‘We turned down £150,000’

The recent announcement by connections that their stud dog Magical Bale has been retired from active stud duties and is living out his retirement in a dog obsessed family home in Wales is not what some might first imagine.

Typically, ageing or failing stud dogs are quietly pensioned off and in days of old, most were never heard of again.
But Magical Bale is not a failed stud dog and his eighth birthday was in January.

Enjoying a Welsh retirement

During his breeding career, he sired an English Derby winner and a brilliant litter sister in Romeo Magico and Fabulous Azurra.

He fathered one of the greatest British litters of the last decade, bred by Kevin himself and including ‘Signet’ brothers, Denver, Goofy and Otis, and their brilliant sisters Moments Of Magic, Sleek By Design and Westwell Emer. (Five of the litter contested the 2022 Produce Stakes Final.

There there was the likes of Candolim Monsoon, Farneys Trend, Havana Bale Out, Starshinestunner to name but a few.

He finished fifth on the UK open race sires table last year ahead of a number of well known sires who were considerably more favoured by Irish breeders (failures, basically).

The key word in the opening sentence is ‘active’ because while the Irish Derby runner-up shares a sofa with one of numerous other family pets, there are many dozens of straws of semen *stored in liquid nitrogen and readily available for any interested breeders.

The dog’s trainer and joint owner Kevin Hutton said: “That was always the plan. The dogs are well looked after when they are racing and during their stud careers but I have always wanted them to have retirement in a home when the time comes.

“Bale lives with one of the other owners, David Anderson in Wales, and as I think the pictures show, he is living a fabulous life.”


* The practice of canine inseminations in greyhound racing was pioneered more than 30 years ago by American breeders Richard and Sharon Konole.  The original concept was to reduce traveling costs and improve welfare for American breeding stock, given the vast distances between the major racing states. It didn’t take long for Australian breeders to see similar benefits. The use of using chilled and frozen semen was treated with great caution by UK and Irish breeders, and understandably the lesser concerns over travel combined with very poor conception figures. They gradually improved as stud keepers became more skilled in progesterone testing

Why did no one tell me about these before now?

What was never envisaged at the time was an entirely different welfare angle as it emerged that a number of breeders in mainland China were looking to breed fast greyhounds and were prepared to pay big money for them.

Given the lack of welfare monitoring, it was a situation that has caused a huge amount of concern for the greyhound authorities and lovers of the breed in general.

Although a deal never progressed, Kevin reveals that numerous enquiries were made for Derby winner Dorotas Wildcat at the end of his racing career.

Kevin said: “We has a number of massive offers, the biggest was £150,000. But it was never considered.

“But it is difficult with these things because when dogs are sold on, you never know where they are going to end up. You might think that the people you are selling to are reputable, but you don’t know. What if they get sold on again?

“Nor can you blame GBGB. They don’t have the power to stop an owner selling a greyhound. Nor can they stop them being sent abroad. It is not illegal.”

What can happen though is that thanks to AI (which meant ‘artificial insemination’ before the term for artificial intelligence took hold) semen can be taken, the dog neutered, and then be of no commercial value for export.

As for ‘The Wildcat’, he too has had a successful stud career. His breeding record includes an English Derby winner and runner-up, Thorn Falcon and Romeo Command, Bonjour Bullet, Droopys Eunice, Slick Sabo etc etc. Like his former kennelmate, Wildcat is also a top ten sire.

Kevin said: “The plans for Wildcat are as the same as Bale. Sean and Michael (Dunphy) have been collecting semen in the knowledge that the dog will soon be coming home.”

“The principle is the same for the bitches too. Although (Forest) Natalee had five litters, that would be an exception, I wouldn’t want them generally to have more than two or three before they end up on a nice sofa. Natalee has since been spayed and lives at home with us.


The network

“We don’t have facilities here for rearing. We only breeding one litter a year and can only keep them for three months” says Kevin.

The net result is that the kennel relies on a small network of trusted people to rear the litters, and in some cases breed them too.

Kevin said: “Chantelle McNicholas and Kevin Bailey from Darlington have four bitches there and do some whelping down. They include Sleek By Design who has just had a litter of four pups by Dromana Bucko.

“Claire Conley does a wonderful job too. She is rearing a litter by Good News out of Moments Of Magic and has just started schooling the Signet Denver and Not Too Late litter at Bicester. She also rears some of the young Irish pups that we take a chance on.”

The other major influence on the kennel is owner and good friend Gilbert Anderson whose recent successes include the BGBF British Bred Maiden Derby winner, Rioja Bungle.

Owner Paul Woodburn gets his hands on the trophy. Kevin said: “He was still celebrating Oxford’s promotion! He treated me to a great day at Wembley.”

Kevin said: “Gilbert bred him out of Bull Run Byte and Peter Richards from Devon made a fabulous job of the rearing. They sent bungle to Bicester for schooling. He had one handslip and then did an insane first trial, something like 14.60.

“At that stage Paul (Woodburn) stepped in and asked to buy him. Him and Gilbert arranged quite a decent price for the dog which was quite brave considering how inexperienced he was. In fact, he turned in the boxes in his first trials at Oxford.

“His first two races were at Monmore in the Puppy Derby but he was still too green. He was still a bit novicey at Newcastle but he was a different dog from start to finish. He has the makings of a very good greyhound.

“It is actually a very good litter. There is a dog called Loose Cannon who was running A2 at Oxford after a handful of races but picked up a groin injury. There is a bitch called Show Girl who has won both her races, A4 and A2 and will go on to be open class and another bitch called Singalong Maggie who won three or her four races before coming into season.”


You never know with breeding

September puppy Rioja Bungle is from the third litter produced out of the 2019 Oaks winners Bull Run Byte.

Kevin said: “The first litter by Droopys Sydney were very good and included Singalong Stacey and Singalong Java. Byte has just produced a litter by Ballymac Cashout.”

As for the third litter . .

“They were by Magical Bale and weren’t very special at all” says Kevin.

All of which plays into the old adage about ‘judging a bitch after two litters, not before or after’.

It even rings true about Kevin’s Dam of the Year, Forest Natalee.

Her first litter, by Laughil Blake included Greyhound of the Year Signet Ace. The next bunch, by a champion sire in his own right, Droopys Jet, were ‘okay’. The third litter by Magical Bale (mentioned above) would rate as the best.

The fourth litter, by Confident Rankin (sire of stars like Claires Rocket, Clonbrien Prince, Ballinabola Ed, Magical Poppy and many more) were “the worst of the lot by far”

Which might lead to the thought that the final litter – by the stud dog of his generation – Droopys Sydney would be the best of all . . .

Kevin said: “They are not bad, but they are not top class. Mainly minor opens and A1s. The big surprise was the Confident Rankins who was a top class stud dog. It was only a small litter but one wouldn’t chase and another went to Monmore but was never right and was soon re-homed. Another, Signet Goon was minor open class.

“It just goes to show that no matter how much you think you understand breeding, it can always catch you out.”