O'Keefe Returns Chasing More Silver Collar Glory

TRAINER Gerard O'Keefe has returned to New Zealand in a quest to continue his fantastic association with the Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar.

Peter Fenemor

26 May 2022

THE wily fox has landed!

That’s Gerrie O’Keefe who touched down in Auckland on Wednesday to commence his raid on New Zealand’s premier staying event, the $90,000 SENZ Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar.

The proven stayer Here’s Tears is scheduled to cross the Tasman this afternoon. The ageless pair of Victorians will be based just south of the Manukau track for their two-race campaign.

Here’s Tears will have his first look at the Manukau circuit this Sunday afternoon with O’Keefe planning to trial him over 650m. Safely through that task, he will then progress onto the following Sunday’s round of 779m heats.

O’Keefe is seeking to emulate the success he enjoyed with the outstanding stayer Ring The Bell (pictured) which strongly prevailed in the 2017 and 2018 editions of the great race.

“I regard the Silver Collar as the most prestigious staying race in the southern hemisphere – being raced over 779m makes the race a really true staying test.” O’Keefe said.

“I have previously tasted Silver Collar success and I want to enjoy that taste again.”

So, with that in mind, the 70-year old conditioner set about trying to source the right type of stayer that could provide him with further success in Australasia’s longest greyhound race.

“I chased around numerous trainers trying to find the right type of dog to take over. My criteria was a male dog, over three years of age and a proven stayer,” he said.

“Robbie Britton came to the party with Here’s Tears and with the owing Millmi syndicate agreeing he was transferred into my kennels last month. 

“In my opinion Here’s Tears is the right dog to take on a rigorous Silver Collar series. He has shown me that he’s up to the task via his Ballarat (660m) and Sale (650m) wins for me,” advised O’Keefe about the winner of $455,845.

O’Keefe is under no illusions about the enormity of the task that the current Sandown Park 715m track record holder faces in this assignment.

After all Here’s Tears will be taking on what is potentially the best stayer ever bred in New Zealand.   

Know Keeper has effortlessly trounced his Kiwi staying rivals, convincingly winning all 14 of the staying assignments he has been set, ranging from 645m to 747m.

Trainer Garry Cleeve has been frustrated over recent weeks in being able to secure suitable races for his gun stayer.

However he was a greatly relieved man when spoken to yesterday with Know Keeper drawn to contest a 645m event on his home Addington track tomorrow.

“Friday’s race is the perfect final hit out for him before we travel up north – you can’t beat race fitness,” said Cleeve.

Cleeve had seriously contemplated campaigning Know Keeper across the Ditch with the Sandown Cup and “The 715m” being obvious targets.

After all he enjoyed success with Know Keepers dad Know Class back in 2014, which included a couple of Sandown 715m wins.

“Yes, the money in Aussie is very good, however I haven’t won a Duke Of Edinburgh Silver Collar before and for me breeding, owing and training a Silver Collar winner is the ultimate result.

“I have been involved with greyhound racing for around 40 years and with Know Keeper I obviously have the firepower to achieve that objective,” advised Cleeve. 

On a lighter note, Cleeve was offered several kennelling options for Know Keeper had he decided to cross the Tasman.

Included was Gerrie O’Keefe who chuckled, “When I knew I was going to New Zealand I contacted Garry and offered him my full facilities should he come over for the Sandown Cup. Sadly he refused to take the bait.”

And in an ironic twist, O’Keefe will hand over the training duties of Here’s Tears to Cleeve immediately after the Silver Collar.

As “Crafty” Cleeve said, “I reckon it’s better for me to have a stayer of the quality of Here’s Tears racing for me, rather than against me!”

Bring on the first two Sunday’s in June!