Riley Evans enjoying life in the fast lane

Riley Evans is a familiar face at the dais with his greyhounds. Photo credit: Dave Robbie.

“When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I play with dogs all day,” says Riley Evans.

The 19-year-old is loving life as a greyhound trainer, since he took up the occupation just a year ago. The son of renowned Leeston trainers Steve and Bonnie Evans, he has greyhound racing in the blood. But it wasn’t something he was ever interested in until relatively recently.

“I had actually started doing a building apprenticeship, but I never really enjoyed that, and I was in the process of trying to find another job,” he remembers.

 “When the first Covid lockdown happened, I stepped up to help my parents a bit more, and then that slowly led to me falling in love with the dogs.

“I had no real interest in training before that, even though I’d been around dogs for eight or so years, but now it’s become a full-time job and this is what I want to do. I’m loving it.”

Last season, Evans trained 109 winners, and in doing so, became the youngest ever trainer to record 100 wins in a season. This season, he’s well on the way to bettering that number, with 33 wins already under his belt as at 11 October.

“I want to get better every season. I want to keep improving and be consistent, and have better dogs that I’ve bred myself.”

At home, he estimates he has around 50 greyhounds currently in work, along with four litters of pups, and a couple of broodbitches – plus four pets on the couch.

“My pet was one of Craig Roberts’ greyhounds, Upsala Jewel, and she’s 11 years old. She rules the house!” he laughs.

At the track, his greyhounds often pay good dividends, and some of his dogs are noted for their excellent box speed.

“I try to do as much box work with my dogs as possible,” Evans explains.

“We have a dummy rail set up at home, and we have a single box set up there. We use a hand bike; Dad pedals it forward and I open the box, and we slowly train them.  It takes quite a lot of time until they get it right.

“Some nail it straight away and some never get it right, but the more practice they have, the better they get.”

While his parents have now largely retired from the game, they are still heavily involved in the overall training operation with Evans, and the family also has a shared passion for another sport – stockcar racing.

Evans is currently the reigning New Zealand Ministock Champion, having taken out the New Zealand championships earlier in the year. And now, he has graduated to driving a superstock car.

Riley Evans is the reigning New Zealand Ministock Champion. Photo supplied.

“Racing in a superstock, that’s the biggest, best thing you can race in Speedway in New Zealand,” he enthuses.

“All three of us are into it – it’s a good outlet for us all. I love getting out there and enjoying it – I don’t think about the dogs at all when I’m in the car.

“As soon as the helmut’s on, you wouldn’t think I’m the same person,” he laughs.

Much of Evans’ life revolves around racing; greyhound racing, the stock cars, and previously, long-distance running.

And his love for the dogs shines through.

“A dog really is a man’s best friend. You get a special connection with them and you get your favourites. In my job, dogs give me kisses and cuddles all day. What more could I ask for?”

By Liz Whelan

Posted on 13 October 2021

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