By Isaac Murphy
John Dart has spent the last twenty-two years of his career training out of his Northern Rivers property at Dulguigan, but you could be forgiven for thinking the veteran dog man was a Queenslander, consistently making the two-hour drive North of the border to Albion Park where he continues to rack up winners.
Dart said the commute was part and parcel of the gig and his ideal location allowed him to race his dogs either side of the Tweed.
“We moved from Grafton in 1984 and lived at Bilinga for ten years near the Gold Coast airport before we moved to our property, which is the perfect area to go North to Brisbane or South to Casino and Lismore,” Dart said.
“It’s good to have stability, we have everything we need here to train how we want to train, I don’t think we’ll be moving anytime soon.”
“We’ve always mainly raced in Brisbane but have had the advantage of winning our Fifth Grade’s in Brisbane, then bringing them back down here and be still being eligible for a Fifth Grade.”
Dart brings a small team to this week’s Thursday night meeting with Alonso Mornay lining up in the Grade 4 over the 520 metres alongside Tony Brett’s new Ipswich 431 metre track record holder Regal Recall and in-form two-year-old Hunter Kingsbrae who tackles another Brett favourite in Charming Chaos.
Dart said he gives Alonso Mornay a sneaky chance in his race expecting him to come home strong after a succession of 600 metre runs, but it was Hunter Kingsbrae’s prospects that had him excited.
“He’s got a good chance, he’s drawn right (2) and while Charming Chaos will be hard to beat if she doesn’t quite get it right from the six the race maps pretty well for us,” Dart said.
“He’s getting stronger, when we first got him he couldn’t break 13 in the run home and on Monday night he ran 12.66, if he can repeat the dose and get to the fence on the first turn he’s a really good chaser and smart field dog.”
“He’s tough as teak and while he’s young and racing in his current form he’s got no problem racing twice a week.”
Dart has tread lightly with the two-year-old avoiding the age races, but a low thirties win over the 520 on Monday night has him dreaming of bigger targets.
“The Derby is his Grand Final, with the prize money and prestige that comes with that race you’ve got to put them in,” he said.
“Hopefully with another couple of months racing he keeps trending in the right direction and gives himself a chance.”
Dart said it had been all hands-on deck for the kennel with pups to proven veterans all on the go.
“I’ve got three Magic Sprite, Kingsbrae Missy’s, that go away to get broken in next week,” he said.
“Peta Gledhill is coming off season in two to three weeks and I’m hoping we’ll see the best of her over the 600 this prep after what she showed us first up.”
“I just bought a bitch yesterday Kingsbrae Carol who’s won six out of her last seven, plus we’ve got six three-month-old pups we own ourselves, you could say it’s a nice balance but we’re bloody busy.”
Dart has formed more than a few friendships over his forty-seven years career and bought Kingsbrae Carol from Stratheden training couple Charlie and Toni Northfield.
“I mainly bought Kingsbrae Carol to breed from, she comes from good bloodlines and Charlie Northfield who breeds the Kingsbrae’s was nice enough to let us purchase her,” he said.
“We are fairly close with the Northfield’s, Charlie’s wife Toni actually owns Hunter Kingsbrae, it’s a good working relationship.”
Dart joked the only problem with his owners was they kept coming back, citing a long-time supporter and a new consortium as key to letting him train how he likes.
“I’ve been lucky with my owners, Scott Duffy was a big supporter of mine he owned dogs with me for over fifteen years, the most prominent probably being First Fire,” he said.
“The group of boys who own Peta Gledhill have just bought another two pups with us now, there are about twenty of them and it gives you a little extra kick when a few show up to cheer her on.”
After forty-seven years Dart doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon and plans to be a prominent face at Albion Park for years to come.
“I love what I do and what you put out is what you get back, it’s a tightknit industry and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”