By Isaac Murphy
Darren Johnstone has been in business his whole life, he knows the value of a good reputation and having someone to trust.
In just two years as a greyhound trainer, with the help of his wife Sue, they’ve been able to establish their brand which is shining through on the race track.
Johnstone’s last nine runners have yielded three winners, two seconds, three thirds and a fourth - an extraordinary run he’s not taking for granted.
“I’m having a good run at the moment, when it goes your way you take it while you can, next week it all could change,” Johnstone laughed.
“I set myself goals at the start of the year, have done budgets of where we’ve needed to be to keep moving forward and we’re ticking all those boxes so far.
“I had a certain number of starters and winners I wanted to get to and we’re ahead of schedule there, but I’ve got a lot of dogs who pay the bills running placings consistently that are crucial for a relatively new kennel like ours.”
The kennel may still be in its infancy, but it stands on the same blocks that make any trainer successful.
“Ours is just like any kennel; you’ve got to have good dogs to be successful and our original pups we bought have largely paid off and are the ones winning races for us now,” Johnstone said.
“I owe a lot to the owners headed by Kelly Waltisbuhl who trusted me with Truthiness, Miss Imperious and Madam Waltz.
“They were the first to bring their dogs to me and all three are going great guns at the moment especially Truthiness.
“Even in the last week I’ve had a couple of new dogs come into the kennels from some owners in New South Wales, I’m starting to build a small following and hopefully the influx of dogs will continue going forward.”
When Johnstone sold up his post office business and decided to get into dogs, there were always going to be risks but doing his homework on his first batch of pups is paying dividends.
“I took a punt about three years ago and bought about a dozen or so pups and we’ve been able to stagger them on the way along,” he said.
“Some have been racing for eighteen months while others are just getting started.
“Going forward, I want to put a real emphasis on racing good five hundred and six hundred metre dogs and if I can build a reputation with that class of animals the more likely potential clients are to bring us those type of dogs.”
Johnstone is well on the way to establishing that reputation, largely thanks to his previous working experiences and the trainer is promoting the sport to his entire friendship circle on social media.
“Most of my life I’ve operated my own businesses and I said to my new owners from New South Wales it might look like I’m pumping up my own tires, posting replays and talking about my wins but if you don’t self-promote no-one is going to do it for you,” he said.
“It’s making a lot of my friends who have never followed greyhounds stand up and take notice when they watch a replay of Facebook, if that can get just one person interested in getting involved in the sport, I’ve done my job.”
The Johnstone kennel is all about balance and on top of the pups they purchased and those from outside owners, they’ve started their own breeding line with prolific Albion Park winner Daisy Dreams teaming up with Zambora Brockie for some new blood.
“We ended up with nine pups out of the litter when we thought we were only getting six,” Johnstone said.
“We had David Brasch do the pedigree analysis for us, Zambora Brockie was high up on my list and when he said he thought it was a good match that’s the way we went, and we’ve sold three-week-old pups already.
“Ideally I’d probably like to keep three, so we’ve still got about four that are on the market, so anyone interested give me a call.”
Daisy Dream’s was by far the kennel’s most successful racer and a good first litter was essential, and despite a last-minute panic, the couple teamed up well coming out with nine healthy pups.
“We were obviously anxious about everything going with Daisy Dream’s first litter, but we got thrown a curve ball when they weren’t due until last Saturday and my wife Sue took Daisy to the vet on Wednesday for a check-up and they said she’s having these pups tonight,” Johnstone said.
“I rushed home from Albion Park to try to lend a hand, but Sue has done 95% of the work with them like she’s done with our other litters, allowing me to keep our race dogs racing - it’s a team effort.
“A couple of the little ones looked like they might not pull through the first 48 hours, but they did and we ended up with nine healthy pups which we were rapt with.”
Given the kennel’s form it was tough to pick a favourite, but Johnstone came up with a potential stayer and a sprinter he thinks have big futures in front of them.
“When Molly Anne first started racing, she was scorching around Ipswich,” Johnstone said.
“She did a stewards trial in 30.35 and then came on season and it’s taken six months for her to start showing form again.
“She’s had five wins, three seconds and a third from twelve starts and if she puts her head down, I think she can be something special over the 600-700 metres moving forward - starting in restricted company at Ipswich on Saturday.
“Truthiness was a 31 second dog around the 520 at Ipswich and really struggled to run the trip out early on.
“He’s managed to bring that down to 30.58 at his last win and has run 30.26 at Albion Park, he’s running at Capalaba on Sunday and goes well up the straight too.”