By Isaac Murphy
Rob Essex is best known in greyhound circles as one of Ipswich’s leading trainers, but as a teenager riding track work, Essex developed a love for the racing industry.
On top of the roughly 20 greyhounds Essex currently trains, he also has ownership interests in fifteen pacers and three thoroughbreds.
Essex has good weeks and bad weeks, but last Saturday night was special for him.
Early in the evening, Maywyns Courage saluted at $8 in a trots race at Albion Park, and less than an hour later, Senorita Maywyn won her fifth grade heat at Ipswich.
Not even an hour later, Senorita’s brother Maywyn Ulysses claimed his heat as well.
“It was a bloody good night is what it was, I just wish it would happen more often,” Essex said.
“I’m a happy man if I can get one over the line in any code, so to get three winners in the space of two hours at the trots and greyhounds made for a night to remember.”
With so much to stay on top of, Essex has surrounded himself with a team he trusts in each of his endeavours, starting with his pacing trainer and driver Kelli Dawson who got the roll started with Maywyn’s Courage on Saturday night.
“In combination with Kelli Dawson, who’s the official trainer and does all the driving, we’ve got about fifteen in work at the moment and a few out in the paddock waiting to come in,” Essex said.
“We’re very active in the sales all around Australia, we’re always happy to travel for a good pacer.
“Kelli comes with me wherever we go and it’s great to have a second opinion; we picked up one in the Brisbane sales, two in Melbourne and one in Sydney this year and are always on the lookout for new talent.”
Essex spoke glowingly about brother and sister duo Maywyn Senorita and Maywyn Ulysses, who will meet in this Saturday’s fifth grade final at Ipswich - Maywyn Senorita perhaps the biggest surprise.
“It’s been a big turn around her last two wins, she got a ticket a couple of months ago for failing to chase and we did our twenty-eight days but took sixty all up in an effort to fix it up and it looks like it’s worked,” Essex said.
“It was frustrating because she wasn’t getting in trouble out the back, she would get four lengths in front and think ‘where are the rest of them?’ but there’s been no wobbling about this time - her mind is on the lure.
“In the extra five weeks we had off there was plenty of trials for trials and post to posts, we were hoping she would hit the ground running and she has.”
Essex believes that Maywyn Ulysses probably has the bigger future at this stage, after he one-upped his sister two races later with the quicker time.
“If I had to pick between the brother and his sister I’d probably side with the brother,” he said.
“Maywyn Ulysses is a really progressive animal, he probably took another step-up Saturday night going 13.02 down the back, that’s really humming.
“Comparably his sister went about 13.30 and it’s only one section of the race but that’s a big-time discrepancy.
“If he can be up anywhere near the lead, he can put the race away with his second sectional.”
Just as Essex has a trusted pacing confidant, he gets all the help he needs from trusted sidekick Anita Wells in the greyhound world, who takes care of anything to do with the dogs when Essex is otherwise engaged.
“I’ve been very lucky to have Anita working with me for thirteen years now and she knows the greyhounds better than I do,” Essex said.
“I’ll have my say but if she thinks something is off, she’s not afraid to say it and we’ve got a great level of trust between us which is why things work.
“I’d known Anita’s dad Russell and been good mates for a number of years before she came to work for me.
“I was actually on a visit down in Tassie and I asked him whether he knew anyone who would be keen to come up and work for me and he said how about Anita.
“She was eighteen at the time and is still putting up with me.”
Essex’s first passion was racehorses, working for country trainer Jack Martin as he spent much of his youth riding track work at Charters Towers and taking horses to the northern tracks.
Once he’d enjoyed some success in greyhounds and trots, naturally he would come back to horses.
“With the gallops I work with a trainer called Graeme McCulloch who’s run a successful operation in Tasmania over the last few decades and won a bunch of trainers premierships – a very good man,” Essex said.
“We always buy from the Magic Millions Sales in Tasmania, so if we ever get a good one we only have to go over the Bass Strait to get to Melbourne.
“I’ve had a couple of nice horses in my time that have made open class down in Tassie, but the dream is to get one that’s good enough to race in Melbourne, so I’ll keep turning up at the sales.”