Women in Racing were being recognized at the National Greyhound Association’s fall meet and it turned into quite a week for two Abilene women involved in the sport.
Julia Ward was elected to the NGA Board of Directors and became the organization’s first female president.
For Kate Bartley, her first attempt at racing two litters in the track stakes resulted in sales totally $60,000 in the auction.
“I’m excited about being on the board. I hope to make the women proud. I am excited about what I can bring to the table for bringing younger people into our business.
“The states and Grey2K say it’s a dying industry. Well, it’s just changing on how things are done. Things are different than they were 20 years ago,” Ward said. “But I am only one person and it takes a team. That is what makes my operation successful, everyone works as a team. There are great people in this industry and they can come together.”
Wayne and Karin Ward started owning greyhounds in the mid-1980s and then built a successful greyhound farm in Abilene and kennel operations at the racetrack.
Julia said she worked some on the farm. She graduated from Abilene High School and spent a year in college.
“In 1995 I moved to Salina and I needed some money,” she said. “I knew not to ask my dad for money. So I asked if I could come back and work on the farm to earn some money for 10 days until my job started.
“That is where I fell in love with the dogs,” she said. “I went back to school off and on and did some work in the office.”
She ended up running the Kansas Greyhound Registry, which was located inside Midwest Greyhound Supply and next to the office of Wayne R. Ward Kennels. Wayne found out he had cancer. Julia saw local greyhound owner Jack Sherck leaving Wayne Ward’s office one day.
“He was still sitting in the conference room and I asked ‘What’s Jack doing here?’ He said, “You know, honey. I’m thinking of selling my business with the cancer and Jack’s interested.’ I said, ‘Well, if you are going to sell your business, why don’t you sell it to me?’
Ward told her that if was about the money, she was going to inherit it.
“I told him it was not about the money. I’m interested,” she said.
In November 2001 she took over the operation.
“Dad checked with all of his employees to make sure they weren’t going to have a problem with me being a part of his business. He explained to them that I was going to be active. I was going to be more hands-on and more involved in the daily operation.”
She officially took over as owner when Wayne Ward died in April 8, 2007.
At that time the kennel owned the farm and bookings at five of the top racetracks. The next few years turned out to be a dark time for greyhound racing.
“Dad died in April. I personally closed down my kennels in Florida Flagler and Hollywood that summer. Unbeknownst to me, Wichita closed in October that year.”
The kennel operation was down to two bookings, Wheeling and Derby Lane.
She married Mitch Veal in December of that year and they were concerned about their future.
“It was scary,” she said. “We had a baby coming and we talked about what would we do if we didn’t have the dogs.
“Mitch is pretty laid back. He said he could go and work. He said he’d worry about that when it happens. I like to plan and prepare for stuff.”
They ended up buying a Fed X route. They now have six routes that Mitch manages.
“We prepared. If the dogs leave, we’d have something to fall back on now instead of me going back to college,” she said. “We had to plan. With me being in my 30s and he in his 40s, we couldn’t retire.”
The kennel at Wheeling in West Virginia is on its way to a third straight kennel title. It also shares a booking with Rick Bartley at Dubuque in Iowa which races only in the summer. The Ward kennel also had a finalists in an Iowa Bred Stake race Sunday.
At this fall meet, Ward sold 22 females in the brood stock auction. She sold two pups in the auction ring but half interest in two more outside the auction ring.
Kate Bartley, daughter of Rick and Rhonda, granddaughter of Don and Esther Bartley, is one of the youngest NGA members but has been involved in greyhound racing all her life. But this fall was the first time she trained and raced her own litters; by sire Kelsos Fusileer and a female she owns named Barts Anxious and the by sire Rhythmless and a female she leased from father Rick.
About two months ago, schooling at her father’s training track near Holland, Bartley saw some potential in the litters.
One greyhound, Crash My Party, sold to Rodney Cooley for $28,000. Another pup sold to Randy Finegan for $11,500.
Crash won by a nose in round one on Monday. In Thursday’s May Three final, Cash won by 8-1/2 lengths running 30.04.
“Keep raising more,” Kate said of her future plans. “Hopefully, we’ll come back to the auction. My brother Travis and I have a litter of four and then we’ll have more for next fall.”
She said the future of racing greyhounds is “looking better.” Hopefully, Kansas will open up soon.”
Kate, a third generation greyhound breeder, said she has been around racing greyhounds all her life.
“I’ve lived in the kennel, pretty much, me and my brother (Travis and A.J.),” she said.
She said a typical day starts at 6 a.m.
“The first thing to do is turn them out,” she said. “Depending on what they need, we sprint or school the dogs. We usually give them two days rest a week. We do lots of turnouts, and feed.”
Last turnout is around 9 p.m.
Bartley said women can compete in the greyhound business “but there’s not very many.”
With some sales still being tabulated, the NGA had $1,513,100 in auction sales.
In the brood sale, 47 sold for $115,950, including $25,000 for sire Hi Noon Hero. Wayne Strong sold the All-American to Vince Berland.
In the racing stock auction, 195 pups sold for $1,397,150.