Dolores Ruth from Rathangan with her dogs Luke (left) and Apollo
Razldazl Bonnie does her first handslip trial in Australia.
The Australians may be preoccupied with thoughts of big cats touring this summer but it is some visiting dogs from Kildare that they need to be wary of.
Never one to shirk a challenge, Rathangan trainer Dolores Ruth turns her pioneering gaze on global greyhound racing in a bid to match her phenomenal success at home on the other side of the globe.
As a young woman, she took on the male-dominated world of greyhound racing and was wildly successful. All manner of Irish and English classics – Derbies and Champion Stakes among them – have fallen to her indomitable spirit.
But having conquered Europe, she has turned her pioneering gaze southwards. Her Razldazl dogs have sprinkled razzmatazz on the grey recesses of dog-racing in this country and now Ruth is hoping to give the Australians a shot of that razzle-dazzle sparkle as she sends two of her brightest prospects to trainer Darren McDonald for a tilt at the southern hemisphere’s glittering prizes.
“One evening I was sitting down thinking about where I was going in the future. I’ve had some very successful years but I was looking to open up new challenges, new avenues,” Ruth explains. “I love a challenge and I was looking to try something a bit better, not only for myself but for greyhound racing, because I felt that the sport in Ireland had gone a little flat. There isn’t the same enthusiasm and I wanted to give it the spark back again and I think by going out there, that certainly happened and I achieved that.”
Her month-long holiday to Australia in January quickly spiraled into a working trip long before she departed those shores. It soon became apparent that, having won all there is to be garnered here, Australia’s greatest races offered her competitive spirit the new challenge it craved.
“I decided that I would love to race some dogs out there for a couple of reasons. The prize money is huge out there compared with here. We have the Derby here which is six runs and the other Classics are five or six runs and over there it is two runs for their big races and the prize money is between Aus $250,000 and $300,000.
“So there’s a huge financial attraction going out there but I’m also into showjumping and I do a bit of SJI. I see top showjumpers travelling all over the world every week and how that has opened up their business, the way being international has created an empire that you just wouldn’t believe. It has become a multi-million pound industry because people can travel the world. You see the same with horse racing. The top trainers travel their horses around the world for the big races and this doesn’t happen in greyhound racing.”
Ruth’s new partnership with leading Australian trainer Darren McDonald has made the Australian greyhound establishment sit up and take notice. Her Australian adventure hit the headlines with two double-page interviews in The Greyhound Recorder, the Australian trade paper.
Two weeks ago the first phase of Ruth’s plan to revolutionise international greyhound racing went into overdrive as Razdazl Luke and Razdazl Apollo landed safely on Australian shores. It was the culmination of an intense preparation period at home but, in a sense, the hard part is only just beginning as Ruth explains the enormous obstacles the pair must overcome if they are to conquer Australia.
“They have eight dog races and an inside hare so it is a huge challenge for an Irish dog to go over and compete because it’s far more difficult. They have no seeding in races so the dogs need to be tough and competitive, stay the distance and have early pace. The dogs have to really suit the environment and the surfaces are different and quicker to what we have here. There is so much for them to acclimatize to and take on so it’s a huge challenge for them.”
“Razdazl Luke won the Puppy Derby and Apollo ran in the Irish Derby even though he was still a pup so they were quite lightly raced and we gave them a break over the winter to allow them mature and develop. When we came home from Australia we built up their level of fitness because they needed to be very fit before they travelled, especially having to be quarantined. You can’t do anything with them for a month, they are just in and out of a paddock so they get very little exercise and they don’t get the same feeding they would get as race-dogs so it was quite a lot of hard work to get them ready,” Ruth says of her intrepid adventurers.
Once they are released from quarantine, they will begin their training regime with McDonald but the stakes races will be fast approaching by then so Apollo and Luke will have to shine from the beginning if Ruth’s plan is to succeed.
“From October right through to December it is hot and heavy over there with one major competition after another so they need to be up and running, ready for the challenge by late September to be able to run in the big races. So many of the big stakes take place at that time so there’s three months to get them to make the grade and show what they have shown at home. If they are good enough they are known as city dogs and it’s city dogs we want.”
This is just the first phase of her ambitions plan to open up the sport of greyhound racing to the idea of international competition. Ruth is currently preparing some un-raced puppies to join McDonald and Razldazl Bonnie. Clyde and Ned will follow Luke and Apollo if they pass Ruth’s strict examinations over the coming weeks. Having persuaded the Australian minister that quarantine restrictions need to reduced from the current six months to a more manageable ten days, Ruth has an even more pioneering dream.
“I would certainly like to spend a few months out there and what I hope to do eventually is bring a dog out myself to race it in one of the big competitions and when I feel I have enough knowledge of how things work out there then I would love to just arrive over on a plane. I’d love to go over and race in one of the big competitions over there, that would be the next challenge but I’ll start with this one first,” she smiles. “I think we have the best breeding in the world but the Aussies would think differently! The only way we will know is to take on each other and see what happens. I would love for our top dogs to be able to go over to Australia and put it up to them and show them that we can match them and beat them. I think it would open up so much for both countries.”