We will only have five runners in this year’s Star Sports/ARC/LPS Derby which is our lowest ever number, but that doesn’t detract from the excitement.
I don’t remember White City, but I loved Wimbedon and won two Derbys there. Despite the way things went in terms of facilities in the latter years, for a long time it was a great venue with a good atmosphere and a very good running track. Having said that, I thought Towcester took the Derby up to a new level. The facilities were superb and the carnival atmosphere on final night was exceptional.
We know a Nottingham Derby will be great. The people who run the place know dog racing and everything is well run; they don’t take crap from anyone. I suppose their biggest challenge will be final night and accommodating a Derby sized crowd. Viewing could be a challenge; they would probably have benefited from a big screen like Towcester’s, though would probably cost a small fortune.
As for the running circuit, it is always excellent. I have always thought that it is a true test of a greyhound. Think about their big competitions like the Puppy Classic and the Eclipse and the cream always rises to the top. You seldom get a lucky winner.
I don’t think it is important that we have a small team. If you enter 15, there are probably only two or three who you think can win it.
As far as I am concerned, Brinkleys Poet is as good as any greyhound in the event and I wouldn’t swap him for any other dog. He continues to get better with every run and he is exactly where I would want to be at the moment.
I was looking for a trial for him and the others last week and Nottingham couldn’t accommodate us. The trials had been booked weeks in advance but you don’t know at that stage how far your preparation will be. But I discussed it with Patrick (Janssens) about finding a track with similar traps to Nottingham and he suggested Sheffield. It then transpired that they had some opens on the Saturday. The management put themselves out for us by duplicating a couple and we came away with a four-timer. Poet was particularly impressive.
Of course, no matter how good you think your dog is, you need a bit of luck and I think that deserted us for the first round. He is drawn in probably the toughest of the 32 heats up against a great champion in Dorotas Wildcat and a highly fancied Irish raider in Wolfe. It doesn’t help that he will be running in the last race of the night; he isn’t a great kenneler. But providing the three main fancies don’t ruin each others chances, I would be hopeful of qualifying, even if we are beaten at this stage.
Antigua Sands goes in the first heat. She is returning from a seasonal rest and ran well on her debut for us at Sheffield finishing second. Although Sporting Dave should command the race, I would hope she can qualify. Antigua Romeo goes in a very tough ninth heat. He is a young dog and can hopefully get through though we are thinking longer term with him.
Busters Bullet is still to prove that he is a Derby dog, but trialled well at Henlow at the weekend and with going allowance included was below the 550 track record. Antigua Vows is our sole runner on Saturday (ht 20). It is a very competitive heat but I have sneaky feeling that she can prove herself among the best bitches in the competition.
Poet is by the shortest priced of our runners in the competition at 33-1. But then Kinda Ready was 100-1 before his Derby, and 25-1 in the final. Kinda Snapper was the 8-1 favourite in 2011 but was knocked out. But the following year. . .after a broken wrist . . .he was an 80-1 chance before the first round.
The calendar goes a bit flat when the Derby is on but thankfully after the Regency and Yarmouth Leger, our stayers are glad of a couple of weeks on the bed.
I am looking forward to the Dorando Marathon though. We have three marathoners in the kennel at the moment with Glassnoss Sis and Aayamza Breeze, who both won at Yarmouth last week, plus Ava Storm who should develop into a top class performer in the next few months.
2018 was a tough year to find races for marathon dogs. With quite a few now in the wings, hopefully promoters and racing managers will try to schedule a few more marathons in the coming months.