During the National Greyhound Association’s (NGA) Fall Meet in October of this year, three greyhounds were once again given away for the NGA Pup Giveaway. One of the pups was donated by Steve Sarras, trainer and owner of Steve Sarras Kennel, and was won by Joie Gates. We spoke with Steve and Joie to delve deeper into the Pup Giveaway by learning more about the greyhound racing industry.
Steve Sarras got his start in greyhound racing at a young age when his dad purchased three pups that ended up being very successful.
“He got bit by the bug. Got enamored by the sport. He ended up buying a kennel and a farm. I grew up in it and have been doing it since I was 10 years old.”
Steve’s dad loved the farm, playing with the dogs, and watching the races. This transferred to Steve who ended up falling in love with the racing part of the industry. The family’s farm is in Massachusetts and Steve expanded the operations to Wheeling, followed by Southland. The love for greyhound racing has extended to Steve’s children, Nikolas and Alexandria, who are also involved in the sport, but have their main focus on their education.
“The greyhound industry is very labor intensive and requires a tremendous amount of time and dedication.”
Steve has raced excellent greyhounds, most notable being Rob Gronkowski who was 2013 All-America team captain, winner of the 2013 Festival of Stakes Sprint, Labor Day Stake, Father’s Day Stake, 2014 He’s My Man Classic, St. Patrick’s Day Championship, and he held the 545-yard track record in 2013 and 2014 at Palm Beach.
This year was Steve’s second year participating in the NGA Pup Giveaway. The pup Steve gave away at the previous Pup Giveaway ended up making its way to grade A at Derby Lane. Steve likes donating a pup to the giveaway because he feels that it is a good way of getting new people involved in the industry. Usually, those who win a pup are very excited and can be someone who hasn’t raced a greyhound before.
“I’ve always tried to play an active role and try to bring in new people, new faces.”
In the case of Steve’s 2017 Fall Meet giveaway pup, Morticia, he already knew the winner Joie Gates.
“She used to work at one of the farms that raises dogs for me in Arkansas, Imark Farms. It was funny when I heard her name, I kind of grinned.”
Steve anticipates that Morticia will do well. He raced her mother, Yahoo Bonita, who was a AA grade racer at Wheeling and Palm Beach. Having Djays Octane as Morticia’s sire certainly adds to her potential.
“We try to give away one that anyone would be proud to own, and hopefully Joie gets an All-American.”
Joie Gates became interested in greyhounds after coming across ‘rescue’ groups when she was living in Pennsylvania. Wanting to know more about the greyhound racing industry, Joie started her research, but what she found was a lot of anti-racing information. This prompted Joie to dive right into the source of greyhound racing by getting a pup of her own.
“Being a little dismayed at the information I was getting from ‘rescue’ groups on Facebook, of course, I decided I was going to cut to the chase… I decided I wanted to learn about the greyhound industry from the ground floor. Best I could do was buy a racing puppy.”
Joie contacted Terry Haber from Imark Kennels to get her first racing greyhound. Her first greyhound was named Honor Arlington, who raced at Derby Lane through Abernethy Kennel, before heading to Orange Park to race with Steve. She is now retired and at her forever home.
Having an appreciation for animal athletes from her love of equestrian sports, Joie instantly fell in love with greyhound racing and it wasn’t long till Joie moved to Arkansas to work with Terry on his farm to learn more about the industry. Through a fun exchange involving a kayak, Joie and Terry co-own Funny Car, who is racing at Daytona Beach, and Chas N It, racing at Tri-State. Both pups started their racing careers in April of this year.
Having been an NGA member since January of 2013, Joie purchases raffle tickets for each pup giveaway. Little did Joie know that this year she would not only win one of the pups, but she would win Steve’s pup.
“I was tickled pink that Steve Saras was the person that donated Morticia because I had lunch with the man, I know the man, I know him from Terry. I’d been to his racing kennel at Southland… I think he’s an outstanding greyhound man.”
Joie decided that she would have Morticia race through Steve, where she will be starting out at Sarasota.
“He texted me this morning to ask if it was OK if Morticia went with her littermates to Sarasota to train. It was nice that he asked me.”
With Morticia currently training to race at Sarasota, Joie just received confirmation that Morticia’s racing name will be Dama Octano, a combination of her parents’ names in spanish meaning Lady Octane.
Joie really enjoys the athleticism of greyhound racing and how greyhounds, unlike horse racing, have to figure out the race and dig deep on their own. You can see the passion for racing in the greyhounds’ faces.
“I enjoy horse athletes, greyhound athletes, I enjoy sporting dogs that are bred for a reason. I appreciate that greyhound racing gives dogs that are bred as sight hounds the ability to run in probably the safest environment they can get. Yes, accidents can happen, but in any sporting environment, unless you’re infused in bubble wrap, the potential to get hurt is always there.”
One of Joie’s favorite parts about greyhound racing and owning pups of her own is that she can see them go from training to rookie racer to veteran racer. Seeing the improvement is gratifying and impressive. When a greyhound continues to do well, you can tell that they want it.
“I loved watching As A Time Of Day. He was rather immature when he was at Derby Lane with the Abernathy’s and I loved watching him figuring it out when he got to Daytona Beach. You could see the dog pass other dogs and lift his head up over the butt of another dog to get around. You could see him making his moves and I just think that’s beautiful.”
As A Time of Day, also known as Burrito, recently retired and found his forever home where he lives with his owner, Christine, and four furry siblings.
Enjoying all aspects of greyhound racing, Joie also loves the wonderful pups themselves and is proud that each of her greyhounds has been adopted and placed in their forever homes.
“Retired greyhounds make excellent pets. I think everyone who has one is incredibly blessed.”
With three retired racers of our own, we couldn’t agree more with Joie.
We would like to thank both Steve Sarras and Joie Gates for speaking with us and sharing their wonderful stories in the greyhound racing industry. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog or podcast? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.