Long-time trainer finally breaks through for first feature win - Mount Gambier Weekly Recap

Racing News

Long-time trainer finally breaks through for first feature win

Coleraine owner-trainer Bob Wombwell has been involved with greyhounds for 45 years – and still recalls his first winner at Mount Gambier.

“By Dynamic Dean out of Silver Tarmel, the name of the greyhound was Dynamic Tarmel who won a maiden stake over 289 metres out at the Glenburnie racecourse on Saturday, November 8, 1980,” he said.

Actually, Wombwell had been in pretty good company that day. Eric Lewis, who is remembered every July with a memorial race at Tara Raceway, landed a 476 metre treble with Kori Kadoo, Kori Lorraine and Kori Appeal.

And Bill Ward and Ian Badger, who would later be awarded life membership of the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club, were successful with Jenoli Jet (667 m) and Gaymore Star (476 m).

Wombwell has been making frequent trips ever since to Mount Gambier to race his dogs. But until last Sunday a feature race win at either Glenburnie or the current Lake Terrace East complex had eluded him.

Eskimo Moana, a striking looking white and black 30 kilogram daughter of Sennachie and Serene Rose, at three years of age went into the Sims Family Memorial as the oldest runner and the most experienced with five third placings from 11 starts.

Jumping a solid second favourite at $3.80, she took full advantage of box one and was always going to be hard to beat after taking the lead going out of the first turn.

In the run home Eskimo Moana finished solidly when defeating litter sisters Lektra Lyanna and Lektra Julie – the daughters of Fernando Bale and Lektra Perry trained at Toolong by Sharon Bradley.

Speaking after the race, Wombwell said he had set his dog to win the memorial.

“Today was the first time that she had run over 512 metres. In fact, she hadn’t even trialled over the distance but I always knew she had a good little motor.

“It goes without saying that I was really pleased to win the memorial. Col, Val and Ian were lovely people and I remember Col as a man who was always willing to help you out. And it was really nice to see the family once again supporting today’s event.”

Wombwell purchased the winner’s dam, Serene Rose – a daughter of Barcia Bale and Rose Of Tuscany – as a pup from Tamworth breeder Ray Aslin.

“She raced on only 19 occasions for two wins – a hock injury resulting in an early retirement from the track,” he said. “But I had always been keen to breed with her.”

Eskimo Moana’s win last Sunday saw her become the seventh winner from a litter that boasts a couple of more than handy chasers in Eskimo Roger and Eskimo Larry. Collectively, that pair has won 20 races and $70,000 in prize money for Buln Buln East trainer Steve White and Wombwell.

He said he was now looking at David Geall’s Koblenz as the sire of choice for a second litter for Serene Rose. By Fernando Bale out of Up Hill Jill, he won 26 races and prize money of $792,000.

Meanwhile, local front-running sprinter Gypsy Chick gave plenty of cheek over at Warrnambool last Thursday night for Mount Gambier owner Shane Flink and Moorak trainer Jason Newman.

In the end, after displaying plenty of early dash, she finished a four length third behind Portland trainer Nifty Lenehan’s My Boy Josh in a handy 22.28 seconds.

But several days later at Mount Gambier’s Sunday meeting Gypsy Chick turned the tables on another Lenehan-trained greyhound when holding out De La Cruz for a head win in the Rocks Tavern Stake (400 m) in 23.06 seconds.

Now a 10-race winner, Gypsy Chick is by Bernardo out of Spirited Bingle who won 15 races for Portland-based Robert Halliday. He later bred two litters with her.

Flink purchased Gypsy Chick as a pup from Halliday who then reared her prior to Steve Elsum undertaking the breaking-in.

“As soon as I saw the litter I knew which one I wanted – a little black bitch,” Flink said. “And that’s one decision I’ve never regretted.”

Sims: a name synonymous with coursing and track racing in the SE

The Sims name is synonymous with greyhounds in the South East – whether it be coursing or track racing.

Col Sims, ably assisted by his wife Val, enjoyed great success at coursing and later experienced no trouble in turning his hand to mechanical lure racing when it was introduced in Mount Gambier in 1979.

He was a member of the South East Greyhound Racing Club committee when racing commenced at Glenburnie. And in 1978 he was the first to be awarded life membership of the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing and Coursing Club (MGGRC).

Col Sims also won the final Mount Gambier Cup run at Glenburnie in 1996 with the speedy front-running Colin Ian. He then won the first Anniversary Cup conducted at the Lake Terrace East venue in 1997 with Becker McLaren.

The Sims Feature Maiden (512 metres), which has been run in various formats over a number of years, was first conducted as a memorial event in 2013 when won by the Cap Abbott trained Arbour Darby in 30.71 seconds.

Subsequent winners have been Benara Cosmic (Tracie Price) 30.33, Andy Jay (Toni Jones) 30.31, Rowchester Star (Nicole Stanley) 30.60, McIvor Neville (Peter Franklin) 30.64.

And in the 2018 memorial, Paul Herry’s Got Some Cheek gave the Mortlake trainer his first feature win when defeating fellow Mortlake trainer Peter Crawley’s Bomber Creek by a head in 30.52 seconds.

The 2019 Val and Col Sims Memorial Maiden final had been an emotional weekend for the Sims family after the funeral on the Saturday of Ian, a son of Val and Col Sims and also a life member of the MGGRC.

But the following day the family came together at the Tara Raceway greyhound track like never before.

Winner of the race was Nifty Lenehan’s Twisted Missile, a daughter of Nitro Burst and Harper Seven, who defeated School Report in 30.50 seconds.

For Mount Gambier owner, Michael Robinson, the 2020 win by Rocketline had been a far cry from those frustrating trial mornings with the son of Peter Rocket x Headline not all that many weeks prior.

Raced in partnership with locally-based Willie Vossen, Robinson had resorted to trips to the Tara Raceway trials after Rocketline had returned from breaking-in with little to recommend him.

According to Robinson the black dog had shown no inclination to chase the lure although he gradually came good and later gave Compton trainer Tracie Price his second Sims Memorial winner.

It had been a particularly pleasing win for Robinson, associated with the Sims family since the Glenburnie days of racing when he was the Chief Steward.

Then, in 2021, with the feature maiden now known as the Sims Family Memorial, the Price-trained $34 chance Compton Brett caused a real boilover when defeating kennelmate Compton Pete in 30.43 seconds.

The following year, Moorak trainer Jason Newman landed his first feature win at Tara Raceway when kennelmates Strike Eagle and Super Cobra fought out the finish of the Sims Maiden.

And in 2023 Newman and his partner Melissa Freitag made it back to back wins when Tanamera led all the way and defeated Tinker Vogue by 4¼ lengths in 30.23 seconds.

Crack of dawn start for one-dog trainer

There’s certainly no sleeping in for Kevin Finn, another of the good guys from Warrnambool who makes regular trips over to Mount Gambier – chauffeured by daughter Marita “Midge” Byron – to race his sole greyhound at Tara Raceway.

According to Finn, who turns 80 next month, he’s up at 4.30 on the dot every morning to walk his one greyhound – currently Tamborine Girl, a daughter of Lightning Frank and Rixy Ya Pest.

“Generally I’m out walking for about an hour with her,” he said. “And I’m a one-dog trainer by necessity given I have only two kennels with the other one housing the lawn mower.

“I’ve been doing the early morning walks now for 15 years and at that time of the day I don’t encounter too many distractions. At 7 a.m., though, I do go back to bed for a couple of hours. Then I find I’m right for the rest of the day.”

Tamborine Girl found her way into Finn’s kennel as a giveaway after she had copped a 28 days suspension for a loss of concentration in a race at Warrnambool.

“With the intention of racing her at Mount Gambier she passed a satisfactory trial at Tara Raceway in blinkers, the idea being that hopefully she might keep her mind on the job.

“Anyway, she didn’t look to do anything wrong in her races and even won a couple at Mount Gambier last year. So at the end of the year I once again ran her in a satisfactory trial, this time to have the blinkers removed.”

And at the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club’s opening meeting of this year on January 4 Tamborine Girl led all the way over 305 metres when defeating Arrow Bar Peanut in 17.93 seconds.

Boasting a 55 year involvement in greyhound racing, Finn’s initial interest came about when living opposite the old Warrnambool track at Botanic Park where he later won a couple of races with Kevlor Boy.

“My best dog ever would have been Miss Kouta, a daughter of Dashing Eagle and Artful, who won 14 races. She was raced by a syndicate of five – all mad Carlton supporters.”

Finn spent the last 25 years of his working life at Nestle. He also spent 13 years, twice a week, on a voluntary basis at the Warrnambool trials.

And while these days he is a one-dog trainer there was a time when he was a little more involved – a local newspaper reporting in April 1989:

“The Finn kennel made the long trip to Horsham on Monday, April 11 when he led in a winning treble with his sprinters Indiana Raider, Garpete Park and Our Shiralee.

“Returning to Warrnambool on the Thursday night, punters rallied to send Garpete Park to the boxes a solid favourite in a 450 metre grade 5.

“Beginning smartly from the red box, Garpete Park outsped her rivals to lead all the way and bring up the kennel’s fourth win of the week.”

And then, of course there’s Finn’s wife of 59 years, Lorraine.

Last year at the Sandown Park Women in Racing night she won the Marg Thomas Award for the most outstanding female contribution to the sport.

At the time Warrnambool Greyhound Racing Club manager Craig Monigatti had said Lorraine was a special person to him and the club.

“She’s so reliable and you just know that what she’s taking care of in the shop is going to be organised and done. She doesn’t seek the limelight but now it’s her turn to shine.”