CHIPS And Trains’ title-giver may have passed away long before he ran but her personality lives within the final greyhound she named.
The two-year-old West Australian-based greyhound, affectionately known by family and people close to him as Chippa, runs in honour of the late Pippa Rea.
Pippa was just nine years old when she was diagnosed with a Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glimoa, an aggressive Brainstem Tumour that affects young children, and passed away 42 days after her 11th birthday.
Chippa’s unusual name comes from one of Pippa’s young friends, Amyius Cunningham. Amyius would often send video messages to his friend in treatment asking when they would ‘eat chips and play trains’.
Now the Warrnambool-based Rea family – Pippa’s mother Virginia and brothers James and Patrick – watch on as Chippa takes WA by storm.
Virginia can see traits of her daughter in Chippa, who has 11 wins from 24 starts in 2018 including prominent victories in Greyhounds WA Young Stars Classic and the Group 2 All Stars.
“He is a great dog and is very friendly and loves pats and cuddles,” she said.
“Sometimes he comes up and all he wants to do is cuddle you. It’s a shame she didn’t get to see him run but she definitely runs inside him as she liked running too.”
From a young age Pippa was a key helper in Linda Britton’s, a close relative of Virginia, kennels.
“Whenever we went over there she used to go out and help Linda and (trainer) Chris Halse in the kennels,” Virginia said.
“Her job would be to pat, cuddle, clip the nails and feed bottles to all the newborn puppies. It was an important job.
“When she could write she used to write lists of kennel names to name all the pups. She would leave them and they would pin them on the wall and would cross off a name when a pup was born.”
Chips And Trains’ maiden victory at Cannington on May 30 was marked by a special sign for Virginia, who was on hand to see the victory.
“His maiden start he ran under a full moon and there was a full moon the night of Pippa’s farewell,” she said.
But it’s not the only time he has run under extraordinary circumstances.
“One night he ran under fireworks believe it or not,” Virginia said.
“They started at the beginning of the race and finished as he finished and no one knew where they were coming from but they were just going off over the track.”
Chippa, who races to raise money and awareness for pediatric brain cancer research, is eyeing off a visit to Victoria.
The Legs Eleven Pippa Syndicate, named after the nickname Pippa received on her 11th birthday, of Linda Britton and Virginia were in discussions with the trainer on making the trip a reality.
But for the meantime Virginia and her family are going to continue to watch Chippa on TV.
“It’s exciting and nerve-racking as he likes to run wide,” she said.
“One of my boys constantly looks and goes ‘Chippa can’t you just run shorter, if you ran shorter you would go a lot faster’.”
Chips And Trains runs again on Saturday at 8.27pm from box three in race five at Cannington.