Flashback – Ladbrokes’ Gordon Bissett (right) presents the Puppy Derby trophy to Castell Henry’s owners Amy Davies and Nathan Hunt, with trainer Phil Simmonds and kennelhand Christine Cusselle on left.
Monmore 17th March 2016.

It was back in March 2016 when greyhound racing collectively went ‘aah’ at the lovely story of Nathan Hunt and girlfriend Amy Davies, two kennelhands with Phil Simmonds.

They had just won the Midlands Puppy Derby with Castell Henry, a pup bred by a lady familiar to Greyhound Star readers over the previous 20 years, Lynn Short, promoter of the Welsh independent track Swansea.

Henry’s dam was Tyrur Alice, a very well bred bitch from PJ Fahy’s ‘Pinhead’ damline who Lynn had bought primarily for breeding.

“She was a good bitch on the flaps too” recalls Nathan, we broke the track record at Valley with her.”

Nathan had acquired Henry plus another three littermates, at three months old, from Alice’s litter by Kinloch Brae.  He had been looking for somewhere to have them reared and contacted Cambridgeshire based Phil Simmonds. Phil had bred his own litter but since it only contained two pups, the Romford handler agreed to rear the Welsh quartet alongside them.

It proved to be a life-changing moment for Nathan. Soon afterwards, he accepted a job working for the Romford trainer, and SKY viewers witnessed the apparent conclusion of the story three and a half years ago.

Except it wasn’t the end of the story.

Henry went on to enjoy a successful open race career, also winning a £4,000 British Bred Sprint at Henlow and reached the final of the Champion Stakes. Litter brother Bang On Giles, owned by Phil and physio Ron Mills, won a string of opens and contested the finals of two British Bred Derbys and a Produce Stakes.

Which left two bitches. Bang On Ella progressed from A7 at Romford to win opens both there and at Nottingham. The slowest of the quartet was Bang On Pippa, owned by Nathan and Ron Mills, who nevertheless won A1 (24.18) plus a couple of opens at Romford, and one at Harlow.

In the meantime, Luke Staunton had joined the Simmonds team after spending time working for Eamonn Cronin and Pat Buckley in Ireland. Luke and Nathan became friends, and encouraged by their Guvnor, decided to breed a litter themselves.

The Bang On Pippa litter – note the headline!

Eamonn bought Ron Mills’ share in Bang On Pippa and two years ago last Saturday, Pippa produced three dogs and five bitches from a litter by Liz McNair’s former star Leamaneigh Turbo (the dad of King Turbo).

Nathan said: “Phil didn’t charge us for rearing the pups and Luke and I decided to keep the three dogs and sell the bitches to owners in the kennel.”

It proved a very wise move. To date, all eight have won races at Romford, and five different littermates have so far won opens there, including all three dogs.

Binksy Bruce, who started out at Rackitup Bruce has been the most successful with four wins. Rackitup Charlie has one, and Rackitup Turbo has three including the £1,000 maiden stayers decider at Romford on last Friday.

Of the bitches, Bang On Annie has four open wins, Old Renee has one. Bang On Gemma, Donttellthewife and Go Pat Go are still to win in open class company.

Nathan said: “I think they will all win opens eventually. Go Pat Go is probably the fastest of all the bitches but she picked up an injury in the Produce Stakes and is off at the moment. She has won A1, but she has been a bit handicapped because she graded in at A2.

Obviously, I will win opens! says Rackitup Charlie

“Rackit Turbo did something similar. He is the fastest of the dogs, but went straight into A2 and it was a harder place to learn.

“We actually have him up for sale for £6,000 and haven’t had an interest. I was talking to Patrick Janssens about it and he said, the trick would have been to have qualified him in Ireland,  won in a flashy time, and buyers would have been snapping our hands off.”

(No truer word spoken – This is the best value £6K greyhound you will see this year – Ed.)

The pups were reared on the Simmonds’ plot and galloped nightly on the adjacent rifle range.

Nathan said: “Being involved in this litter is the best thing I have done in greyhound racing. We owe Phil such a lot for his kindness, generosity, and for everything he has taught us.

“We had hoped to send Pippa to King Elvis for her next litter. Unfortunately, she came into season when the Derby was on and Rab had too much on his plate to be dealing with a stud dog. Hopefully we can use Elvis next time. Miss Boley was recently mated to him.

“But there is only really room for one litter at a time, and Wuheida will be mated when she next comes into season. It is a nice problem to have and we are loving every minute of it.”

Rack Itup Turbo with owners (and breeders) Nathan Hunt and Luke Staunton, both kennelhands to trainer Phil Simmonds. Photo: © Steve Nash