by Dennis McKeon
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about the pedigree of Rob Gronkowski, is his sireline. It traces back through the influential sire, Don’t Bother, whelped in 1964, to his grandsire, one Johnny Leonard.
There is no Tell You Why, or Cleveland Lad, or Monalee Champion to be found on this topline. Just Johnny Leonard. He was a veteran campaigner in his day, and quite well regarded, a versatile sort, who always gave a good account of himself. He is a son of Mixed Harmony, and he was inbred, 3×3, to the nonpareil tracker, celebrity, and sire of great dams, Rural Rube.
Johnny established himself as a fine sire in his day as well, with his son, Solomon Sol, becoming especially influential. But Johnny did one thing that no other greyhound ever did, and perhaps no other greyhound will ever do, if we count the ability to literally transform a breed as being of some importance. Johnny was mated to a daughter of Handy Nebo, named Pintada. Now Handy Nebo had a sister named Gravel Gertie, who become the matriarch of a female family that culminated in the emergence of a greyhound, in 1994, who was beyond otherworldly, and who would soon grow up to become none other than Molotov—but I digress.
Pintada would throw a brindle female from her mating to Johnny Leonard, who turned out to have a somewhat star-crossed and insignificant career as a racer. The soothsayers said she was a no-account, and they said she was a spook. Still, someone thought something of her.
Johnny Leonard’s daughter out of Pintada, named Kinto Nebo, was bred to the Australian import, Tell You Why. Their offspring, one Westy Whizzer, would go on to become perhaps the greatest and most influential greyhound of the modern era in American racing and breeding. Johnny Leonard is Westy Whizzer’s damsire—his maternal grandsire–and that alone, secured his immortality, and bronzed his legend.
Unfortunately for Johnny and his sons (and paternal grandsons), Westy Whizzer and his sons became so influential and were so prepotent, that they exerted tremendous compression on the Johnny Leonard branch of the Mixed Harmony sireline, through his own daughter, Kinto Nebo. Thanks to Tell You Why and his siblings and their sons, “outcrossing” became the vogue, and no one wanted to inbreed to Johnny Leonard, or anyone else.
Nevertheless, the line survived, and even prospered, on a very small scale. Recently through the electrifying speedster Galena, who is Rob Gronkowski’s grandsire, and a maternal grandson of the Australian import, Kim’s Nifty.
Her daughter and Galena’s dam, Syrah, by Video Signal, was a dazzling performer over the 685 yard Revere Course at Wonderland Park, virtually unbeatable there in her prime. Syrah is a direct female line descendant of Secretly, whose grandson, Dusty Rapid, is the damsire to Gun Law Osti, the sire of the mercurial super sire, Brett Lee.
Like so many great contemporary racers, Switzler Jammin, the sire of the Gronk, is a maternal grandson of the mighty Molotov, who brings in the Gravel Gertie branch of the greater family that gave us Kinto Nebo, Johnny Leonard’s co-conspirator in revolutionizing the American greyhound.
Switzler Jammin’s 3rd dam, Switzler Thinkin, is inbred to Westy Whizzer himself, 3×4, and her damsire is Wonderland World Sprint Champion, Beau Boogie, who, like Molotov, is a direct female line descendant of Gravel Gertie.
Rob Gronkowski’s damside is somewhat less arcane, his dam, Chatty Cathy, being a daughter of the fine sire of sires, Gable Dodge. Dodge, interestingly enough, is a direct male line descendent of Westy Whizzer.
Chatty Cathy, and so her son, Rob Gronkowski, is from the great and prolific Millie’s May female family of Ireland, she being also the direct female line to Pat Dalton’s immortal Maythorn Pride.
This particular branch, through Yurituni, among many others of note, has given us the leather-lunged Ballyregan Bob, thought by many to have been the greatest of all UK greyhounds.
In America, it is responsible for a greyhound the great trainer and impeccable judge of talent, Aaron Kulchinsky, felt was as fast as Pigalle Wonder, named Wild Breeze, by Ostracized. Keith Dillon, is reported to have claimed that Wild Breeze was the fastest dog he ever saw—no faint praise, when you have raised the likes of Perceive, Abella, and Keefer.
Ostracized, oddly enough, was a Mixed Harmony line sire, just like Johnny Leonard.
Just like Rob Gronkowski seems destined to be.
And if you’ve seen the Gronk pick ‘em up and put ‘em down, that can only mean good things for our American greyhounds—and for the continuing legend of an obscure, almost forgotten sire, named Johnny Leonard.