By Isaac Murphy
Daisy Dreams gave Harrisville trainer Darren Johnstone and his wife Sue their first Thursday night winner in March 2019. A lot has changed since that day with the bitch set to become a dam and a kennel that has almost doubled in size consistently winning on the back of pure hard work and the couple wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still relatively new to the training ranks Daisy Dreams was the Johnstone’s marquee chaser earlier in the piece racking up the wins over the short course giving the kennel the leg up they needed early on.
“She won the twenty-four races for $55,000 in prize money and considering when she was broken in we were told she was no good and wouldn’t win a race, it’s been a hell of a ride,” Darren Johnstone said.
“She’s officially been retired since the Dash for Cash heats at Ipswich a fortnight ago, I thought she deserved one last crack at a sprint like that before she came on season.”
“Every time I put the white shirt and black pants on to take a few to the races she still gets excited, but she’s done so much for us, I’m happy to take her out healthy.”
Her retirement marks a new chapter for the Johnstone’s as they look to establish their own line heading to a boom young sire to get things started.
“We’ve set her up for a visit with Zambora Brockie. He’s kicked off well as a sire, got a bit of publicity and after we got David Brasch to do a pedigree analysis, he thought they’d be a great match,” Darren said.
“We bought a couple of straws. One we’ll use for this litter when she comes on season and hopefully all goes well, one in the bank for the next lot.”
Darren said the timing was perfect for Daisy to step up to the plate after her mother had kick-started in-house breeding.
“Daisy Dreams mother Stay Warm was going to go into the greyhound adoption program in Victoria just around the time I’d taken on training full time, so I snapped her up as my first dam and she’s got four pups to Fernando Bale who went to the breakers last weekend,” he said.
“She’s had a second litter to My Bro Fabio which are seven months old an that will be her last seeing she’s pushing nine years old, we’re hoping Daisy can establish a line for us, which is something we’d be very proud of.”
“Stay Warm was an incredibly nurturing mother. We’re very optimistic she’s passed that on to Daisy for her first litter.”
The Johnstone’s have done it the hard way building their kennel from the ground up, but in doing so have formed some special relationships with their greyhounds including the incredible story of Stitched Up Flo who miraculously won her first start a week ago.
“We bought Flo as a puppy and around October 2018 she was in our yard and we noticed a big gash on her chest, so we rushed her off to the animal hospital at Jindalee where they thought a stake must have penetrated about twenty-five centimetres into her,” Sue Johnstone said.
“We were at a total loss at how she did it. We had nothing in the yard, but thankfully she was very lucky, and it missed all her vitals.”
If that wasn’t enough, Sue went on to explain the unfortunate series of events that got her the name Stitched Up Flo.
“She bounced back well from her initial injury until she went to get broken in around February last year where she lasted a week before breaking her metacarpal and while she was recovering from that she was poisoned by a toad resulting in more time in hospital,” she said.
“The biggest scare came recently when she escaped from our property onto the farmers next door where she ran head long into an irrigation cable resulting in a dislocated hip and all kinds of bumps and bruises. That was probably the one time I wasn’t sure if she’d come home.”
Formerly known as Flo after Sue’s Grandmother, Stitched Up Flo eventually made it back to the property where a painstakingly slow recovery led to her eventual debut.
“We were told she would never make the race track which was ok with us because she has the bubbliest most infectious attitude, we would have been happy to just have her around the house,” Sue Johnstone said.
“We never gave up on her making it to the race track though and despite the injuries and never completing a full break in we gradually put her back together.”
“Darren got her to the trial track, and she was getting around ok. Still after her history we were very tentative on pulling the trigger on a race debut, but eventually bit the bullet.”
After almost a year of trials and tribulations the date was set for her debut on the 9th of January over the 288-metre dash at Ipswich.
“We went in with no expectations whatsoever all we wanted was for her to get around safely and when she won it, I just burst out crying in the grandstands. I don’t think Darren was far behind me. It was the most amazing day we’ve had in greyhound racing, a 288 metre maiden but it meant the world,” Sue said.
“We’re going to take it easy with her for a little while considering her history, but even if that’s her only win it’s worth it.”
The week got better when Truthiness broke through for his first win of his career over the 520 metres at Ipswich in 30.81, another remarkable training effort given his chequered history.
“We got Truthiness and his sister Miss Imperious when they were fourteen months and they’d never even had a lead on them, it took us ages to get them to just walk on a lead,” Sue Johnstone said.
“They would both be jumping all over Darren scratches everywhere it’s taken a lot with those two we’ve basically had to completely educate them and to have him winning is also very gratifying.”
“There’s no doubt about it we’ve done it the hard way, but from where we were at to what we’ve got in front of us is pretty exciting.”
The Johnstone kennel is by no means growing exponentially, but for Sue and Darren it’s about the intimacy they provide to each one of their team.
“For us it’s quality over quantity, with ten in work and a few injured it gives us the time to cater for each of them individually,” Sue said.
“I didn’t know much when we first dived into the industry, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. The emotional attachment you form they’re like a member of the family.”