What a week that was – with the highlight being the GAIN Trainers Championship meeting at Towcester.
In terms of training, I view the yearly championship based on points as being the big prize, but the one-off meeting is a bit like the FA Cup. You still want to win it! We had won it a couple of times and until the draw, I thought we had a pretty decent chance this year.
But we had some shocking draws including four trap fours and Black Farren in trap five. At that point, I made Kevin Hutton a 6-4f, with Liz McNair a 2-1 chance and us third in at about 5-2.
Ladbrokes made us a 6-1 chance which I thought was derisory so I had £200 on as a potential drink for the kennel staff.
With most of our bad draws in the second half, I decided we had to be in front at the halfway stage to have any chance. I had taken a conscious decision to have eight different sets of owners in the team which meant there was no room for one of the ‘Bullet’ syndicate dogs. They chose to nominate Bombers Bullet instead of ‘Bruisers’, which some might have thought would have been a disadvantage.
When the meeting was first due to take place (cancelled due to weather), Black Farren wasn’t running well enough to make the team, but after Scotland, not only did he make the team, he was our ‘A’ string. That meant I was looking for a third runner and thinking tactically, I bought in a wide runner in Saleen Ash who then ran exceptionally well to finish second to King Elvis.
I knew we would struggle in the sprint, which was a very high class affair but Kilcree Diamond picked up a few points in fourth. Brinkleys Twirl was our best drawn runner in the juvenile and didn’t let us down, followed by Garryglass Champ who ran on gamely to hold off Affleck Lady in the first six-bender.
Then, as expected, Kevin Hutton began the comeback and I thought ‘here we go again’. He won the bitches races (Madabout Maggie) and then the Standard B (Magical Bale) though Bombers Bullet did everything I could ask of him by running superbly to get second.
By the seventh race, my faith did start to waver when Rubys Rascal was halfway down the field at the halfway stage. But not for the first time, he bailed us out of a hole coming from behind a TV Trophy winner and Rab McNair’s big fancy, Paradise Valdez. Rascal refused to be beaten and just got up on the line. It was a sensational performance, and we all were screaming like idiots when he crossed the line in front. I hadn’t realised it at the time, but that was us unbeatable – albeit possibly sharing a place on the podium.
We went into the final heat with Black Farren and, in running, my genuine thought was ‘it doesn’t matter how you run, just don’t get injured’. It was incredible then to see him come from behind and between dogs of the calibre of Dorotas Wildcat and King Kid to win the final leg.
On the Tuesday previously, Cotton Pants had won our first Category One event of the year, the Bremsed Northern Sprint. As always at Sheffield, it was a slick professionally staged meeting enjoyed by all connections.
It was actually my 55th category one success, and the kennel’s 68th, and I can honestly say, every one has been special. In fact, I have only missed being in attendance for one.
The first was Go Commander in the Gymcrack at Hall Green. Owner Darren Johnson couldn’t make the final and a new owner in the kennel Paul Ephremsen agreed to stand in for the presentation. It was the start of a treasured friendship.
On Thursday night, we have eight runners in the Coral Regency at Hove. There are stories behind so many of the runners including Towstar Arry who really struggled when he first joined us and couldn’t win an A6, but is gradually developing into a very good stayer for the future.
Then we have Roswell Romanov and Rubys Rascal who have 37 wins and 41 wins respectively. I have never had a dog win 50 opens, and I would love one of them to make it. It would take some doing since they have largely been competition dogs with few few gimme opens.
Most of all though, I am thrilled to have Aayamza Breeze back. She was knocked over in last year’s Regency final and then broke a hock in her next race. Huge credit to vet Daniel Doherty for the operation to save her career.
Quite often there are some niggles when they come back from such a major injury, not so much from the hock, as the muscle wastage surrounding it. Thankfully that hasn’t happened.
Breeze is still a little bit tubby but she will gradually lose that over time. What is interesting is that she has changed her action. She used to lift her head when she had to pass a dog previously. There was nothing dishonest about it, she was just novicey in not knowing how to pass. That has now gone and she looks a lot more balanced in her stride.
One other interesting fact about our eight runners is that they were all purchased for between £3,000 and £10,000. You don’t have to break the bank to get a decent open racer.
As for who I would fancy other than my own runners? Slippy Maggie is looking as though she might be a bit special.
On Friday we have two runners in the John Smiths Grand National Final at Central Park. We only have three hurdlers in training so it is very pleasing to get two through to the final.
The likely favourite is rightly Razldazl Raidio who will be looking to emulate our great hurdler Cornamaddy Jumbo by becoming the Greyhound of the Year – something is unique as a hurdler. But then Jumbo did win ‘the big three’ – the Springbok, Champion Hurdle and Springbok in the same year.
Our pair are interesting. On the flat, Swift Dartmoor was the quickest of the pair, though I think that was because he was a little more focused than Parkers Dynamite. . . though even Dartmoor was no angel.
But over hurdles, Dynamite is definitely the quicker of the pair and I genuinely think he is as quick at the favourite on the flat. What he lacks is a bit of finesse over the hurdles. But he is improving with every run and if he continues to progress, is no forlorn hope.
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