June McCombe will have her last runners at Doncaster in July before taking a long overdue retirement.
She said: “I handed in my notice at Doncaster on Monday and am serving out my three months notice. I will be sad to go but I am coming up to 76 and I can’t face another winter. My local steward Dave Baldwin always says, ‘I don’t know how you can live there. All four stone of you. It’s the coldest chuffin place in the world.‘”
The Lumb In Rossendale based trainer has spent most of her seven decades surrounded by greyhounds, her parents had dogs on the Lancashire and Cheshire flaps, which is where she met her late husband Pat.
They were regulars at Oldham until taking out their license and joining Belle Vue. Pat died in October 2002 and June saw three out three decades at ‘The Zoo’ before making the switch to Doncaster and the regular journeys over The Pennines have taken their toll.
Although the kennel won the Eclipse (Moyglare King), the Cesarewitch (Zigzag Stewart), a couple of Manchester Puppy Cups and a string of other flat competitions, “when they were worth winning”, nothing quite hit the heights like hurdler Tarn Bay Flash.
June said: “We reared him from three months old and he won the National Final in only his fifth race over hurdles. We also sent him to Ireland where he won 11 of 13 races including the Irish Grand National. He was a wonderful greyhound.”
June originally took around 50 hounds from Belle Vue to Doncaster but has been running the kennel strength down over time. There are currently 38 dogs in the kennels of which around half are currently on the graded strength.
Daughters Julie and Alison have continued the family love of the hounds with the latter acting as her mum’s right-hand-woman.
June said: “I can’t thank Alison and the staff enough for all their help, and of course the owners, who have stood by me through all these years. I will be sad to leave the game, but I know it is the right thing to do.
“I have seen the best years of this sport and I feel very sorry for all those owners and trainers who I leave behind. These trainers are struggling to make a living. It is just such a hard life.”