On Thursday evening a greyhound that some say is indisputably the greatest sire of distance dogs in the world will take his well-earned spot in the Greyhound Hall of Fame Thursday.
When Flying Penske died in 2006 he left behind a legacy that continues today as his offspring keep a tradition of winning. A tradition that started when Vince Berland moved to Abilene and, upon the advice of his accountant, gave up horseracing.
“We were losing with the race horses,” he said.
As he was closing out that chapter of his life, he was approached about racing greyhounds, a prospect that he didn’t take too seriously at first. But, he said one morning he woke up and just decided to do it.
“I couldn’t do any worse than I had done with the horses,” he said. So he went out and purchased three breeding dogs and three race dogs and started learning the business. “Never once had I felt I would not have champions. You have to believe you’ll be the best or you won’t be the best.”
He turned to Bill Pollard, who has his place in the Hall of Fame, for mentoring and said he listened to every word Pollard told him and did exactly what he said to do.
He worked with Pollard, followed his advice and eventually bred one of his broods She’s A Natural, which he had picked up in a 10-dog package from a breeder in Florida, with Pollard’s Oshkosh Racey. Out of that litter of seven pups, born on Sept. 20, 1997, came Flying Penske, a dog that would go on and change the world of Greyhound racing.
Over the next several years he would compete at seven tracks in six states, race in 14 stakes finals, and in 1999 win the Kansas Bred Sprint. A couple years later he won the Kansas Cup setting a new track record in the Kansas Cup rounds twice, even though he was the ripe old age of four.
His successful career on the track aside, Flying Penske’s greatest accomplishment was as a sire. With the aid of modern technology and the ability to freeze semen, he has been a top five ranked sire for the past 9 years, despite being dead for the last 7.
His descendants have gone on to do his name proud winning prestigious awards including the 2012 All-American Team Captain. His daughters have equaled his sons in their accomplishments with eight of them on the 2012 Dam Standings, and the nation’s fifth ranked producer.
Berland said one of the interesting side notes about his ownership of Flying Penske is that he almost gave him up. Every year he donates a dog to the St. Andrew School auction fundraiser, he would always ensure there was a buyer lined up. In 1999 he contacted a friend in Topeka to buy Flying Penske, but his friend really didn’t want to make that investment.
So, to ensure Flying Penske’s future he agreed to repay his friend the auction price. The school got $2,600 and Berland ended up with the greyhound.
A year later Hal Gil of Valor Sires, Inc. asked about purchasing Flying Penske, an agreement was reached for him to purchase half ownership for $25,000.
In 2006, Penske died quietly at Berland’s farm, but every now and then it’s like seeing a ghost as one of Flying Penske’s descendents struts by.
“I saw a dog recently out of Penske — it sent goose bumps down both arms. It was like Penske was walking though the door,” he said.
Other inductees will be Bill Lee, of Colorado, and Darby Henry, of Arizona.