TOOLONG farmer Brian Lenehan was a battler raising a large family when he picked the quaddie at a Saturday greyhound meeting in 1978.
He pocketed $1000 from the wager — all on dogs bred by Melbourne’s Tony Duke — and talked his wife into buying him a pup.
That pup, Sydney Gem, has become one of the latest inductees into the Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV) hall of fame, 35 years on.
GRV officials bestowed the honour on the bitch at the 2012 Greyhound of the Year function at Crown Palladium on Saturday night.
She is the second Warrnambool greyhound to receive induction, following the legendary stayer Bold Trease, which won the Sandown Cup four times in the late 1980s.
Sydney Gem only enjoyed limited success on country tracks and never won in Melbourne.
But she became one of the most successful brood bitches in Victorian greyhound racing history.
Lenehan, who initially trained the dog before a car accident in 1979 left him in hospital for seven months, said the induction was “a wonderful honour”.
“When you do something when you’ve got no money and it turns out to be a success, it’s better,” he said.
“(With) a family of eight children going to school, I had to pay the bills before I could pay for the greyhound.”
Lenehan said Sydney Gem, which died at age eight, had a reputation that remained strong today.
Her most famous offspring was Sydney Dingaan, which won the 1985 Melbourne Cup, while her bloodline exists in dogs dominating Victorian tracks today.
“She was an ordinary dog but she’s bred city winners every litter — 10 litters of champions,” Lenehan said.
“It hasn’t stopped. We’ve had so many winners over the years — Warrnambool Cup, Shepparton Cup, Hobart 1000.
“We sold the dog that won the Warrnambool Classic, Ballarat Cup, Warragul Cup, Mount Gambier Cup, Waterloo Cup and hundreds of minor races.”
The success of Sydney Gem is just reward for a man who has endured his fair share of hard luck throughout life.
Lenehan suffered paralysis in his left leg after a truck crash at Tower Hill in December 1979.
A metre of galvanised pipe smashed through his front window and rippped through a kidney and half of his intestine.
He spent seven months in a Melbourne spine unit and returned to the south-west in a wheelchair, unable to walk. Today he uses a stick.
“I was certain when it went through me I would never see my wife and kids again. I’d have bet $1 million,” he said.
“When I came home from hospital, my wife wanted to get rid of the dogs because I was that crook.
“I had one ambition — to win a Melbourne Cup and a Warrnambool Cup.
“When I won the Melbourne Cup, that was the greatest thrill of my life.”