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Monday, August 6, 2018

The Hess brothers, Brad and Jason, have operated successful kennels at several greyhound racetracks across the country.

Now they are gearing up for another challenge.

Recently, the West Virginia Racing Commission awarded Xtrem Hess Racing a booking to become Wheeling Island’s newest kennel. The operation will be filling the spot vacated by Steubenville Kennel with the passing of James “Barney” O’Donnell in late June.

The Hesses – Brad, 38, from Dubuque, and Jason, 35, from Council Bluffs, both in Iowa – are thrilled and ready to get rolling.

“We are excited about having the opportunity to race at Wheeling,” Jason Hess said. “We have been trying for several months to get into either Tri-State or Wheeling.” Xtrem Hess Racing’s roster of greyhounds will come from a number of sources, including their other bookings at Derby Lane, Dubuque and Mardi Gras as well as from their farm in Iowa. They also had a booking at Naples this past racing season.

A majority of the greyhounds from the parting Steubenville Kennel will be absorbed into the new kennel, Brad Hess noted.

The kennel races a number of leased greyhounds from several individuals – their uncle, Tim Ertl of Iowa, lease and partners with greyhounds with the XT’s prefix; Green Smith of Texas, lease and partners using the XK prefix; Mike and Terry Carroll of Kentucky, lease and partners with the XM prefix; Katherine Steel of Iowa, lease using the DS prefix; and Carmen Jorgensen of Arkansas, lease with the CBJ prefix.

Xtrem Hess Racing began schooling greyhounds last week and more will be going around the oval once they arrive in Wheeling.

“Within a month, we hope to have 50 to 60 active greyhounds barring injury. Being a speed track, Wheeling is a little different from most of the tracks we have raced at,” Brad Hess said. “Wheeling takes a different type of greyhound so it may take some time to get all the right ones in place.”

Jill Spicer will be training for the new Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel. Her son, Alex Hall, handles the Rangel Kennel in Wheeling.

“Jill (Spicer) trained for us at Naples for five years and then at Derby Lane,” Jason Hess said. “With her son in Wheeling, I think it made it easier for her to make the move.”

A few greyhounds on the kennel’s “ones to watch” list include DS Sahara, Keeper Colorado, DS Comet, DS Archer and DS Rudolph. The latter will be arriving after the 3/8ths derby is completed in Iowa.

The Hesses are cautiously optimistic as they launch their new kennel.

“We’ll probably start slow, but once we are up and running, I expect us to be very competitive,” Brad Hess said. “When Dubuque closes in early November, I think we’ll be a pretty solid kennel.”

The Xtrem Hess Racing Kennel operators are grateful for the chance to compete at Wheeling Island.

“We would like to thank Ben Travis (Wheeling Island racing director) and Delaware North for giving us the opportunity to race at Wheeling. Ben has been very helpful throughout the process,” Brad Hess said. “We would also like to thank Johnny O’Donnell (Barney O’Donnell’s nephew) for his help in arranging the sale of the equipment from the Steubenville Kennel.”

The Hess brothers, who started training greyhounds in their late teens, have been around the industry practically their entire lives.

“We grew up in kennels. Our grandfather, Allan Ertl, started raising greyhounds in 1984 and is still raising them today at 82 years old,” Jason Hess said. “He helped form the Iowa Greyhound Association back in the day and currently lives in Iowa.”

I was introduced to greyhound racing by a friend in the late 1970s at Wheeling Downs and fell in love with the sport and the athletes immediately. Throughout the years, I have developed a deep passion for racing. In the mid 1990s, I started writing a weekly greyhound column and shortly thereafter became a writer for The Greyhound Review.

I have enjoyed watching and writing about these wonderful competitors, including All-Americans DD's Nelson, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Gene's Champion, WW Apple Jax, Greys Royalcrown, Nimby TP Jan, Hi Noon Hero, Gable Sour Cream, KB's Ruckus and Cry Case.