Wander through Warren Kempshall’s Sandy Crossing kennels and finding the veteran isn’t as simple as you might think it would be.
“He hasn’t got one dribble of grey on him. If you walked through the kennel, you would never pick him as being a six-year-old dog,” Kempshall said of Aristotle, who on Monday celebrated his sixth birthday.
“He’s a really good old dog. He’s still competitive. He probably doesn’t like the 300m at Grafton, he doesn’t like the big straight, but Lismore and Casino … he can still compete against the best of them and when they put those 259m races on at Lismore, I thought that is perfect, and he’ll go around there on Tuesday night.”
Tonight at Lismore will be Aristotle’s 136th start in a career which began back on February 7, 2015. He has notched 45 wins in that time, and 50 placings. And it’s not like that good form was back when Aristotle was a youngster. In his past 38 starts, he has won 13 times, and been placed another 18 times. Of the seven unplaced runs, Aristotle has been fourth five times, fifth once and sixth once.
“He’s another good old dog. He’s had his problems along the way as expected but nothing major. We got him when he was injured back in 2015. Dennis and Matty Reid had him. They asked if we wanted to have a go with this dog who had hurt his wrist. He had won seven races when we got him.
“We’ve got a bit of theory. If we get a dog and they’ve got an injury and we’re told to put them out for say six weeks, well we put them out for 12. Give them plenty of time. There’s no rush. And we tend not to trial our dogs as much as most people do. We have got little sprint lanes - only 30m long - and that’s how we keep him conditioned.
“We’re just probably a little bit conservative with the dogs. People might start their dogs 50 times and they probably trial them 50 times. We don’t do that. I’ve got a good mate of mine who said I don’t know how you get your dogs fit, you never trial. The old fellas used to say: “don’t leave your good runs on the trial track,” and that’s what people are doing.
“You can only get something so fit and when it’s fit, it’s fit, and you just have to keep topping that fitness up and those 30m lanes - it’s sprint stop, sprint stop, they work – they do the job.”
It worked for Aristotle. On February 29, 2016, almost five months since his last start for the Reids, he had his first run for Kempshall and won at Grafton, and the rest is - a lengthy - history.
Veterans seem to be in vogue at present. Only last Friday night, Amanda Ginn’s Soul Breaking, at the age of six years and three months, won the final of the Masters’ event at Wentworth Park. And Aristotle is not the oldest dog Warren and his wife Sonia have raced.
“We had one called Price Rise who raced until she was six years and three months,” Warren recalled. The greyhound had 143 starts for 22 wins and 50 placings, and raced from December 2011 until February 2018.
“We bred her here. She tore some of her back muscle - it wasn’t bad - but when they get to that age if they do that, it’s just better for them to retire. We don’t go to the city to race - we’re happy racing around here in the Northern Rivers - but she probably would have won in the city.”
One runner Aristotle will have to overcome at Lismore is his kennelmate Hummin Gun.
“He came back to us from Melbourne after he tore a bit of his back muscle and had all these allergies. We put him on grain-free kibble and gave him eight months off, and I think he’s now had nine starts since he came up to us, for seven wins and two seconds.
“He’s almost four and half now, and in his heyday … if I had had him when he was two-years-old I would have been whistling dixie. He regularly breaks 23s at Grafton of the 407m – he did it last start – and not many dogs do thesedays. He’s won 23 of his 64 starts, so he’s still got a way to go to catch Aristotle.”