Years involved in industry: 40 (approximately)
- Ken Carr Medallist
- Foundation member Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club
- Director & chairman Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association
- Executive member & president Greyhound Owners, Trainers & Breeders Association
- Advisory panel member Racing Appeals Tribunal
- Life member MGRA, Cranbourne GRC, GOTBA
- Trained 1970 Laurels winner – La Rate
Greyhound racing flows freely through the veins of revered administrator Fred Abel.
Fred caught the greyhound racing ‘bug’ the day his mum and dad took him to Harold Park as a 10-year-old. He also recalls attending the opening race meeting at Wentworth Park in the late 1930s.
When he joined the Royal Australian Air Force as an 18-year-old, Fred was already a greyhound owner.
He spent 27 years as a member of the RAAF, and it’s an apt metaphor that his greyhound racing career – as a trainer and, more importantly, as an administrator – also took off and was quickly in full flight.
“I raced my first winner, Whole Wheat, in 1946 at Napier Park in Essendon and at Gracedale Park in Springvale,” Fred said. (The Springvale Council Chambers are now built on the site.)
“The greyhounds in 1946 raced behind a greyhound that was released and given about a 10-length start – that greyhound was called a pacemaker. However, legislation was passed in 1955 that allowed greyhounds to race and chase a mechanical lure.”
In 1970, Fred won the Laurels with La Rate. “It was a great thrill as there were 342 nominations for the series,” Fred said.
Five years earlier, Fred had joined the executive committee of the Greyhound Owners, Trainers and Breeders Association. He was to serve the GOTBA with distinction until 1986, the last eight of those years as president.
“The late 1960s and 1970s were a busy time for the GOTBA as there was a lot of movement out of the suburbs to rural and semi-rural areas by owners and trainers,” Fred said.
“Owners and trainers wanted to have more greyhounds on their properties, which often led to problems securing permits. Subsequently the GOTBA had many deputations and liaisons with councils and town planners – even the Greyhound Racing Control Board – and was always there to assist participants.
In 1973, Fred joined four other greyhound men and formed a committee to seek a licence for a greyhound club to race on the Cranbourne track, which was granted in early 1974.
“Those men were Fred Booth, Jack Biddington, Colin McKaskill and Horrie Tomamichael,” Fred said.
“One Sunday afternoon I received a phone call from Fred (Booth) requesting I attend a meeting. He said ‘we’re going to form a steering committee to get a licence at Cranbourne.
“Baxter and Rye also wanted a track, but fortunately we were successful. “I was a member of the Cranbourne committee from 1974 until 1990.”
Fred was a vociferous champion for the industry’s rank and file.
“In the late 1970s, I was asked by a few trainers who lived on Phillip Island to help them as the local council were about to pass an ordinance banning greyhounds on the island,” Fred said.
“So I appeared before the council and successfully had the ordinance withdrawn. I was concerned that such a ban could have a snowballing effect.”
He was also appointed to the Racing Appeals Tribunal advisory panel in 1982 and served until he resigned in 2008 – a period of 26 years. He regularly appeared for trainers before Greyhound Racing Victoria and County Court appeals.
Fred became a director of the Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association in 1982 and was appointed chairman of the MGRA in 1994.
He was an integral member and leader of the MGRA move from Olympic Park to The Meadows, and dedicated many extra hours ensuring the move to The Meadows was successful.
Fred never missed a meeting during this time, and his sole goal was to achieve a long-term home for the members of the MGRA. He was appointed a life member of the MGRA in 2000 at a gala function held in his honour.
“The ‘Last Bark at the Park’ in 1996 (a slogan coined by committee man Peter Pearson) was a sad night but also a happy occasion with over 4000 people in attendance,” Fred said.
“We knew we were going to race at Sandown Park in the short term, but we really didn’t know where we were going to end up. At that stage, all we had was our ‘marching orders’.
“We had finances, but the Olympic Park Trust only wanted to give us $1 million and we had 13 years left on our contract.
“So I mentioned our plight to the Minister for Sport, Tom Reynolds, and not long after he informed me that he’d got another $2 million for us.
“When the club’s general manager Marg Long and I closed the doors for the last time at Olympic Park, there was certainly a tinge of sadness.”
“The MGRA inspected 72 sites before deciding on the current location at The Meadows (in Broadmeadows). Moonee Valley had been mooted, and they refused the Showgrounds as there were too many restrictions, such as not being permitted to self-cater.
“There was a lot of criticism on our selection of venue, with many detractors saying it would never be successful,” Fred said. “There were a lot of knockers and a lot of heated phone calls.
“But I was fortunate to have a good, solid directorship… We stuck to our plans and the full committee abided by those decisions.
“I now get plenty of satisfaction and pleasure out of seeing their success. And they’re really attempting to get people to the track.”
As for the greatest greyhound he’s seen, Fred doesn’t hesitate to name Chief Havoc.
“He was a true champion, winning over 30 races and breaking 17 track records.”
MGRA general manager Marg Long offered a glowing tribute to Fred Abel.
“During the many years I worked with Fred I found him to be an extremely honourable and loyal person and someone I am pleased to be able to call a friend. With Fred, everyone was treated equally whether they were staff or management, and everyone was offered the utmost respect and friendliness.
“Fred’s reign as chairman was always an interesting contrast between his love of order and his sense of humour. One memorable night something tickled his fancy and he couldn’t stop laughing. When he eventually did, he used one of his many favourite sayings ‘Gentlemen, a little bit of decorum please’. His other favoured saying was that ‘something has been around since cocky was an egg’.
“Fred’s support for the rank and file owner and trainer is legendary. The number of times he has gone into battle to ensure they received a ‘fair go’ could not be counted. He went above and beyond the call of duty and gave of himself freely.
“Fred’s induction into the Victorian greyhound racing Hall of Fame goes some way to rewarding a magnificent commitment to the industry over many years. Well done, Fred.”
Fred Abel is a life member of the Melbourne Greyhound Racing Association, Cranbourne Greyhound Racing Club, and GOTBA.
He was a joint recipient of the 2005 Ken Car Medal – the highest award for excellence within the Victorian greyhound racing industry.
Fred said his induction into the Victorian greyhound racing Hall of Fame “makes me feel very honoured”.
“To be judged with people that have given great service to the industry is very humbling.”