Jack Johnson has come a long way in a short time with his team of greyhounds, quickly establishing himself as a trainer to follow for the future.
The Canterbury trainer’s dedication to his greyhounds has led to his early success which has been recognised with the 18-year-old being deservedly named as the May winner of the GRNZ Board Award.
“I am very grateful and proud to be recognised as a youth award winner,” advised Johnson.
Jack Johnson’s involvement in greyhound racing began as a 13-year-old, as he explains.
“I was looking for an after-school job and I approached Dave and Jean Fahey. I started emptying dogs for them in afternoons, which was followed by weekend work.
“They were huge for me back then and they sparked my interest in greyhounds, deciding I wanted to be more involved. Dave and Jean were brilliant to work for, teaching me so much, which I still appreciate today.”
Leading mentor Dave Fahey adds, “Jack got hooked on greyhounds basically from the start of his time with us. He grew into his role and was always keen to learn. I still keep a watchful eye on him as he expands his racing interests.”
Johnson spent three and a half years with the Faheys, from where he moved on to work with Matt Roberts. “I learnt a fair amount from Matty and Sarah (Clausen) over the eight months I was with them.”
When Johnson turned 18, he decided he wanted to become a greyhound trainer himself.
“Andy and Janine McCook provided me with seven kennels of my own to train from. I continued to learn so much more from them,” he explained.
It was during his time at the McCooks’ when Jack Johnson trained his first winner under his name. Understandably, that win remains a cherished moment for him.
It was on 16 September last year that Johnson loaded away Allegro Marshy into the Addington 295m one-trap, which resulted in a tidy 17.34 two-length win.
“It was a great feeling training my first winner,” expressed Johnson, who added, “I credit that win to all of the industry people who kindly helped me to get into a position of being able to train my own greyhounds.”
After eight months at the McCooks’, Johnson moved to his current Amberley training base, where he now oversees a 40-kennel operation.
“It’s full on; however, I really enjoy it. Mum (Belinda) helps me in the mornings. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of owners getting in behind me. They have given me opportunities, which I really appreciate,” he explains.
“Mark Lin has been very supportive. He’s got me training his Fabregas – Kai Nan litter,” added Johnson about the five littermates who he races in partnership with Lin.
He is also excited about his prospects with a former Queensland maiden greyhound he is now mentoring.
“I’ve recently imported Pebble’s Return, who I’m currently trialling. I feel she could be pretty good,” enthused Johnson.
Johnson’s training aspirations include mentoring Group race winners.
“I would also like to climb up the trainer’s ladder – it’s a big ladder to get up, while in the meantime, I’m looking at ticking over the kennels, keeping on grinding away,” he explained.
We couldn’t conclude this article without asking Jack whether he had any intentions of becoming a jockey. After all, his father Chris Johnson is the most winningest jockey in New Zealand thoroughbred racing history, riding a phenomenal 2,515 race winners.
“No, I had no intentions of being a jockey. I drove in Kidz Kartz races (harness) for a while, and then when I got involved in greyhounds, I decided that is what I wanted to do. I am very proud of what Dad has achieved,” said Johnson.
Now that’s a tally of winners that Jack Johnson can aspire to chase down with training successes with his greyhounds!
Preparing three winners on the 16 June Addington card is a fair indication that Jack Johnson is on the climb up that “big trainer’s ladder”.