By Peter Fenemor
Little did a then 13-year-old schoolgirl know at the time when she started helping out in a greyhound kennel, that the kennel work she was doing would shape her future lifestyle.
Sixteen years later, Ashley Bradshaw has built a solid racing team, comprising her own home-bred racing stock, and has established herself as a consistent greyhound conditioner within the highly competitive Canterbury training ranks.
It is that sound all-round work that sees Bradshaw being deservedly recognised as the GRNZ Board Award winner for December, a monthly award which celebrates the young achievers in the industry.
She successfully juggles her breeding, training and kennel work commitments with raising a young family, being ably supported by her partner Pete Seque.
It all started for Bradshaw back in her schoolgirl days when, aged 13, she regularly helped out in the Garry Cleeve kennels.
“I was friends with Bob Cairns’ daughter, and I said to Bob I wouldn’t mind being more involved with greyhounds.
“Bob said there was a trainer (Garry Cleeve) just up the road, so he set up a meeting and I bowled along and started helping out Garry and Gaylene in their kennels. I totally loved the greyhounds and it all started from there.
“Initially, I was helping in the kennels for the first couple of years. I started handling (raceday) greyhounds when I was around 15 years old,” she recalled.
Bradshaw branched out into training herself in 2009 when she took over the mentoring duties of Twirly Berly and she explains how that happened.
“Garry had a bitch who he couldn’t get going. He said that she needed a small kennel to go into. I said, ‘I’m small’, and took over training Twirly Berly. She didn’t do much on the track, so I retired her and mated her to Garry’s New Zealand Derby winner, Scotexcited.
“Included in the litter was what I consider one of my best greyhounds I’ve bred and trained, Rambunctious (13 wins and 56 placings), while Blonde Tori (12 wins and 30 placings) raced okay – it all started from there.
“My parents fully supported me back then and dad Mark used to take me to the races as I didn’t drive. They helped me tremendously, especially as I came into the industry cold and started from scratch. They also became addicted,” she explained.
Ashley Bradshaw certainly is addicted. Her passion for greyhounds is very evident when listening to her speak about her dogs.
Garry Cleeve recalls that passion was there right from the very start when she commenced working in his kennels.
“Ashley was always very reliable and always keen to learn. She readily took on new challenges and could easily adapt to any situation.
“She would take our ideas and combine them with hers and make a success of it. She has always been very passionate about all of her greyhounds – not just the kennel stars,” advised Cleeve.
Breeding greyhounds has become a forte for Bradshaw, successfully breeding numerous litters over recent years.
“I guess you can say that Hard Habits was my foundation bitch. She made a name for us and her progeny had an impact at Group race level. I also reared some pups for Mark Lin and Ray Amber.
“Pete moved into our place around nine years ago, doubling the kennel numbers with greyhounds he had for his CQ syndicate, and the rest is history. Working with greyhounds every day gets into your bones – it’s so great to be working full-time with them every day,” expressed Bradshaw.
The couple’s children Brax (seven years old) and Indie (three years old) make it full-on days for Bradshaw, who skillfully balances caring for them, while maintaining her kennel work. She has also developed into a keen gardener. “Gardening is a new experience for me and doing that, plus the kids and dogs, keeps me busy.”
More recently, Calculated Risk (12 wins, 25 placings and $58,661) has been flying the kennel flag with his promoted win in last season’s New Zealand Sires Produce Stakes, providing Bradshaw with her first Group race training success.
And that success wasn’t lost on Cleeve, as the NZ Sires is often referred to as “Crafty’s race”, such is the frequency that he travels north to win the Group 2 527m event.
“We had nothing in the NZ Sires last season, so I’m rapt that Ashley finished up winning it – after all, she is the neighbour just down the road from us,” commented Cleeve.
Calculated Risk’s dam Mischief Managed has been featuring prominently in the GRNZ Dams table. Last season alone, she left 62 winners and $171,186 in stake earnings.
Bradshaw is also firmly committed to the GRNZ Rehabilitation to Rehoming Programme, which sees her looking after and nursing injured greyhounds back to full health and fitness, prior to sending them through to the rehoming agencies.
“I love taking on the injured greyhounds. It gives me great satisfaction to assist in their recovery and look after them until they are ready to be rehomed,” she enthused.
Back on the racing side, she is also proud to be breeding her own greyhounds, saying, “We don’t have any Aussie imports – we’ll stick to breeding our NZ-bred greyhounds.
“It is exciting watching them grow from pups – I enjoy bringing them up, educating them and seeing how they develop into racing greyhounds.”
It is the ethics and passion that Ashley Bradshaw possesses that make her an extremely valued asset of the New Zealand greyhound industry.