Vale - John Heard

By Jeff Collerson
John Heard, a successful trainer for well over 50 years, passed away on Tuesday morning after a long illness.

Heard trained a succession of top notchers, beginning with top class stayer General Brett in the early 1970s, and then Westend Prince, Pororoca, Forty Twenty and in 2013, Princess Black.

He had been introduced to greyhound racing as a 14-year-old in 1955 when he went to WYONG to catch a dog called Banlon on behalf of its trainer Bill Watkins, a close friend of John's father Wally.

"The lure to get me there was the promise of a present if the dog won but because it was started two's on ($1.50) all I received after Banlon scored was a bag of oranges,'' John Heard once told me.

Six years later John Heard took out a trainer's licence with his first winner Big Caesar, again at WYONG.

While that was the only race Big Caesar won, Heard was soon enjoying top grade city wins with General Brett, who could not run 400m early in his career but became one of Australia's best stayers.

Heard's knack with long-distance greyhounds continued with Westend Prince, who won 28 races in 2001 and 2002 and Forty Twenty, who notched 37 victories between 2008 and 2010.

Champion sprinter Pororoca won 37 races between 2003 and 2006 but Heard always insisted his biggest thrill came when Forty Twenty won the Australian Stayers Challenge at Perth's Cannington track.

Princess Black, who won 11 of 25 starts including five in succession at Wentworth Park in 2013, had her career cut short by a snake bite.

Heard once declared: "Nobody ever taught me how to train greyhounds but in the early 60s I had two seasons as a winger with South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league team and had some success as a professional athlete.

"I used to play league in the winter and athletics in summer, and a lot of the techniques I used to get fit in those sports I was able to adapt to training my greyhounds.''

Greyhound Racing NSW wishes to pass on sincere condolences to John Heard's family and to his hundreds of friends within the greyhound industry.