Our girl’s fast: Above — Princess Jetta in full flight. *Photo by Paul Fletcher
Our girl’s fast: Above — Princess Jetta in full flight. *Photo by Paul Fletcher

Some girls get diamonds for their birthday. This year, I got a racing greyhound! And it has turned out to be the most wonderful gift I have ever received.

Let me explain. In October last year my beloved American bulldog, Sandy Bella, died of cancer. Her death left a huge void in my life and, one year on, I still don’t feel ready to have another dog in my life full time. I’ve discovered, however, that there is a happy middle ground.

My dog lives in kennels in the UK, along with 90 other racing and retired racing greyhounds. I don’t have to walk her twice a day, pick up her poop or take her to the vets; her trainer Norah McEllistrim and her team take care of all that. 

I see her once a week when I go to Sea Horses on Queen Street to watch her race on the big screen, in a live broadcast from Hove stadium in Brighton. I can always count on a good seat at Sea Horses — my husband Lee is the General Manager. He also pays the kennel fees in the UK.  

When Lee presented me with my ownership papers back in February, I immediately asked him “when is she coming to live with us?” He explained that she was just two years old and about to embark on her racing career. 

I took one look at the photos of her, so elegant and regal, her jet black coat gleaming, and announced, “I’m naming her Jetta, and her racing name will be Princess Jetta”.  

Lee conceded that he had no idea if she would prove to be a racer — he was relying on Norah’s expertise as one of the UK’s most successful greyhound trainers. Thankfully, when Jetta took part in trials in April, she proved to be fast enough to race.

Princess Jetta’s made her professional debut on May 4; she came fourth and I couldn’t have been prouder. She next raced on May 10 — and won! I shed tears of joy. Since May she has raced 14 times, winning twice and coming second six times. Early success like this is unusual — we’ve struck lucky with Jetta.

Just how fast are we talking about? Well, greyhounds achieve average speeds of 39mph (too fast for Bermuda’s speed limit of 35!) and can reach a staggering 43 mph. The only other mammal that can accelerate faster over a short distance is the cheetah.

It’s nerve-racking to watch her race. My stomach is in knots every time. I want her to be safe and to enjoy the race. 

On several occasions she has been the bookies’ favourite as she is consistently fast out of her trap. I feel pressure from the gamblers placing bets on her, not just at Sea Horses but also in the UK and on the Internet, worldwide. There is an expectation that she will win but of course, we can’t guarantee it. 

UK kennels

In July, I was lucky enough to spend time with Jetta at the races and at her kennels in the beautiful countryside of affluent Surrey. There are 60 racing greyhounds there, owned by individuals like me, and eight of them are owned by the Norah Mac Racing Club, of which Lee and I are also members. It’s a wonderfully cost effective way of experiencing the thrills of greyhound ownership at the highest level.

The staff is dedicated to the dogs; kennels are immaculate and everything is supervised by owner/trainer Norah McEllistrim — who happens to be one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. It’s clear she loves every dog in her care. She grew up around greyhounds, having inherited the business from her father, and is very knowledgeable about these powerful yet sweet natured dogs.

I know that my greyhound is in safe hands with Norah and her team. Jetta has a kennel mate, Dessie (racing name: Droopys Design), who is two years old too, and shares Jetta’s highly energetic traits. 

Greyhounds are majestic dogs and I’m looking forward to the day when Jetta comes to live with us. For now, we are content to excitedly follow her career from afar. 

Lisa Beauchamp is President of the Bermuda Sun