Years involved in industry:40
- 1981 Shepparton Cup
- 2001 Westend Distance
- 2001 Queensland Derby
- 2004 Sandown Cup
- 2007 Wangaratta Cup
- 2012 Shootout
- 2012 Vic Peters Classic
Shepparton greyhound breeder Tony McGrath’s induction into Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Hall of Fame can be attributed to his hard work, thorough planning and attention to detail.
McGrath, whose greyhounds’ race under the ‘Proven’ prefix, bred his first group race winner in 1981 (Shepparton Cup) and he has consistently bred city winners and group performing greyhounds since the mid 1990s.
McGrath insists that luck had only played a small role in his success, which includes breeding many top class greyhounds such as Group 1 Sandown Cup winner Proven Lethal, plus other stars including Proven Alias, Proven Kiwi, Proven Reward, Proven Smokey, Proven Wizard and more recently Proven Nitro.
In his acceptance speech at the 2012 Greyhound Industry Awards Night, McGrath pointed to Australia’s most prominent breeders, the Wheeler family, who leave no stone unturned when it comes to breeding and rearing pups at their multi-million dollar state of the art establishment in New South Wales.
“The Wheelers seem to have luck every year. Well I can tell you it’s not luck. If you play the percentages and don’t take short cuts it pays off,” McGrath said.
“Breeding the right sire to the right dam is crucial, and something I invest a lot of time into, however that is only part of the job done. Giving your pups plenty of galloping, and feeding them quality food is critical, and probably above all else is the importance of handling them regularly.”
While McGrath is the brain behind his success as a breeder, he was quick to acknowledge the hard work of wife Sandra in their operation.
“Sandra does a wonderful job with our pups when they are at a very young age, and I should also mention all the people that have trained greyhounds for me over the years including Graeme Bate, Jason Thompson and Wayne Vassallo,” McGrath said.
Son Carl McGrath said his dad never shied away from using unproven or non-commercial sires if he thought they were the right fit for his broodmatrons.
“One thing dad always taught me was not to breed commercially. He was happy to breed the best broodmatron with the cheapest sire if he thought it would produce the best results.”
“He does a lot of homework. He spends hours thinking about selecting a sire months before a broodmatron has even come on season.”
“He carefully selects which female greyhounds he wants to breed with, and once he does that he closely analyses any weaknesses and any deficiencies in her temperament or her physique and he will choose a sire to off-set those deficiencies. He doesn’t always get it right, but he gets it right most of the time,” Carl said.
Tony McGrath’s first involvement in greyhound racing dates back to the 1970s.
“Dad was working at Telecom when he noticed a litter of greyhounds bred in the Shepparton area.”
“He got the runt of the litter for nothing or very little and he ended up winning in the city with her. From that moment he was hooked on the sport,” Carl said.
However, it was in the mid-1990s that Tony McGrath’s breeding empire really hit its straps, and much of that had to do with a greyhound he bred named Proven Misty, who he kept close to his heart.
“His favourite dog ever would be Proven Misty. She didn’t win a group 1, but she was dad’s favourite. She was a great producer in 1990s throwing the likes of Proven Kiwi, Proven Wizard, Proven Dream and Proven Reward among others. In many ways she got the ball rolling for him.” Carl said.
Tony has also given up plenty of his time to put back into the sport, being a long serving president of the Shepparton Greyhound Racing Club and also the GOBIS committee.
While breeders often don’t receive the same sort of recognition as the top trainers as their names often don’t appear in the form guides, those who know McGrath well hold him in the highest esteem.
“He is always fair and respectful and you never hear anyone say a bad word about him,” Carl said.
“For instance, (trainer) Jason Thompson has achieved everything in the sport and he always seems to keep his emotions in check. But when he won the (2012) Group 1 Vic Peters Classic with dad’s dog Proven Nitro, it happened at a time when dad was pretty sick with chronic kidney failure, and Jason was choking up in his acceptance speech.”
“The next day Graeme Bate rang dad to congratulate him. Graeme hasn’t trained for dad for 20 years, but for Graeme to find out that dad was sick and be moved enough to ring him shows the level of respect in which dad is regarded. It is really nice to know that dad is held in such high regard.”
While Tony is slowly winding down his involvement in greyhound racing, his legacy through the ‘Proven’ line will remain etched in greyhound racing forever.