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A brief history of Riley the greyhound

June 2, 2008 |  3:01 pm

Los Angeles Times Entertainment Editor Betsy Sharkey is in the process of adopting a greyhound named Riley that used to race at the Caliente racing track in Tijuana. She periodically posts updates on his assimilation into her family here on L.A. Unleashed. Today she writes about Riley's racing stats.

Riley_can_stand_2His racing name was Collegiate. His dad, Craigie Whistler, was a one-time derby champion. In a course 5/16th of a mile, Collegiate's fastest win was 30.78 seconds.

How does that rank in the world of racing greys? According to D. Caroline Coile's book, "Greyhounds: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual," one of the record setters was Be My Bubba, who ran 5/16 of a mile in 29.33 seconds, but the book's a decade old so I'm sure that number is dated.

These days Collegiate, the 4-year-old greyhound I recently adopted, is living life as Riley and the fastest move he makes is to the bowl at feeding time.

In his racing life, Riley was a Class A racer, the top of the sport's A to D rating system. He raced 73 times, won 6, and came in 2nd place in another 14.

Thus far, Riley's dad, Craigie Whistler, has sired 4,504 pups; 457 have run in major races.

Despite his handful of wins, Riley didn't make it into the best of the litters list. Ironically, the dog among Craigie's offspring with the most wins is one named Will Ferrell. I kid you not.

Checking out your adopted greyhound's pedigree and racing background is fairly easy, since any dog potentially headed to the track has a registration number tattooed inside their ear when they're about 3 months old. Riley's is 24985.

Greyhound-data is the easiest to use. I wanted to find out what I could about Riley's life before me, and it all unfolded in numbers and notes.

His first race was Feb. 1, 2006, at VictoryLand Greyhound Park in Shorter, Alabama, where he came in 4th. In all he ran 4 maiden races that first month, finishing it out with his first win.

He was shifted to Wonderland Greyhound Park in Lynn, Mass., and raced there from April to October of 2006. Valley Race Park in Harlingen, Texas, was his next stop and he ran there for 3 months, before going to Tuscon Greyhound Park, where he ran his last race Nov. 27, 2007. He came in 7th.

Though he ended up at the Caliente Racetrack in Mexico, he never raced there. He was retired this April and thankfully seems to have come through his 21 months in the system with no lingering injuries.

It's strange to imagine what Riley's life was truly like from the blueprint of the stats. There's a note with each race - bits of information for those who bet on greyhounds like "caught at wire," "in hot pursuit, midtrack," "bumped 1st turn," "chased winner inside," quickly on top, inside."

I wonder what he felt -- did he love the chase, the competition? What were his trainers like -- pragmatic, harsh, kind? I'll never know any of this, of course, but this I do know -- whatever his stats, whatever his wins and losses, at the end of the race Riley definitely turned out to have the heart of a champion.

Next up: Everyone loves Riley

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