Makeshift Pups are being reared at Razldazl Greyhounds. It is near Shelbourne Park, “one of the greatest tracks in the world”, says Ruth. “It’s a very fair running track. Some are tighter but those don’t suit my dogs because they are pacey dogs rather than sprinters – they have longer strides.”
She usually sets off for the racetrack at 6pm. “The dogs love travelling because they know they are going racing,” says Ruth. They travel in a specially adapted van, with two large cages at the rear and one dog in the space in front of them, all lying on beds of straw. Underneath the cages are two large drawers filled with rugs, muzzles, leads – all the paraphernalia they might need at the races.
The dogs must be weighed in by 7pm and kennelled, then Ruth eats her own supper – usually chicken, brown bread, and a big slice of apple or rhubarb tart, washed down with a flask of tea. She takes her dinner with her, because “if you go over to the restaurant, it’s a rush”. Once the dogs have been kennelled trainers are not allowed near them until just before the race.
Ruth also breeds puppies, with good quality ones raising between £4,000 and £5,000. Her previous brood bitch, Pearl, won the Puppy Oaks – another greyhound classic. But she is eight now and has retired to a life indoors with Ruth and another retired greyhound called William.
The next time I see Ruth is at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium. She is running three dogs – Razldazl Bugatti, Razldazl Rioga and the hot contender Razldazl Jayfkay – in the first round heats of the Williamhill.com Greyhound Derby.
We go down to the kennel, the room where the greyhounds are being muzzled and rugged up ready for their races. The last time I saw Jayfkay he was eating his supper after a calm walk around a field. Now he is clearly excited, tugging the slight figure of Ruth around the room. Although she says her dogs are average size, at between 70lbs and 78lbs, they are built of solid muscle and very powerful.
Most greyhound trainers are men, and although there are more women training in England than in Ireland, she jokes in a slight American accent: “This is a man’s world. But there ain’t nothing a woman can’t do.”
Ruth chats with fellow competitors, and beams in our direction when she sees us standing in the doorway – the furthest we are allowed in. While the other dogs just have one rug over their racing jackets, Ruth’s have a cosy fleece underneath. They really are treated like canine superstars.
It’s time for the race. We stand behind the traps and watch the dogs being shut in: some are a bit reluctant and have to be lifted, but Jayfkay walks straight in. The trainers all move away from the side of the track – the last thing they want is for their dog to catch sight of them and decide they look more interesting than the lure. But we stay by the traps and watch as the dogs spring into action – a blur of fur and jackets chasing a dayglo hare.
Jayfkay immediately takes the lead by several lengths. Having watched the previous races, we have learned that unless something goes seriously wrong, like a collision, the dog that leads from the start is often leading at the finish.
Jayfkay is no exception – he streaks past the finishing post and then carries on round the track to where Ruth is waiting for him on the other side. As he pulls up, his tail is wagging furiously.