“There were 400 here. The bar was busy with everyone talking about racing. It was like the old days.”
Promoter Kevin Boothby was positively buzzing after Henlow’s Sunday afternoon debut on SIS. The meeting featured 10 open races (including six heats of a Maiden Derby) and four graded events, two of which were £1,000-to-winner graded sweepstake finals.
Boothby said: “The atmosphere was just so positive with everyone enjoying themselves. It was better than the Sunday nights which could drag on and attracted of a crowd of around 180/200 tops. I actually got to bed at 10 o’ clock last night – a first ever! The racing was excellent with Hayley Keightley’s dog (Headford Octane) in particular looking a real prospect with a 27.26 run in the Maiden Derby.
“We re-open the restaurant next Sunday, it has been refurbished, and bookings are already strong. We have a lot of our trainers trying to source good dogs from Ireland and Mark Lowther was here yesterday talking about sponsoring a competition for British bred bitches.
“After the Maiden Derby we have the Henlow Blue Riband, followed by a Maiden Gold Cup and Bunny Bookmakers Gold Cup, both over the 550, to be followed by a Puppy Derby. All the Cat 2 races will have total prize money of £8,500.
“I have been here 13 years and done my bollocks every year. To be here yesterday made it all worthwhile.”
Few trainers have noticed a bigger impact in the changes than Jason Bloomfield, who has kennels at the track. He has won three of the five £1,000 graded sweepstake finals staged in the first week under the SIS contract.
He said: “The money will make a huge difference. We currently have four full time staff, myself and partner Kelly, and two others, and we are about to take on a fifth full-timer. We currently have space for 44 dogs but have a new block and will soon have room for 60.
“I actually prefer the new schedule with more daytime racing. We have two running the kennels and two handling the racers and it gives us more nights off.”
The kennel’s two stars, Savana Donie and Russelena Reggie should both soon be returning to the open race scene.
Bloomfield said: “We are looking at the Blue Riband with Donie and the Mitch Millward Memorial race at Romford with Reggie, who should be there on Friday. The Golden Jacket is an option for him, though it is a concern that he hasn’t been trapping in his recent visits there.”