Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club

Tara Raceway, Lake Terrace East, Mount Gambier, SA

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Back to where it all began

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bill Ward has been taking in recent Tara Raceway meetings, no doubt marvelling at the progress the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club has made over the past 20 years.

Now 80, he was president of what was originally known as the South East Greyhound Racing Club from 1991 through to 1997, overseeing, together with a dedicated group of greyhound racing supporters, the switch of racing from Glenburnie to Lake Terrace East.

“The way the complex looks today is a real credit to the club,” Ward said this week. “And the fact that Tara Raceway is now able to run more than 70 race meetings a year speaks volumes for the many people involved.

Bill Ward at Glenburnie on opening day in 1979 with Courtoli who by then was standing at stud at a fee of $120.

“I can remember when we used to be allocated something like 22 non-TAB meetings a year and even then half the time we struggled to get nominations.”

Based at Mil Lel at the time, Ward and his wife Trish relocated to Adelaide 12 months after Tara Raceway commenced racing in January 1997 with Craig Collins subsequently taking over as president.

But Ward’s involvement in greyhound racing goes back to 1975, a time when the South East Greyhound Racing Club committee was still frantically searching for a venue for its first “tin hare” track and a strip of land was being prepared out at Mil Lel for drag lure coursing.

“At the time I’d undergone a knee operation and thought walking a couple of greyhounds might help in the recovery,” he recalled.

“I worked with a chap who was involved in greyhounds and he suggested that if I was walking dogs I might as well try and find a quick one.

“As it turned out, local breeder Bill Herring had a litter by Tivoli Chief out of a bitch called Modesty Court whose mother was a sister to a real flying machine in Bunyip Bint.

“She had a litter of 14 and with 10 to pick from I opted for a black dog and a brindle and white bitch.”

So began Ward and his family’s involvement in greyhounds with the pups being reared at their then place of residence on Jubilee Highway West.

The pups were later named Courtoli and Modesty Lee and with no track racing in Mount Gambier at the time they were sent to Melbourne to be trained.

Ward obviously heeded his workmate’s advice, finding not one but two quick ones.

Courtoli went on to win 22 races from 42 starts including a Young Star Classic at Wangaratta and success at Olympic Park and Sandown Park while Modesty Lee won 13 races from 22 starts.

Bill Ward pictured at home this week in Mount Gambier with the 1987 Sydney Cup and Black Tie Liqueur Cup won by Sonic Wave at Wentworth Park.

“I still reckon Courtoli was the best dog I ever had,” Ward said without any hesitation. “He was a fanatical chaser and always gave his all.”

Five years later the family moved to Mil Lel. Proven producer Main Model came down from Sydney and whelped a litter by Waverly Supreme with Ward rearing the pups until 12 months of age.

One of the pups he received for the whelping and rearing turned out to be a more than handy dog called Rickley who ran fourth in the 1983 Ardath National Derby final at Wentworth Park. Yes, back then cigarette companies were right into greyhound sponsorship and Ardath was a popular brand.

And later, when Model Belinda arrived from NSW for breeding, Ward ended up with a fair sort in return for his whelping and rearing efforts of the litter by Chief Dingaan.

“One of mine raced as Sonic Wave in NSW where she broke the 720 metre Wentworth Park track record and in 1987 won two premier staying races at that track – the Sydney Cup and the Black Tie Liqueur Cup.

“Then, in 1988, she was crowned the Bicentennial NSW Greyhound of the Year and this was a great thrill,” he said.

Perhaps fittingly, one of Ward’s last greyhounds was Toli Gold, by Silver Ball out of Sonic Wave. Trained in Adelaide by John Spoolder, the fawn bitch won the 1994 Gawler Patron’s Cup.

Following the death of Trish earlier this year, Ward recently returned to where it all began and now resides not all that far from Jubilee Highway West.

“When I go out to Tara Raceway and see what has been achieved I feel proud to have played a small part. More importantly, though, it’s great to see that the efforts of many dedicated people certainly weren’t in vain.”

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