Bolton Husky racing couple's greyhound track secret
A husky-racing husband-and-wife team from Greater Manchester have been stealing an edge over their competitors by training at a greyhound track.
Steve and Elaine Hall from Bolton have trained their six-dog teams at Manchester's Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium since Christmas.
They used the track's sandy surface between greyhound sessions to build up their huskies strength and stamina.
Mr Hall, 39, said it had resulted in his most successful season.
Using a converted BMX bike as a rig, the couple of Webb Street, Horwich, compete against each other in cross-country races across the UK.
Lorry driver Mr Hall came in the top 10 at the recent Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain's Aviemore Forest sled dog race - one of the biggest in the UK calendar.
"We let down the tyres a little bit during training at the track and add a bit more drag to the rig to help them build up stamina," said Mr Hall, who has revealed his secret training location now that the racing season has ended.
"I have a friend who works at the track and just thought I'd ask and I couldn't believe it when they said yes," said Mr Hall, who also trains the dogs in the hills around St Helens and on Forestry Commission land in Salford.
"We hadn't been doing very well, but the extra track racing has made a massive difference to the dogs.
"We asked Belle Vue to keep it a secret because husky racing is very competitive and everybody is trying to get the edge. I also didn't want others inundating Bell Vue with requests," said Mr Hall.
'Nuts about dogs'
The couple have 16 huskies between them and a Yorkshire terrier, which Mr Hall said behaves like a husky.
They do not compete on snow as UK temperatures cannot guarantee competition conditions and Mr Hall said it would be too expensive to fly the dogs abroad.
A Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium spokeswoman said: "When they approached us about using the track we just thought it would be lovely to have huskies making use of it when it wasn't needed.
"Everybody here is just nuts about dogs and when they asked us to keep it a secret, we completely understood and have been delighted to have contributed to their success.
"We have to prepare the track again for the evening's races anyway, so when the huskies come on at about 2pm after the greyhound training sessions - it doesn't create any extra work for us."
Huskies cannot train in temperatures above 15C and the race season has ended with the onset of spring.