Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Little Greyhound That Could - Part 1

If you are not familiar with coursing in England, read this post first (Click Here).

"Cashel’s Evening Runs Into Coursing History as the First American Greyhound in the Waterloo Cup" written by John Parker

It is a story right out of the movies, with pieces of Seabiscuit, National Velvet, and The Natural all rolled into one. A smallish racing Greyhound who washed out before her first official race and the owner who adopted her, whose combination of naivete and chutzpah put her in the right place at the right time to get her dog a coveted nomination to run in the Waterloo Cup, the Blue Riband of coursing.

The story begins at the ASFA International Invitational (I.I.) in Falcon, Colorado in June 2003. Cindi Patterson, recently graduated from law school, was attending the I.I. and was introduced to Anne Sheridan, a racing Greyhound breeder in Colorado. In the course of their conversations, Anne told Cindi about Cashel's Evening or “Evie,” an October 2000 Greyhound who had washed out of official schooling and whom Anne wanted to place in a good home. Cindi was looking for a companion for her Greyhound, Newell, so she agreed to have a look at Evie the next day. She liked the look of her and told Anne she would like to have her. Since Cindi was in the middle of a move, she arranged to pick up Evie and take her home on July 4th.

Cindi started Evie on a dual athletic career in the autumn of 2003, entering her in lure coursing in Colorado and open field coursing in Wyoming. Evie ran in the 2004 ASFA I.I. in Iowa, placing third in the Open stake both days. She earned her Field Champion title in June 2004.

Evie open field coursed in Wyoming 10 weekends in the 2003 - 2004 season. Her open field coursing career was not without a bump in the road – she dislocated an outside toe on a rear foot in the early part of 2004, and the damage to the ligament was so extensive that the decision was made to amputate the toe.

Evie’s road to the Waterloo Cup begins in January 2004, when Cindi, a self-described “Internet freak,” was “surfing” and found a reference to the Waterloo Cup on the National Coursing Club’s Web site. She knew nothing of British coursing, and in fact had misgivings about whether the hares were released artificially. More Internet research revealed that the hares live naturally on the coursing lands in England, and are driven to the coursing field by beaters who rustle the bushes and tall grass.

Cindi decided it might be fun to look into entering Evie in the Waterloo Cup. She had no idea that Greyhounds run for the Cup only after being nominated, that there are only 64 nominations to be had, and that no American Greyhound had ever run in the Waterloo Cup. She posted a question to the GreyTalk discussion list: “Anybody ever heard of this Waterloo Cup?” Pam Davis, who had attended several Waterloo Cups, responded and told Cindi about several hurdles she would have to get over to even get Evie considered for nomination.

In March 2004, Cindi sent an e-mail to Charles Blanning, Secretary of the National Coursing Club (NCC) and Keeper of the Greyhound Stud Book, to ask him how to get Evie considered for the Waterloo Cup. He told Cindi how to get Evie registered with the NCC and gave her the addresses of Waterloo Cup Secretary, Diana Brodie. Cindi then sent a letter to Ms. Brodie, enclosing a photo of Evie and telling her about Evie’s American coursing career.

Time passed without a reply, but finally a month later, Cindi received an e-mail from Ms. Brodie, acknowledging her letter and telling her that it was uncertain whether there would be a Waterloo Cup in 2005 because of the pending hunting ban legislation. She suggested that Cindi stay in touch and keep abreast of the situation in England.

Stay in touch she did, sending Diana Brodie e-mails throughout the rest of 2004. “I was afraid I was being a pest, but I figured I needed to take Diana at her word and keep reminding her of our interests” said Cindi. In September, Cindi registered Evie with the NCC and let Ms. Brodie know she had been registered. “I figured that would let her know I was serious.”

Evie encountered another bump in the road while open field coursing in Wyoming over the 2004 Thanksgiving weekend. She dislocated another toe on the same rear foot, although this dislocation was not as severe as the previous one. A trip to the vet resulted in some good news – the joint capsule was intact, surgery was not indicated, and three months of rest was the prescription.
Despite the good news on the medical front, Cindi had decided that Evie’s chances of running in the Waterloo Cup were between slim and none. The ban on coursing had become the law of England with the invocation of the Parliament Act, and the Waterloo Cup was now in jeopardy of cancellation. Nevertheless, she e-mailed Diana Brodie again to say she was still interested. Ms. Brodie e-mailed back: “We’ll let you know.”

Then it came in January, the long awaited e-mail from Diana Brodie : “Congratulations. The Committee has given a returned nomination to Cashel’s Evening. She will be the first American Greyhound ever to run in the Waterloo Cup.” It would be run a week earlier than usual, February 14 – 16, to come just before the effective date of the ban, February 19.

These new Cup dates were one week before Cindi was to take the Washington State Bar exam. Could she study for the exam while taking care of all the myriad details of getting herself and a dog to England, much less get Evie ready for the rigors of the three-day Waterloo Cup? Was Evie’s toe injury from Thanksgiving healed sufficiently to put her into training?

To be continued...........