Bruisers Bullet’s win in the Coral Olympic was a great end to the year for the kennel and Bruiser himself.
I thought that it was a very high quality competition, at least as good as the Sussex Cup, and his run in the semi finals was particularly impressive.
The timing of the race is a bit frustrating. He is back to his best and there are currently no competitions to enter him in.
I really don’t want to contest too many one-off opens, the next event of real note is probably the Trainers Championship meeting, presuming that it takes place.
On the subject of Hove, I think the track deserve massive credit for consulting the trainers about the condition of the track before the meeting took place.
Paul Young and I were both asked for a view, and although the cold conditions weren’t ideal, we reckoned it was very raceable. We asked if we could review the track after the first two races, which we did.
It still looked absolutely fine and as far as I am aware, there weren’t any injuries on the night.
I have taken some stick on social media for stating that I will only run dogs in minor opens next year if they meet certain conditions, including the win prize money, the also-ran money and the trainers bonus.
A few people have said something like ‘Its all right for you. You already have a decent contract at Towcester.’
That is true, but it irritates me that they are missing the point.
I am not asking for special concessions for my kennel, I want to see improvements that everyone will benefit from.
I would like to think that if I was a struggling small trainer, I would want one of the more high profile kennels to do something to help me.
I am lucky enough to be in that position but I will only be one of the beneficiaries if the trainer bonus scheme becomes more widespread.
Primarily it is about money, but the bigger issue is about standards.
In 13 years, we have increased our kennel fees by 50p per day while costs have continued to rise.
It is the same in lots of kennels. I would love to charge more but know that even by increasing the charge by a couple of pounds a day, I would lose dogs to other kennels.
Now some of those trainers may do a better job than me. But I know that you can’t charge very much less than I do before you start to lower your standards.
My staff and I do everything possible to be as good as we can, both in terms of the dogs themselves and the kennel.
For example, in the last year, I needed to do some repair and improvement work. I could probably have got away with spending around £3,000, but decided to go the extra mile and spent £25,000.
Why should any trainer be forced to compromise on his standards by those who would do it on the cheap and cut corners?
It isn’t just about trainers either. Some of the tracks try much harder than others.
What about open racing?
Some people think that the media rights battle will encourage tracks to stage more third rate opens. That would be a big mistake in my opinion and we need to ensure it doesn’t happen.
If increasing prize money results in fewer open races but better quality ones, I will sign up for that.
If Towcester can offer my dogs a good class A1 instead of them racing in a poor class maiden somewhere else, I would always run at Towcester.
I know the subject of bad training standards and more stipendiary stewards has been raised by Norah McEllistrim recently.
We have an excellent stipendiary steward in Adrian Smith. He is fair but knows what he wants. I certainly think the criteria should be 80% about the dogs and 20% about the kennels – not the other way round.
Personally, I would love to see some of the retired trainers called on for advice. Imagine having someone with the experience of Linda Mullins, my old boss Linda Jones or John Coleman, in the kennel for a few hours?
How much could trainers learn about the condition of their dogs, injuries, or even kennel routines from someone with her experience.
They might even be introduced by the stipendiary steward.
No matter how much you think you know, you never know it all.
Bullet’s win crowned off a ninth trainers championship for the kennel. Some people are very gracious and kind about our success – others less so.
The one thing that does irk me is the suggestion ‘well anybody could do it with a kennel full of £20,000 dogs’. As I have said before on numerous occasions, we have never been that type of kennel.
Bruisers Bullet cost £10,000, Rubys Rascal cost £7,000. Roswell Romanov cost £5,000, Rubys Razzle cost £3,000 and Shlowdown Sally, who has been absolutely prolific for us this year, cost £1,000.
Yes – there is a small group of others who have cost between £6,000-£10,000 who are currently running minor opens or top heat at Towcester who haven’t matched all expectations, but that is dog racing.
We won four ‘Cat 1’s in 2017, and I don’t think you can win a trainers championship winning less than three or four. It is the top few dogs who score most of the points.
I can imagine next year being tougher for various reasons. Firstly, I am voluntarily restricting the tracks where I will enter dogs. Secondly, there is a bigger graded commitment at Towcester in 2018.
Lastly, I would expect several kennels to continue to improve. Just look what Patrick (Janssens) has achieved in such a short space of time. He will surely fancy picking up some big competitions with the likes of Goldies Hotspur and Kilmore Lemon.
I would love to think that we will have Ayamza Breeze back to give her some competition. Daniel Doherty was very pleased with the operation after she broke her hock at Hove.
She is currently in season, but fingers crossed, we will be looking to trial her in February or March.
I think we are still half a dozen open racers short for next year. We have owners waiting for the right dogs to come along, but they are not easy to find.
FOUR TO FOLLOW
BRUISER BULLET (Droopys Cain-Clover Bridge, May 15)
An obvious one maybe, but Rubys Rascal was well exposed when I mentioned him last year and he has continued to run in top class company and win the St.Leger. The plan for Bullet is for the Scottish and English Derbys. He only has 17 races on his card and I think he will be a big player in 2018.
KILCREE DIAMOND (Scolari Me Daddy-Diamond Star, Jan 16)
Owned by Steve Murphy, he is still a puppy but clocked 23.72 at Romford last week. He reminds me of an old dog we had here Glanmire Lad. He was also an absolute fanatic about his racing and was just tailor made for Romford’s 400m. I can imagine Diamond in a few battles with Kilmore Lemon next year.
GOLDSMITH SLICK (Aero Ardiles-Slender Lady, Mar 16)
Only a youngster who has just started out in A5 at Towcester. I think he could go through the grades, and then who knows?
PARKERS DYNAMITE (Kinloch Brae-Toms Delight, Apr 15)
We don’t have many hurdlers but Dynamite certainly has ability. He was marked ‘awkward’ a couple of times on the flat. Hopefully he can keep it together over the jumps.