Teen trainer Jorja-Louise Howard builds on her success

WINNING TOUCH: Jorja-Louise Howard with Doing Time after a win at Maitland earlier this year. Picture: STEPHEN WHALLAND.
WINNING TOUCH: Jorja-Louise Howard with Doing Time after a win at Maitland earlier this year. Picture: STEPHEN WHALLAND.

Jorja-Louise Howard has a simple theory about why so many young people like herself are building careers in greyhound racing.

"I just think that as soon as they see a greyhound, they just fall in love with them, it's just the aura of the dog," she explained.

"And with the age now lowered to 14 for young people to be able to handle a dog and box a dog, and walk a dog back after a win, that's exciting and it has been great to see more young people get involved.

"My friends absolutely love it. They had their first experience at Wentworth Park with me for my birthday weekend, two weeks ago, and they fell in love with it."

Jorja, 19, has had her licence for a year, but after a patient build-up she didn't have her first starter in a race until July. She registered her first win at start number two with a dog called Doing Time, and then on December 1, with her 34th starter, she notched her first win at Wentworth Park, again with Doing Time.

"It's been a long and patient time to get him back from injuries, but perseverance and patience has paid off. He tore his stopper tendon before he had even had a start, and it took about five months to get him back from that.

"I think that's what made me so emotional at Wentworth Park. I have never actually spoken behind the boxes, never cheered a dog on, but I actually let out a little: "Go Boy" that night.

"After the race I walked back from the boxes, past the winning post, and tears were just rolling down my face, I was so happy.

"I had trainers coming out congratulating me as I was coming off the track and as soon as I saw the dog and dad (who caught the dog), I broke down."

In the five months since her first runner and with five dogs in her kennel, Jorja has now registered 14 wins and 12 placings from 36 starts, statistics many trainers would be envious of.

With her parents both heavily involved in the sport it was perhaps a natural progression for Jorja to get into greyhound racing, and while the dogs were sometimes a distraction, it didn't stop her achieving some amazing results at school.

She "got a few band six marks" and also finished ninth in the State in Industrial Technology with a final mark of 98.6.

"I had a bit of success but I was always intrigued with the dogs right throughout my HSC," she said.

"Sometimes I was coming home at recess and lunch just so I could get the dogs out, and then go back for the next couple of lessons. I can't stay away from them.

"I remember during art lessons we had to do things with a newspaper and it just happened to be the day we had a couple of dogs in. I was sitting there doing the form, checking out the fields, and the teacher says: "What are you doing? You're supposed to be cutting that up." I said I couldn't until I did the form."

Despite numerous university offers, Jorja has decided to embark on a course in veterinary nursing.

This article was produced as part of an ACM partnership with Greyhound Racing NSW.

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This story Teen trainer builds on her success first appeared on Newcastle Herald.