New generation of greyhound trainers make their mark

SUCCESS: Greyhound trainer Michelle Sultana is part of a surge in women hunting for success on the track. Photo: SUPPLIED.
SUCCESS: Greyhound trainer Michelle Sultana is part of a surge in women hunting for success on the track. Photo: SUPPLIED.

Every so often Michelle Sultana just sits there watching her dad Sam work on a dog... taking it all in.

This has been Sam's life for a long time, and, as Michelle points out, "he's old school".

"He checks out every muscle of the dogs, and he's spot on with that, and it's good to sit there and watch him and pick things up.

"It's like all this wonderful old-time knowledge that he passes on to me.

"But dad also realises that the sport continues to change, and you have to mix that old knowledge with the new, and he's doing that now, and I am too."

Michelle - and her sister Kristy - are among an emerging side of the industry, a very successful side, the female trainer.

Wind the clock many years, and the role of a woman in greyhound racing was as a helper, and then on race day the designated driver to and from the track.

Slowly women began to train in their own right, and today in NSW there are 481 registered female trainers, still just 22 percent of the total, but a rapidly growing number.

"Probably 10 years ago there wasn't the same numbers of women in the sport, and not long ago, those who were, didn't have the respect of many male trainers," Michelle says.

"But it's far from just being a token number now, and the women are having some great success,"

In last year's TAB Million Dollar Chase grand final, four of the eight runners were trained by women.

"I do have people ring me and say I think this dog needs the female touch," she said.

"A lot of pre-trainers ring me and say he doesn't seem to be firing, maybe he needs a smaller kennel to give him some TLC.

"They all get the same treatment here.

"I don't mind going in and giving them cuddles every day."

Breeding meant that Michelle and Kristy were going to get involved in training.

"When I was a kid, my mum Jenny's parents, Kay and Brian Semms, used to break in dogs.

"They had this amazing facility at Llandilo and were the main breakers in the area. And of course dad was training... I was born into it and once it's in your blood it never gets out.

"There's no choice really."

Michelle is enjoying a tremendous run with her team of nine dogs of late.

In the past two months she has had 17 winners and nine placings from 31 starters, a phenomenal strike rate.

Among those winners are the well-named Drink Moet and Drink Long Necks, both related to a dog she had great success with a few years back, Drink Schooners, and Unison, her first ever Group 1 finalist earlier this year.

She also experienced plenty of Group action too, with Kristy training the recently-retired superstar Flying Ricciardo, winner of the Group 1 Dapto Megastar last December.

"It was amazing.

"He's just a one-of-a-kind dog and bought for just $7500. It was a great ride for all of us."

Women like Michelle are making their mark in the sport, and what's that old saying?

"I can't thank my partner Darryl Thomas enough for all his help and guidance and knowledge. They say behind a man's success is a great woman.

"Well, behind my success is a great man. He is always there for me."

This article was produced as part of an ACM partnership with Greyhound Racing NSW.

This story New generation makes their mark first appeared on Newcastle Herald.