TOM Astbury has been a greyhound breeder at Cranebrook in NSW since 1987 when he got talked into buying a bitch pup.
He's also been a vet for 40 years so you'd reckon he knows a thing or two about greyhounds, racing and more importantly breeding the racing greyhound.
But he is also one of those rare breeders who has been able to nurture a damline, or in Tom's case, two of them and achieve great success.
And Tom is never afraid to mix the same.
Tom lives in Tadmore Street at Cranebrook and names most of his dogs these days with the "Tadmore" prefix.
When Tadmore Buckshot finished a great third in the recent Group 2 Peter Mosman Memorial at Wentworth Park, it was an achievement for all those breeders who use their own bloodlines to chase success.
Tadmore Buckshot is by Tadmore Gunshot-Jillabong.
Buckshot is the mix of two damlines Tom has been tapping into since the mid 1980s.
Tom has some definite ideas about breeding but, more importantly, rearing.
"It was 1987 when I got talked into buying a bitch from Glenn Innes," said Tom. "George Singline was holding an auction on his property. When I turned up I was the only one there.
"I picked out a nice black dog and said I would buy him. The Ward brothers arrived soon after and said they would pay $6000 for the two black dogs, one of them the dog I liked.
"George said I could have one of the bitches for $1500 if I relented and let the black dog go to the Wards."
That's what he did.
The bitch would be named Lucre Again.
She came with pedigree galore. Her dam Penny Lucille was a half sister to Pacific Seagull the runner-up to Legendary Kid in the Melbourne Cup.
Granddam Penny Autumn, out of the famous broodbitch Lucy Thunder, was a half sister to The Evil Duchess the famed broodbitch who produced Melbourne Cup winner Satans Shroud and Queensland staying star Majedda a National Distance finalist for Austi Ives.
Tom gave Lucre Again to a mate and watched her win "three or four races".
"I wasn't training at that time and when she finished I brought her home to be a pet and a broodbitch as well," said Tom.
Her first litter was to Bjorn, the former 457m world record holder, and she produced a bitch called Wire Walker. "We named her that because she could literally walk up a wire fence and escape," said Tom.
Wire Walker was a brilliant little sprinter but broke down. Tom sent her out to a mate's property to come on season and be bred with...and waited, and waited, and waited.
A year later the bitch was brought back to racing and ran at Young in broodbitch races, won and earned a free service to Denver. So Wire Walker went back to stud and Tom waited some more for her to come on season.
"I'd known Ray Minty at the time and he put plenty on a bitch called Lyn's Bourbon in a race on a country track," said Tom. "She loomed up to win but ran alongside the leader and was beaten.
"Ray was so disgusted he signed her over to my mate Harry Seamen. We decided to breed with her."
Lyn's Bourbon was by Chariot Supreme-Baroness and a direct descendant of the now Hall of Fame race and broodbitch Macareena. She might have had trouble getting past the leader in her races, on occasions, but she came to Harry and Tom with a pedigree to suit.
"A month after we got her, Lyn's Bourbon came on season," said Tom. "We had the free service to Denver, so we used it and forgot about Wire Walker for the moment."
From the litter, Tom got two pups one of which he named John Beam who went on to win the 1998 Dillon Memorial and be placed in the Sydney Cup and Maidment Memorial.
His sister Lynden Verban was a Wentworth Park distance winner and a finalist in the Summer Cup behind Ringside Fire in 1997.
Tom's vet business also came in handy. At the time he was treating Gun Law Osti, the champion sire and former track record breaking galloper, for bone cancer. His efforts were rewarded with a service to the dog.
Lynden Verban went to Gun Law Osti and produced an outstanding litter. Tadmore Gunshot won 28 races but was purely a shortcourser despite winning once over 520m at Wentworth Park.
"The rest of the litter were stayers," said Tom.
In the meantime, Lucre Again had bred a litter to Dilston Prince in 1995 which produced Tadmore Deuces and Manikata a Lord Mayors Cup placegetter at Wentworth Park.
When Tadmore Deuces went to stud she produced to Rapid Journey the top staying bitch Jillabong a finalist in the Sale Cup behind Oh Behave, a race that also included Boomeroo, Why Complain and Westend Prince.
So when Jillabong came on season late in 2006, Tom Astbury put the staying bitch to his speed star Tadmore Gunshot. The mating produced Tadmore Buckshot the recent Mosman Classic placegetter.
Tom reckons breeding greyhounds is like a jar of hundreds and thousands. "Put your hand in and pull out a handful and hope you get the best combination," said Tom.
He is a great believer in the right rearing makes the dog.
"The biggest problem with most greyhounds is that people don't look after their dogs," he said. "So many believe feeding them chicken necks and wings will make them fast...it won't."
He is adamant puppies need to be active from the moment they leave their mother, the earlier the better.
"I let my dogs run and exercise every day, pups especially."
Tom says there is a great amount of scientific research done on the human athlete to prove that daily exercise is exactly what is needed for greyhounds.
"The research shows that daily exercise actually strengthens bones. Inactivity causes absorption of bone. The famous US vet Robert Gillette came to Australia about a decade ago for a series of lectures.
"This was just one thing he emphasised, the need for activity."
Tom says he has a litter of pups being reared at the moment. They are 14 weeks of age and already galloping about a four-acre paddock with their mother.
"My feeding routine is pretty simple," he said. "We use kibble, lean meat, calcium, bones and regular worming mainly with Ivomec. I don't feed chicken, only every couple of weeks as a bit of a treat."
He does not agree with the total ban on the use of steroids in bitches that are racing.
"I've raced my potential broodbitches on Laurabolin to keep them off season," he said. "But artificial hormones are not needed. They have a powerful effect."
He says breeding is a lottery.
"I believe you have to keep mixing the bloodlines," he said.
"But I believe breeders are too quick to blame the stud dog for the failure of a litter.
"I've thought of mixing my own bloodlines closely but I've been talked out of it by friends."
He says greyhounds must be reared in open spaces.
"They are a pack animal and will always be inquisitive together," he said. "They enjoy open spaces."
It's worked for Tom Astbury since 1987.
Gun Law Osti
Miss Dusty Lee