Tara Symes celebrated as young achiever

Pictured: Tara Symes (centre) was the winner of the December GRNZ Board Award.

A pleasing aspect about greyhound racing is the consistent feedback provided by industry participants from the equine codes about the wide range of youths regularly seen handling greyhounds.

And those positive comments are reflected just by viewing TAB Trackside vision when fields parading to the traps consistently shows a wide range of young handlers proudly handling their respective charges.

17-yeard-old Tara Symes is one of those young handlers who can be seen handling at most Central Districts Tuesday and Friday race meetings, and she has deservedly been awarded the December GRNZ Board Award, which recognises the input that young industry participants inject into the greyhound code.

Tara has enjoyed an association with greyhounds ever since she can remember, having been introduced to the code by her grandfather Dennis Symes.

For many decades, Dennis has been part of the backbone of the Taranaki Greyhound Racing Club, who hosted the very popular Hawera Easter sweepstake meetings.

Dennis, along with other club stalwarts, ensured visiting owners and trainers benefited from their renowned hospitality during the holiday weekend, while he also mixed in race commentary duties.

Tara recalls those early days.

“Pop (Dennis) introduced me to greyhounds when as a baby, I was taken to the races. It was when I was eight years old when I handled my first greyhound Cab Driver at the Hawera track for Pop.

“Thanks to Pop, I guess I have never looked back since then. He has been awesome in the support he has provided me – I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

“I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years. Pop trained many awesome dogs and he still follows me, supporting me all the way. He keeps on asking me for tips!”

These days, Tara is actively involved in the kennels run by Mikayla and Peter Clark.

“I regularly help them in their kennels and at the track. They are very hard workers, juggling work and family life together.

“It is so rewarding watching the greyhounds growing into being racing dogs. One of my favourites who I love handling is Big Time Polo who is trained by Mikayla.

“I have had thoughts about maybe taking up training myself one day; however, at the moment, I’m happy to help out others,” enthused Symes.

However, she does harbour an ambition to one day handle a Group 1 winner. She has frequently been on the end of the lead of a greyhound who potentially could realise that goal, as she explains.

“I always put my hand up to catch Federal Infrared. She’s definitely the best dog I have ever put a collar around.”

Brendon Cole is extremely appreciative of the help that Tara provides the Palmerston North-based kennels saying, “Tara is a very good young lady who is always willing to help us at trials and on racedays. She has travelled with Ella (daughter) to lots of race meetings. She will go a long way within the industry with her positive attitude.

“She comes from a family with a greyhound background.  In fact, I remember first meeting Dennis when I was going to Hawera picnic meetings as a little five-year-old boy. It’s ironic that 45-years later Dennis’s granddaughter is now helping us.” 

Tara is truly appreciative of the support and assistance she has received from numerous people within the industry and the opportunities she has received.

“There have been many people who I have learnt things from, but the people I have learnt the most off about the dogs would be Lisa, Brendon and Ella Cole, who have shown me and taught me lots about the dogs. I wouldn’t know half of the things I know now if it wasn’t for them, so I thank them all very much for everything.

“I have travelled with Ella many times. She’s a very hard worker – that girl doesn’t have an off button! Ella and myself have been snapchatting each other while she has been up in Europe.          

“A special mention also goes to Joe (Peter), Raewyn and Mikayla Clark, who have put their trust in me and given me the opportunity to work with their dogs at home, as well as handling them at the track.

“I love working with their dogs at home and at the track, it’s just so rewarding when they win. They also have taught me a lot about the sport and how they do things in their kennel.

“Two other people I have learnt lots about the dogs from are Kellie Lincoln-Papuni and Clare Harding, who have let me handle their dogs at the races. Those two are actually really good mates of mine and both nominated me for this award.”

It is people like Tara Symes who are the future for the greyhound code, and the code is building a solid foundation with not only the enthusiasm, but also the pride and dedication that industry participants like Tara display. 


By Peter Fenemor

Posted on 09 February 2024

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