WHEN greyhound breeders these days ponder over prospective matings, they look at all manner of formula in a bid to come up with success.
In-breeding has been just as good as any over the years, and many breeders like to match up common ancestors within the four or five immediate lines of the resultant pedigree.
But most will baulk at the saturation in-breeding legendary Mudgee dog man Athol Hodges tried with success during the 70s.
Athol and his sons Bernard and Bill and daughter Francie, famously in-bred to their star broodbitch Ellen's Lane producing pups with two, three and then even four crosses of that bitch within the first two, three and four generations.
The Ellen's Lane damline threw up Thunder Lane in the 1960s and it is still producing feature winners through the National Futurity winner Junoesque, a daughter of Frisky Red who ran third in superstar Tar Dinn's National Futurity.
The most interesting feature of the line is Frisky Red's grand-dam Kerry Velvet who won the 1980 Penfolds Champagne Stake at Wentworth Park in a very slick 30.92.
Kerry Velvet had a 3x3x3 cross of Thunder Lane and a 4x4x4x4 cross of Ellen's Lane (see attached pedigree).
Hot Rumble was one of Hodges' in-bred greyhounds and he sired Miss Rumble (1978 McCallums Australian Sprint Championship at Richmond) who can be found behind Steve Kavanagh's "Rumble" dogs.
Hot Rumble's dam Lady Thunder was a very good broodbitch and she had a 2x2 cross to Ellen's Lane and was mated to Fire Lane which gave a 2x2 cross to Thunder Lane and a 3x3x3 cross to Ellen's Lane.
Hot Rumble's sister Velvet Fire was the dam of Kerry Velvet and also produced dual Mudgee track record holder Velvet Hobo the grand-dam of Farm Mistress (TR Nowra 519m)) when outcrossed to Tender Hobo*.
Lady Thunder had also been put to Tender Hobo* to get Cele Gard (1976 Wyong Oaks), Love Me Tender (TR Armidale 365m) and Queen Hobo (TR Cairns 734m).
Most of Tender Hobo's better progeny seemed to come with this line. So, the closely bred bitches produced well when both outcrossed and when put back to the same blood.
Athol Hodges died in 1992 aged 80.
His son Bernard was his right hand man. He lives on the NSW coast and still pines for the glory days of the Hodges greyhound breed.
“We lived in Mudgee and had 80 acres and our own slaughter house and butcher shop so the finest food went into those greyhounds,” said Bernard.
Bernard remembers his dad having top class greyhounds racing around Harold Park in the pre-War days.
“When the War broke out he gave up the dogs because it was too hard in those tough times to look after them properly,” said Bernard.
“But by the early 1960s he was keen to get back in. Mum bought a couple of dogs called Greys Linen and Linney Lane for dad and away we went.”
Eric Johnson was a great friend of the family and he sold Athol the bitch Ellen's Lane, a close relation to the previous two.
Ellen's Lane (Amazing Chief-China Lane) was a high class broodbitch.
To Black Top she threw Daisy Lane and Polly Lane (NSW Country Championship). To Hot Top she got Mickey Lane (top grade Sydney sprinter), Miss Lane (National Futurity), Ellen's Fury and Madam Lane.
To Bandar Prince she threw El Caballero (15 wins including six at Wentworth Park).
From the third litter, to Spotted Lightning, came Thunder Lane, Ellen's Lightning and No Kerbing.
“Phillip Davis, who has been a great friend for many years and a long-time greyhound vet in Sydney, came to our property one day and asked dad what his best greyhound was,” said Bernard.
“Dad took him to a paddock and pointed to a 10 months old white and black dog, and said `that's the best'.
“It was Thunder Lane.”
Thunder Lane (found three times up close in the pedigree of Acacia Ablaze) broke the Bathurst track record at his first trial. “By the time we had got home from that trial, dad had received five phone calls to buy him.”
Thunder Lane ran fifth in the National Derby to Roman Earl after entering the series as a maiden and winning a semi-final.
He ran third as odds-on favourite in the Melbourne Cup (to Cheltenham Lass) and then ran a tick off the Wentworth Park track record a week later.
He had a victory over Roman Earl who was then regarded as a superstar of the time.
The Hodges stood him for a while at their Mudgee property before sending him off to Frank Holmes for stud. Holmes stood Black Top.
With the success of Thunder Lane and other of Ellen's Lane's progeny, Athol decided to heavily in-breed the line.
He put Thunder Lane (Spotted Lightning-Ellen's Lane) over his half sister Madam Lane (Hot Top-Ellen's Lane) and came up with Lady Thunder.
Lady Thunder would become, as we said, an outstanding broodbitch but first she earned herself a reputation on the racetrack. She was runner-up in the 1971 National Futurity and a finalist in the Australian Cup.
Bernard remembers Lady Thunder like it was yesterday.
“The whole litter was so timid but she was very, very timid,” he said. “But she was one of the fastest greyhounds we ever had.
“I remember she was so timid that one night at Richmond she would not even walk onto the track. I got permission from the stewards to carry her onto the track.
“But once she was there, she was all business and a very fast greyhound.
“She ran a couple of track records from memory and won plenty of city races.
“But she was the most timid greyhound I've ever seen.”
Around this time the Hodges also bred Newmore Lane (Newmore King*-Nellie Thunder by Thunder Lane).
“He was a superstar,” said Bernard. “When he was young, every track we put him on to trial he broke the track record.
As if Lady Thunder (the mating of half brother to half sister) wasn't in-bred enough, the Hodges put her to a dog called Fire Lane (a son of Thunder Lane) and she produced a bitch called Velvet Fire and the brilliant NSW country sprinter Hot Rumble.
When it came time to mate Velvet Fire, she went to Newmore Lane, who we have already seen carried Thunder Lane as his damsire.
One of the pups raced as Kerry Velvet. The litter thus had Thunder Lane 3x3x3, and his dam Ellen's Lane 4x4x4x4.
Kerry Velvet, as we have mentioned, won the Champagne Stakes at Wentworth Park in brilliant time. As a broodbitch Kerry Velvet left the brilliant Sydney sprinter Cassilis Kid and Lady Anarchy (Wyong Oaks).
Her line is still producing today with Junoesque the perfect example.
The 2005 Potential Stakes winner Mozilla is by Elite State-Junoesque, the dam also producing Infinite Beauty (WP Mega Maiden) and Token Chimes (Nowra Oaks).
This is also the line of Bazwill (Dapto Puppy Classic) and top Sydney stayer I Love Lucy.
“At the time we were breeding between 200 and 300 pups every year,” said Bernard. “We sold a lot of them. Dad always believed that to get top quality dogs you had to have numbers and that's what we did.
“He was also an expert at picking out the best pup in a litter. It was a gift he had.
“As I said, he picked out Thunder Lane from a very early age. It was a gift that he never told us about or passed onto us.”
By the 1980s, Athol was into his 70s and his sons and daughter were looking to have families, build businesses etc, so greyhound racing scaled down on the Mudgee property.
“We exported some to the US and they were relatively successful,” said Bernard. “The in-breeding experiment was done over a few years and we didn't continue with it. As everyone knows, you must put speed to speed and with in-breeding, while you will always double-up on the good genes, you also double-up on the bad genes.”
Athol still had a dozen dogs in training with locals at the time of his death.
Bernard is 65 and two years ago was told he had cancer and had just six months to live. He beat it.
“I miss greyhound racing,” he said. “I often thought about getting a dog or two and still might.
“I had to give up because I got married, brought up a family and developed and grew the butcher shops. Dad got ill as well.”
He remembers Thunder Lane as being wonderful for his entire family. “He bought me a farm and I was driving a Mercedes at the time,” he said.
“I also miss the glamour all that success brought. Why, we even had the nuns from the local school coming into the butcher shop asking what could win.”
Light Of Fire
Lady Thunder had an excellent litter to the import Tender Hobo which produced Cele Gard (1976 Wyong Oaks), Love Me Tender (TR Armidale 365m) and Queen Hobo (TR Cairns 734m).
Cele Gard threw Charm Gard (an Invitation class sprinter at Harold Park) while Love Me Tender was the dam of 1987 Maitland Oaks winner Early Raider who threw Little Bill (Gold Coast Cup finalist) and Denton Park (Ladies Bracelet finalist).
However, it was Lady Thunder's litter to Fire Lane that really caught the eye.
Two Faces, Hot Rumble, Hullunder, Ranuity Lane and Velvet Fire.
Two Faces held the 311m record at Mudgee. Hot Rumble and Hullunder were both smart performers who made an impact as stud dogs although lightly used.
Hot Rumble was the sire of Miss Rumble, (the winner of the 1978 McCallums Australian Sprint C'ship at Richmond) who can be found in the damline behind stars like Smooth Rumble, Farmer George, Collide, etc.
Hullunder was the sire of Solomon's Gift who won the 1978 Autumn Tphy at the Gabba.
The “Queen of Bulli” on the track, Ranuity Lane was the dam of Real Aroo (TR Darwin 537m) but Velvet Fire was the best broodbitch from this branch of the line.
Like her mother, Velvet Fire was mated with Tender Hobo* to get Velvet Hobo who held track records over 530m and 640m at Mudgee and became the dam of good producer Get The Dollars.
Get The Dollars was the dam of Farm Mistress (TR Nowra 519m) and granddam of Nella Lucy (1999 Ladies Bracelet).
The third dam of Ellen's Lane was Yankee Miss who was the dam of China Lady one of the greatest greyhounds of her era. In June 1948, China Lady ran a track record 26.8 seconds over the 500yds at Harold Park.
In November that year she further reduced the record down to an amazing 26.5 secs. This time was later equalled by Macareena (in 1953), Plunkett's Pride (twice in 1954) and Top Linen in 1957, before the latter finally broke it in April 1958.
To show her versatility, China Lady also ran a record over 790yds at Wentworth Park in March 1950.
China Lady appeared in the damline of some smart performers. She was the grand-dam of Togarra (1959 Lady Mayoress' Tphy at Wentworth Park); third dam of Jet Vin; the fourth dam of Whisk; the fifth dam of Edenville King, Glinell Mouse and Brother Bee; the sixth dam of Sam Spur and Pearl's Pride.