Henry Chalkley reveals how his passion for dogs and greyhound racing has remained with him.
SPECIAL REPORT by MAGGIE GIBSON GREYHOUND racing has changed dramatically during the past 60 years but throughout that time the love and respect Henry Chalkley has for both the dogs and the sport has remained the same. You couldn t do it if you di
SPECIAL REPORT by MAGGIE GIBSON
GREYHOUND racing has changed dramatically during the past 60 years but throughout that time the love and respect Henry Chalkley has for both the dogs and the sport has remained the same.
"You couldn't do it if you didn't love it because of the time, effort and money you have to put into it. It is a seven day a week thing and it takes up your life," said 78-year-old Henry.
"People ask me when I am going to retire from it but I don't want to spend my time doing nothing in the waiting room for up above."
Having been at the helm of a family building and plant hire company, Henry realised his dream when he retired to Parson Drove and bought a bungalow with plenty of land for breeding and training greyhounds. He even has his own dog racing track.
On Friday his dog Midway Skipper was preparing to run in the £9,000 final of the Carlsberg Tetley Yorkshire St Leger at Doncaster. He had won six of his last seven races including the semi-finals at Doncaster but on the night came in third.
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Win or lose, Henry is philosophical when it comes to his dogs. He said: "You can think you have a winner and come back with nothing and other times when you are least expecting it you have a dog that does really well."
He has to be philosophical - he leased a bitch out to a trainer in Ireland and asked for three puppies back. One puppy which didn't make its way back to Parson Drove turned out to be the current Derby winner - the most prestigious race in the greyhound calendar.
Over the years Henry's dogs have enjoyed considerable success with one of his bitches earning him around £35,000 in prize money. But he says if it was just the money he was interested in he couldn't afford to do it.
Henry's father used to keep dogs and he always had a keen interest in them. He remembers being able to race six nights of the week within a 50 mile radius of home. In those days there were lots of 'flapper tracks' which hosted the lower tiers of races. First class tier races were at tracks licensed by the National Greyhound Racing Club.
But the flat cap image of the sport has gone forever, the smaller tracks have closed, and big business has moved in. Tracks including Peterborough Stadium with plush facilities are even into corporate entertainment.
The sport has also attracted some bad publicity over the treatment of dogs when they can no longer race. Henry holds on to his 'pensioners' until they die or can no longer enjoy their lives.
He currently has 12 retired dogs. He said: "They do have a purpose because they can teach the others what to do and they become part of the family, I couldn't just get rid of them. There are bad boys in the game as well as good boys and I certainly couldn't bear to see anyone be being cruel to a dog."
The dogs start racing at between 15 and 18 months old and Henry travels all over the country with them. He said: "There is nothing like the buzz when you have a winner. You come home with a sore throat from all the shouting but feeling great."
Henry says it would be difficult to make a living out of the sport and the current economic climate is not helping. He said: "I think in a recession it is one of the first things to be hit because there is not the money circulating. You have to do it for the love of it.