There will be few more popular or deserving big race winners in 2018 than Swift Hansel after a gutsy display to win the 2018 GMG Three Steps To Victory at Sheffield on Tuesday night.
At first glance, the winning time from the 9-4 second favourite, would seem ‘average enough’ for a £10,000 decider. In fact, it could be argued that Hansel rode his luck to be in the decider having finished second in his heat, and third in his semi, a qualifying combination that might have worked against him in the 36-runner event.
At 9.14pm as the hare approached, most punters were wondering whether favourite Nadurra Ross could hold on for the extra 160 metres after destroying the opposition in the 480m/500m qualifiers.
In fact, John Mclachlan’s dog was left entirely flat footed at the boxes and then saw his route blocked by the 40 brindle kilos of Carn Brea.
Local bitch Serious Hangover took the early lead but Hansel was already making the most of his inside draw. But as they crossed the line for the first time, Carn Brea had edged the lead. He maintained his position from just after the winning line for the next half lap.
But Hansel plugged away and opened up a narrow hit the front at the penultimate bend. Brea refused to give up and got to within a head of the leader as they crossed the line. Nadurra Ross, looked by far the strongest in the field and ran a colossal race to get within two lengths of the leading pair at the winning line.
Successful trainer Anna Thompson could barely watch the race with the euphoria only erupting with the tannoy announcement that Hansel had finally landed his first ‘Cat 1’.
Beaten by Geelo Sapphire in the 2017 decider, the former Nottingham grader then went on to finish second to Cloran Paddy in the Grand Prix, a result that saw a parting of the ways with owner Carl Broughton.
Anna said: “There was a fall out. It was one of the hardest decisions to tell Carl to take Hansel away. I love the dog to bits. But Carl is a stubborn XXXX, and I’m a stubborn XXXX and neither of us would give way. Hansel went to Charlie (Lister) who did a great job with him, as you would expect.
“But after a few niggles, Carl asked if I would take the dog back. We ‘kissed and made up’ Hansel came back around about June time. I am so glad Carl asked me to reconsider and we can laugh about the whole thing now.”
Hansel was beaten in the 2017 Summer Stayers Classic and Doncaster Leger finals for Charlie but was back with Anna when contesting his fifth ‘Cat 1’ final, the 2018 Grand Prix at Sunderland. Yet another second place followed, this time behind Bombers Bullet.
So no one can begrudge the emotion of finally seeing the big black land a long overdue success and the celebrations went on long into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Anna said: “We have all suffered a bit. I have a sore head. My dad spent most of the night blubbing. And Carl, who has since move to Thailand, is suddenly feeling very homesick for missing out on the big race win.”
Although he is now turned four, Anna appears to be keeping her options open for the kennel star with only 48 races on his card.
Anna said: “You have never seen a keener greyhound. At home, he just ignores the chickens that roam around the yard. But on the track, he is fanatical to race. We thought about retiring him, but I think he would still want to race as a 12 year old. Nothing is decided but the St.Leger would have to be an option for later in the year.”