Peter Henley (proper) has made the choice to retire from greyhound coaching. Picture / Provided
Within the new season, a well-known identify might be absent from the coaching ranks.
After some 50 years of involvement in greyhound racing, Peter Henley might be hanging up the collar and lead. Henley’s identify is synonymous with the game, having skilled along with his late spouse Lois for plenty of a long time.
Born on 4 February 1941, he grew up in Westport and had a love for racehorses from an early age.
“I began using gallopers in trackwork for a few trainers earlier than I went to highschool within the mornings,” he remembers.
“Then, I received concerned with performing some work for a trotting coach, however I did not like driving trotters as a result of it was so bloody lengthy. You’d jog a horse a technique for half-hour, then the opposite means for half-hour; I might practically go to sleep!” he laughs.
After Henley met Lois, they explored their shared ardour for pigeons collectively.
“We had racing pigeons collectively in Westport and once we moved to Oxford (Canterbury) in round 1969, we arrange a pigeon membership there.
“Then, the greyhounds got here alongside, and that began about 50 years of involvement with them.”
Their introduction to greyhound racing was an accident. The couple had three younger youngsters, and the youngsters used to climb via the fence to play with the neighbour’s canine.
“Our neighbour, greyhound coach Jock Walsh, at all times had pups. There was one pup who at all times used to observe the youngsters house and that is the way it began.”
After a go to to Marshlands Area, Henley was fascinated by the canine’ intelligence and the best way they intuitively knew what paths to take after they had been racing. He was immediately hooked.
“So, we purchased this little pup from subsequent door, and we referred to as her Rise And Shine. The children used to place her in a pram and canopy her with blankets and push her across the yard,” he chuckles.
“She lived in the home as a result of if we put her in a kennel, she’d discover a means of getting out. She lived inside and slept on the couch with the cats.”
Peter Henley and Rise And Shine. Picture / Provided
Rise And Shine wasn’t simply the household pet – she gained 35 races, together with the 1975 New Zealand Championship at QEII Park.
In these days, greyhounds might begin their racing careers at a really early age.
“They might really begin racing after they had been 9 months outdated,” says Henley. “There have been races for sapling canine between 9 and 12 months outdated, and pet races for these between 12 and 15 months outdated. It meant that they received loads of expertise earlier than they went up the grades in opposition to different youthful canine.
“In these days, older racedogs might generally race twice in someday!”
Since these early days with Rise And Shine, Henley has by no means been with no greyhound – and there have been loads of highlights through the years.
“We bred our personal canine from that first greyhound. When she was mated, we went to the most effective canine in Australia on the time. With each litter, there was at all times one adequate to return and race in Australia.
“Among the finest ones was a canine referred to as Shiny And Shiny,” he remembers. “He was damaged in at Tokoroa, and as a break-in, he broke the observe report there. We knew he was the products after which we took him to Mount Good for a race there and he broke the dash report, however they did not give it to him as a result of they mentioned a maiden canine could not do this.
“He gained 13 races straight in New Zealand earlier than we despatched him to Australia. One of many high Sydney commentators on the time mentioned he was one of many few New Zealand canine that had come over who might maintain his personal on the town tracks.”
Henley went to Australia a number of instances to observe the canine race there in particular person. Again in New Zealand, tuning in to take heed to Shiny And Shiny race in Australia wasn’t simple; racing protection again then wasn’t like what it’s now.
“The one means you may hear these race commentaries in Australia was to tune into Radio 2UE Sydney. We would be up at 1am huddled across the radio, making an attempt to take heed to the race.
“However Radio Samoa had simply began on the identical frequency, and that may are available in and overshadow the race commentary!”
In 1979, the husband-wife coaching mixture took out the Auckland Trainers’ Premiership, which Henley cites as a serious spotlight.
“It went proper right down to the final assembly of the season at Mt Good, and we had been neck and neck with Bob and Delys van Meeuwen all season. They had been actually good trainers and onerous to beat in these days, so it was a serious feather within the cap reaching that.”
Within the Nineteen Eighties, Henley was on the Auckland Committee, and he remembers the Minister for Racing on the time, Allan Highet, being on observe to current a trophy.
“It was a transtasman sequence that includes greyhounds from all through Australasia. We had Shiny And Shiny within the race, however our daughter Carolyn was additionally the caretaker coach of a greyhound skilled by the Kingstons constructing as much as the race.
“Properly, that canine ended up beating Shiny And Shiny within the ultimate – Carolyn did too good a job taking care of it!”
Peter and Lois Henley after Jimmy Sprint’s victory within the New Zealand Australia Distance Problem at Cambridge. Picture / Provided
He fondly remembers the opening of the all-weather observe at Cambridge in 1997. The New Zealand Australia Distance Problem was held on opening night time, and their canine received as much as win within the final stride.
“The entire grandstand was packed and it took fairly a while for the judges to make a decision within the race. When it got here via that Jimmy Sprint had gained by a nostril, the entire grandstand should have been on him, judging by the noise!”
Whereas Henley and Lois had been firmly entrenched within the racing aspect of issues, the pair additionally grew to become closely concerned within the administration aspect, with Lois changing into a pioneer for animal welfare within the sport when she was on the Greyhound Racing New Zealand Board. She was additionally the Secretary of the Waikato Greyhound Racing Membership, whereas Henley was the President there.
“We each had a beautiful time, actually. Within the early instances, animal welfare wasn’t as a lot of a spotlight. The progress made on this space through the years has been nice to see, and Lois was one of many early instigators.”
Whereas Henley, aged 81, has determined now’s the suitable time to complete up as a greyhound coach, he’ll nonetheless be saved busy in retirement. Now, he’ll have extra time to spend on his different ardour – pigeons.
He speaks enthusiastically concerning the birds. When he was in Queenstown a number of weeks in the past for his granddaughter’s twenty first birthday, he took the chance to gather a few pigeons from a pal in Manapouri.
“These two I picked up are yellow. I’ve by no means had yellow birds earlier than, but it surely’s good to have selection.”
Color is a vital facet of pigeon breeding, he explains.
“You could have a good thought about breeding for color. For instance, in case you breed a crimson fowl to a blue fowl, loads of instances you may get a kind of silver-coloured fowl.
“You have to mate them for appears to be like, and that additionally contains how they stand and that kind of factor – it takes fairly a bit to get a handsome fowl. I fairly just like the birds which might be referred to as blue bars; they’re blue and have two black bars on every wing.
“There are lots of of various pigeon breeds all over the world. I feel that some breeds are bloody ugly, however every to their very own!” he laughs.
Henley presently has round 35 pigeons at his property, and he is aware of who each single one is by sight.
Final month, he took plenty of them right down to Levin for the Nationwide Poultry and Pigeon Present, the place his prized pigeons claimed two coveted titles: “Finest Pigeon in Present” and “Reserve Finest Pigeon in Present”.
“I used to be a bit satisfied about that!”
Henley admits that after Lois handed away in 2011, his curiosity in greyhound racing dwindled barely, as they “did every part collectively”.
“Malin, my new spouse, has been great, although. She did not know something about greyhound racing, and now she’s very assured and helps Carolyn with retired greyhounds.
“That is most likely the top of an period a bit for me. I really feel like I’ve performed my half within the trade, having been actively concerned as a coach and likewise within the administration of it. It is nice to see the brand new generations coming via – a number of the trainers doing properly now, I can keep in mind from after they had been children. We at all times liked serving to out the youthful technology.”
Henley can also be fast to specific his gratitude to plenty of individuals within the sport.
“Thanks to the trailblazers, who fought lengthy and onerous to lastly get tote betting for our trade. Many have handed on, however they’d be completely satisfied to see their efforts rewarded with a multimillion-dollar trade right now.
“And a particular thanks to the previous Minister for Racing, Winston Peters, for making a degree taking part in area for all three codes.
“I’ve liked my time within the sport. I’ve made loads of associates right here and in Australia. Age catches up with us all – I am simply fortunate I am in cheap well being so I can get pleasure from my birds!”