DAVE Robartson admits his greyhound breeding program is a "work in progress".
Robartson is the former premier WA trainer, in the industry since 1986, who has been in Queensland for the past four years.
And while it might seem that his greyhound breeding exploits have been around for ages, it is only since he came to Queensland that Robartson has become a serious breeder of his own dogs.
Already his breeding program has produced such high class gallopers as Miss Hot Gossip, El Galo, Beyond The Call, New Guess and Lindale Guest all Group winners or Group class.
"It was always easier to buy ready-made dogs from NSW or Victoria," said Robartson of the backbone to his success in WA for all those years from the mid-1980s.
He admits he dabbled in a bit of breeding back in WA but admonishes himself for even trying.
"I was always a bit casual about it at first," he said. "I bred with pets who might have won 10 or 11 races and were nice dogs in WA, but never the real quality to be able to produce real quality."
Dave says those early matings produced moderate WA dogs. He is the first to admit that rearing is everything in a greyhound's life... even more than its pedigree.
"The soil where we lived in WA was not good enough to rear good pups," he said.
"It was very sandy and produced pups with toes that spread out too much. At one stage I put topsoil onto a two and a half acre paddock to rear pups in and it helped."
Robartson got serious in the late 1990s. He and his good mate Lindsay Archer (later owner of star sprinter Lindale Blue) decided to buy some well bred pups from NSW.
They were by Malawi's Prince-Playground.
"Malawi's Prince was the boom sire and very commercial," said Dave.
"I always like to look at what the big breeders are doing with their stock, people like Mick Abbott, Paul Wheeler etc. Every one of them was using Malawi's Prince and all of them were breeding from well bred and well performed bitches."
From the Malawi's Prince-Playground litter, Robartson and Archer bought six, four dogs and two bitches.
It is history now that those two bitches developed into Roxy Reason and Roshanna Reason. Roxy won the WA Oaks and won first-up for Dave at The Meadows. She was all class.
"Roshanna was just as good," said Dave. "But she was in the Mandurah Oaks final and going to the front when she was badly hurt. She developed a problem in fields after that if she didn't draw wide and could get straight to the front."
But Dave had little or no intention of breeding with either Roxy or Roshanna Reason.
"I was working at the time and very busy and my wife Christine had to do most of the work with the dogs," he said.
When he was transferred to Kalgoolie with work that made it even harder to breed greyhounds.
The bitches went back to NSW and Roxy was bred to Wild Season, a son of Head Honcho.
"I had wanted to go to Head Honcho himself, but that's another story."
By this time Dave was heading to Queensland through another work transfer, but he had decided to buy land and get right into breeding his own dogs.
The move would take time and bitches would be bred with and pups reared before he had his Churchable property operational.
In the meantime, Double Guess (Wild Season-Roxy Reason) won the Eric Thomson Maiden series at the Gold Coast.
Roxy went to Brett Lee in the meantime and produced a bitch called New Guess which thrust Dave Robartson into the greyhound racing spotlight in his new home state.
She won 16 races, nine at Albion Park and broke 30 seconds there.
Roxy had a litter to Royal Assassin and produced Never Guess a smart galloper. Roshanna went to Lindale Blue and produced multiple Albion Park feature race winner Lindale Guest winner of $50,000 in stakes.
All this time Dave was studying pedigrees, watching trends and rearing his pups as he thought best.
What turned him around was a day at the Gold Coast not long after he had arrived in Queensland.
"I had a dog called Never Guess from the Royal Assassin-Roxy Reason litter," said Dave.
"He was in at the Gold Coast and had won a maiden heat and final in what I thought was pretty impressive style.
"You must remember I was only new to Queensland at the time, knew no-one and nothing of the form etc.
"Never Guess led by eight lengths coming to the home turn, but a dog of Tony Zammit's beat him by eight lengths. It was Surf Lorian. I knew then I would use him at stud if he went on.
"I was told afterwards that Tony rated him the best dog he had trained."
Injury forced Surf Lorian to stud just six months later after a record-breaking career and Group success.
Robartson was one of the first to use him, with Roxy Reason, and along came Miss Hot Gossip Dave's first Group 1 winner and the best greyhound he has trained. She has taken the Robartsons to heights they had only dreamed of before that.
By this time Dave was right into pedigrees. He is a regular using the facts and figures on the greyhound-data.com website.
Roxy Reason's next litter was to Where's Pedro and from that came El Galo the super speedster who was sold early in his career by Dave to the Jason Thompson kennel.
"I used Where's Pedro because Roxy had already worked with his sire Brett Lee, he was a very fast dog and with strong lines. I knew he would be an outstanding sire."
Robartson is not one for outcrossing his broodbitches, preferring to have a dominant dog in the pedigree and having 20 percent or more of that dominant ancestor.
Miss Hot Gossip carries a 22% infusion of Brother Fox in her pedigree.
"I've had failures along the way and most times it is because I have drifted away from having 20% or more of that dominant ancestor," he said.
One of his recent litters is Exceptional-Double Guess from which he has got the very smart bitches Jacabby and Tonic's Pride.
"I got a bit of madness in the offspring and I'm told that comes from Star Title, the sire of Exceptional."
Robartson has a bitch from this litter that broke a leg and he has decided to keep her for breeding.
"Of the bitches I race, I like to keep the biggest and best bitch," he said.
"The bitch that broke her leg in the Exceptional-Double Guess litter is the biggest and nicest of the bitches, so I might end up breeding with her.
"But it is also hard not to breed with bitches like Jacabby or Tonic's Pride.
"Bigger bitches have their pups easier, they are normally stronger pups, and they have bigger pups.
"But the bitches have got to be able to run. Attitude has a lot to do with the bitch I use. I don't want to train skunks, I want forward, happy dogs."
Robartson is adamant rearing is everything in the success of his pups.
"We feed Advance kibble, beef and chicken, simple, but the best," he said.
"For the first three months of their lives, our pups are in 30m by 20m runs, then up to 70m by 50m runs and let out into a half acre paddock to gallop.
"From nine months they are kept in 70m by 70m runs and gallop in a three acre paddock with a dam.
"We also have two 150m by 100m pens the pups are run in as well."
By 12 months the litter is brought into the kennels and Dave prepares to break them in himself.
Robartson says breeding is "a bit of an art". "You have got to do your homework and plan ahead."
He says stud dogs have got to be fast. If they haven't won a Group race, they must have broken 30 seconds on a city track, before he will use them.
He is happy to take a chance on unproven sires. "I did with Brett Lee, Surf Lorian, Where's Pedro and now Collision."
The Collision-New Guess litter he is just starting to race and showing promise and Yikes recently made the Eric Thomson Maiden final at the Gold Coast.
"I've got a Surf Lorian-New Guess litter I'm working on now that are absolute naturals," he said.
But Dave will not be tempted into imported sires.
"I haven't seen any that are better than our own stud dogs," he said. "I'll stay clear of them.
"Some people have been raving about imports and telling me this and that will happen.
"But it hasn't happened yet. My observations of imports is that they throw one good pup and not much else.
"I believe it's a line by people trying to sell imported frozen semen.
"It breaks up your breeding. People say you get good dams from using imports, but who is to say that is where it comes from."
He says he will stick to Australian sires who are bred in our conditions for our conditions.
Of American stud dogs, he is less than complimentary. "They are good sires in America under American conditions," he said.
"And look at Ireland. We sent second rate dogs over there and they have revolutionized their breeding."
As Robartson says, his breeding program is a work in progress.
It might be just four or so years old, but already he's got a Group 1 winner by putting a Group winner to a phenomenally fast Group winning stud dog.
"Miss Hot Gossip, at this stage, will probably go to Where's Pedro," he said. "I like to keep replicating things that have worked for me."
In Dave Robartson's case, as a reluctant breeder of greyhounds 10 years ago, that has certainly paid off.