There is a story to be told about every greyhound and their journey through a racing career which can harbour so many dreams or aspirations for their respective ownership connections.
The Irish Greyhound Derby is so often the ultimate destination point when fantasising of what might be for our canine heroes but in some cases just maintaining a presence in racing can prove a vital source of sustenance which enriches the quality of life for adoring owners.
One such aspiring champion in the 2018 Boylesports Irish Greyhound Derby is Colin Barry & Noel Coote’s Newhall Missile (Romeo Recruit/Rathmeehan Holly) whose story is wholly uplifting as the 150/1 rank outsider before commencement of Round One, now prepares to contest the quarter-finals this coming Saturday.
Noel Coote of Ennis will be well known to many in the sport but his 24 year old joint owner Colin Barry is a new recruit to ownership who has been enjoying the hugely progressive career of the John Browne trained Newhall Missile, his first ever greyhound!
Not yet witnessing his Derby challenger from track-side at Shelbourne Park, Colin’s Spina Bifida has forced him to keep up to date with the Derby from his hospital bed in Limerick but although going through a tough spell at present, his dad Gerry tells that his spirits are high and this it is due in no small part to the efforts of Newhall Missile!
Gerry; “Oh we’ve had too many days in hospital this year but he’s always been a battler and the spirits are good at the moment. The dog gives him something to look forward to every week.
“He’s here now and he’ll go through all the form from the weekend and look ahead through the draw. He’s sports mad anyway and to have this kind of involvement is precious for us all really. It’s a real tonic for him. The first night the dog won a race in Shelbourne was proof of that. He was stuck to the oxygen tank before that and has hardly gone near it since. It gave him some lift!”
Gerry & Colin Barry were not involved in greyhounds before Newhall Missile but there has been a near lifelong friendship between Gerry and joint owner Noel Coote, and, a first venture into greyhound ownership would come following Colin’s 21st birthday.
“Well basically it all stems from Colin’s 21st and we were wondering where to go or what to do. We decided on Limerick Greyhound Stadium and he loved it! The greyhound tracks are ideal. With Colin in the wheelchair, he can get around very easily. He can be inside or outside and everyone at all the tracks will go out of their way to help with anything they can."
“He has been many nights to Galway too but spending so much time in hospital this year, Limerick track is only five minutes over the road so it has been a great break for him to get over to the track a few times. It does him the world of good."
“Noel is very good to him and Colin loves the craic with the greyhound characters that he’d meet through him. It’s a wonderful way for him to socialise. Sure he’d only be home watching sport on the telly otherwise. There’s also the competitive side to it and of course we all enjoy the wins but Colin has a very active mind so studying results and going through the form helps with passing the time in a hospital bed!”
Newhall Missile opened his account in this year’s Derby with a most game victory in the first round, posting 29.95 despite a poor start. He then chased home Whoops Jack in a fast 29.45 when only succumbing by two and a half lengths before further enhancing his credentials last weekend with another truly laudable performance, leading home Droopys Floral in 29.67 for a brave one length success.
Gerry was present at Shelbourne Park on Saturday and this commentator can attest to the delight which that latest victory brought as he celebrated with Noel. Of course the one thing missing on the night was Colin but should Newhall Missile return one more qualifying effort this coming Saturday, we can expect to see the main man at track-side for the semi-finals.
Gerry; “Oh Saturday night was just fantastic. He ran brilliantly again and while we’re talking about Colin and what it means to him, we must remember how special this all is for Noel too. Like I said, we have been friends for years and for a proper greyhound man like Noel, being in a Derby quarter-final is a big deal.
“We’re absolutely delighted as it stands but if at all possible, we would love to reach the semi-finals. We won’t be able to get Colin to the track this week but if Newhall Missile does make the semi-finals, heaven and earth will be moved to make sure he’s there to see it. We went out to the van after the race to greet the dog of course and found Johnny on the phone to Colin. I could hear Johnny telling him, “we’re not finished yet!”…..I hope he’s right!"
“Colin is sports mad and before greyhound racing, Hurling was hugely important to him in his younger years. He went to school with many of the lads who won the All Ireland Club Final for Ballyea in 2017 and when he had better use of his limbs, he used to be in goals facing shots from the likes of Niall Deacy, Tony Kelly, Jack Browne and more.
Confined to the wheelchair now, greyhound racing has afforded him the chance to have a sporting participation. A chance where this type of opportunity would not be available otherwise.”
For the training connections too, Newhall Missile is a special runner for it represents an extension of a exciting season for John Browne. Father to the afore mentioned Clare hurling star Jack Browne, the latter’s Coolavanny Spice was a heat winner in this year’s Irish Oaks and remains an exciting prospect as just a September 2016 whelp.
Better known with runners under the Burnpark prefix, this Derby campaign echoes some of the wonderful achievements by the kennels who claimed an Irish Oaks in 1984 with Burnpark Sally before a Puppy Derby success for Burnpark Black in 1985, all coming at the legendary hand of late family patriarch Michael.
A return to classic contention with Newhall Missile was not always in the plan however as he has taken an unorthodox route to this stage of his career, a little like how Noel Coote came to own him in the first place.
Noel; “Well myself and John are involved together for years but it was John Collins who took the dam for breeding. He had jointly owned her with John in the first place but there was two pups to come back to John.
“Anyway when time came to bring home the two pups, John asked me to take them and rare them for a few months as he was fairly full up at home. I had them here for a while anyway and had taken a shine to this dog, Newhall Missile now of course, and I wanted him. “Ah sure he’s the pick of them, don’t take him”, says Johnny.
“Take the two of them away so says I and that was that. Some time after anyhow, we had been to the track with Colin a few times and he was really in to it so I said to Johnny that he’d have to get me a dog for myself and Colin. He said, “don’t you dare bring me another dog, I’m full! Sure isn’t there a dog there that you wanted before, he’s yours!”
“So I eventually ended up with the dog I liked in the first place and Colin named him then. His home address is Newhall and the English Derby was on around that time, won by Astute Missile, so Colin christened him Newhall Missile. He actually began in the Workers Stake at the coursing meeting in Ennis and won it. It was a great start for Colin and he was there to see it too thankfully. He hadn’t raced up to that but started off in an S8 sprint stake at Galway, getting beat into second in the final.
Now at no point did we ever think that we had a Derby dog and he actually had the chance to run at the Irish Cup coursing meeting after winning in Ennis so he took a short break from the track for that.
He won a few nice races then and I genuinely thought he was a decent grader up to A1 class, never entertained the top class but he was after winning a small A4 stake at Shelbourne. So, when John was travelling up for the Oaks with Coolavanny Spice and subsequent races for her, Missile was entered up, more for convenience than anything.
There was a time I didn’t think he fully stayed the 525 yards but he done his best run over 575 yards in July, his first Open class time, 31.20. Sure you have people telling you that you’re entitled to run in the Derby then and thank god he did that run because he has only improved again since. I’ve never seen a dog like him, the minute he turned two years of age his form just took off.
Sure we may never have a dog for it again, who knows?! Genuinely all we wanted to do was qualify the first night. There was almost a sense of embarrassment being in against such company but then he went and won. The joke at the time was that we had got our €300 back, we were covered!
Oh we’re bolder by the week. We even backed him last Saturday night, including my own dad Paddy at 87 years. I thank the stars that he’s well enough to enjoy it all.”
Connections have been given every reason to get increasingly bold on the back of Newhall Missile’s battling progress in the Derby and while excitement is naturally high, the form student heads remain calm when looking ahead to Heat 3 this week, where Missile will contest from Trap 3.
Noel; “Well honestly, we looked at last Saturday night as our Derby final because it was probably the last point at which we could be in a Derby heat and realistically believe that we could have a winning chance.
“He’s flying it. I’m not long off the phone with John and the form is good. He has Trap 3 but we’d prefer to be closer to the rail than that. There’s plenty of early pace in it and in reality, we’re running for third place. But look, at this level you just take it as it comes.”
These views were in keeping with Colin’s analysis also as Gerry relayed; “Yeah Drive On Tipp is on the inside and Colin is worried that he’ll break as well as he did last week, leaving Missile with a lot of work to do going to the bend. He thinks we’re chasing third place.
“But whatever Saturday brings, we just thank god for this whole experience. It really has been a godsend.”
Wherever your allegiances lie come Saturday’s quarter-finals or whichever Derby runner you have backed, it would take a cold heart not to pray that Newhall Missile could advance so that we could all join Colin Barry in celebration, at Shelbourne Park on Derby semi-final night.
Those of us whose health permits that we can work with greyhounds on a daily basis, know how lucky we are to play such an active role in our sport. What Newhall Missile has done for Colin is to ensure that even through adversity, his adoring owner has not been forced to abandon sporting ambition and with the help of family and friends, he has achieved something that many of us have yet to, he has reached a Derby quarter-final!
By Noel Coote’s own admission, Newhall Missile was never viewed as a Derby challenger until the dog himself gave the hint with that fast run over 575 yards. Now I was never much of a spiritualist or placed much credence in higher powers but sometimes I do afford a flighty ponder, do dogs know?
For Newhall Missile is a brave hard worker who has battled his way through the grades, almost mimicking the courage that his owner Colin is required to show in each waking hour. If he does know, we can likely expect another step forward in his progressive career this week.
He will carry the hopes of Ennis, or more so an entire county, at home in the Banner, a hurling club in Ballyea, a hospital in Limerick and a wealth of family and friends as he bids to deliver yet another tonic for Colin this week.
If best wishes were lengths, he would be a certainty to qualify and I’m sure even connections of his rivals will hope that while qualifying themselves, Newhall Missile can fill a place alongside them.
All will join in wishing Colin the very best in his own personal battle while extending the sporting hand of friendship ahead of Saturday’s quarter-finals. Dreams and aspirations, we all have them but Newhall Missile had adopted Colin’s and this particular dream will be adopted by many more should this brave Derby challenger occupy a qualifying place at any stage this coming Saturday.