STEVE Clarke remembers the moment he decided to take up training greyhounds professionally.
The tragic passing of his two-year-old daughter put things into perspective – that life is too short to be doing something that doesn’t inspire you to get out of bed each and every day.
Around eight years on, Steve and his wife haven’t looked back – and find themselves with a kennel of quality greyhounds to show for their hard work since taking on the task of training for a profession.
“I sort of re-evaluated my life and thought ‘you know what, I’m going to do something that I enjoy’, rather something that I have to do.”
“My wife and I own our home, a nice property in Tooradin, so I thought ‘bugger it – I’m not going into work for something that I hate’. I’d rather do something that I enjoy,” Steve said.
Big Ticket (pictured wearing rug 5) is one of the 12-strong currently racing for the Clarke kennel – and he is flying the flag with pride, saluting 10 times from 19 starts to date.
To top it off, he has placed a further five times – taking his win and place strike rate to a remarkable 80%.
Now, Big Ticket finds himself positioned to take a leap at qualifying for the $64,000 Horsham Cup, following strong trials at Warragul on the comeback trail from a shoulder injury.
Trainer Steve Clarke is confident he can ruffle enough feathers from the inside draw to give himself a chance to qualify – despite hefty competition from the Kelly Bravo trained Ride The Rails who is set to jump from box seven.
“He suffered a shoulder injury at Bendigo, and had about three or four weeks off. Since then, we’ve trialled him a few times and he’s trialling brilliantly – so we decided to put him straight into the Horsham Cup,” Steve said.
“He’s definitely the fastest dog that I’ve ever had in the kennel. I had Hot Irish in the kennel two or three years ago, and she made two Golden Easter Egg finals – but this dog is much quicker than her.
“Ride The Rails is a very fast dog if it gets a clear run, but if it gets into a little bit of trouble early then I’m confident that we can win the race.”
Big Ticket, who is owned by popular Cranbourne business owner Pat Sofra, is one of the many greyhounds that has been a part of the Sofra-Clarke partnership over the years.
Steve praised their relationship, saying that Mr Sofra was a model owner and enthusiast for the racing industry.
“He (Big Ticket) is owned by terrific people – they’re really loyal to the kennel here and they’re just really nice people, so hopefully he can have a bit of luck tomorrow.”
“I’ve trained and reared a few dogs for Pat before, and he asked me to break in the litter that this feller was a part of. He broke in sensationally from the word go… I was rapt.
“It’s just pure enjoyment for him, and he loves the animals. If his dog wins, he gets a big thrill of people coming to his shop and telling him how good his dog went.”
Big Ticket is currently at $3.00 for pre-race odds for race four, just behind favourite in Ride The Rails, who is set at $2.20 early on. Jason Thompson’s Whodat Knockin’ is third for favouritism early on, coming in at $5.50.
Race four at Horsham is set to jump at 4:44pm and with eight heats to be run, only the winners will qualify for Sunday’s $45,000 to-the-winner final.
Horsham Formguide: Click Here