On Saturday December 9 2017, the Henlow restaurant was full as promoter Kevin Boothby tried to wring some urgently needed cash out of a Christmas party crowd. They probably weren’t too bothered that there were only nine races each with anything between three and five runners.

On Saturday December 10 2018, the refurbished restaurant will be full of Christmas partygoers but not a greyhound in sight. The place has been hired out and there will be a filmed horserace meeting. Kevin Boothby will be at Crayford watching four Henlow runners, including his own Savana Winner, contest the Ladbrokes TV Trophy Final.

Win or lose, he will be looking forward to the following day’s afternoon meeting when his Savana Tufty contests the second round of the £7,500 Puppy Derby (sponsored by Gain Nutrition). As much as anything, he will enjoy sharing a beer and a joke with some of the assembled trainers. It has been quite a year!

Boothby said: “It has been an unbelievable year. We now have seven meetings per week, more than any other track in the country with around 500 dogs and every one of our meetings is available to SIS. Gordon Bissett at SIS put his faith in us and we have delivered. It seems hard to believe it’s actually happened at Henlow.”

Savana Winner was sourced by the man himself when she was entered in Thurles Sales under her old name of Festivity. She had won only once in her four races but the Savana man was determined to acquire her.

He said: “She was bred by Pat Dalton and I had bought some of his dogs before. I had watched her videos and could see that she stayed forever. She was ten lengths behind off the second bend in the sales trial but was beaten three lengths in the fastest time of the day. I had someone bidding for me, but he was outside checking on another dog and was sold for £2,000.

“He then had to buy her from the new owner which cost me £2,700. But I knew she would be good and phoned Diane Henry and told her ‘we’ve got a TV Trophy bitch’.”

(Boothby’s determination not to let Festivity slip through his fingers might not have been accidental. Earlier in the year he had the last bid of £2,800 but failed to reach the reserve for another dog at Thurles Sales. The future 2018 Irish Derby winner Ballyanne Sim).

He said: “It looks to be a great final on Saturday. Winner had a lot of trouble in the heats and would need to avoid that again but she certainly isn’t without a chance.”


So what does 2019 hold for Henlow?

Boothby said: “Hopefully much of the same and more. We now have three racing managers and two assistants and on December 19 we are having two new Portakabins delivered, to sit on top of each other. One will replace the judge’s box and the racing office will be underneath.

“I am very conscious that we need to improve facilities and things are going on in the background. You wait until you see what I have planned! As far as the racing side is concerned, it will be more of the same with more big competitions. More Cat Ones.”

. . . . and the most pleasing thing about 2018?

“Genuinely, to see so many happy trainers with the chance to earn a decent living. The atmosphere is unbelievable here now. We have trainers here who came from Towcester who now think it was the best thing that could have happened to them.

“For me too. I stood at the bar last Sunday having a beer and cracking a couple of jokes with Seamus Cahill and thought, ‘this is what dog racing should be about'”.