As Betfred Gymcrack favourite Brinkleys Poet goes on parade for the final of the Betfred Gymcrack, few will be more attentive than owner Nick Jeal – who has never seen the dog before.

The Exeter based businessman held an owner trainer licence at Yarmouth more than 30 years ago (where brother Mark was a bookie), but decided to get involved again after a long break.

But then he grew impatient. . . .

He said: “We bought a number of pups and saplings about nine months ago but then realised that I was bored waiting to have a runner. I spotted Brinkleys Poet on the internet after he had run at Monmore and spoke to Rob Brinkley. We did the deal in about five minutes. Unfortunately the paperwork has been lost, hence he will be running in Rob’s name.

“I then spoke to Matt (Dartnall) about the dog and he admitted that he still knows very little about him. He hasn’t been in the kennel that long though I thought he ran very well at Monmore. Because we had already booked a holiday, we watched the first round of the Gymcrack on a beach in Antigua, which was bizarre to say the least. Then we watched the semi final on the phone on the journey home.

“Whatever happens on Sunday, it has been a fantastic experience. I will even get to meet Matt himself!”

Bought out of Youghal after winning his one and only race there in 29.05sec, Lotties Rocket is a son of 2012 Derby champion Taylors Sky and a half-brother of Corrin Boyshane, another star of his  trainer’s Essex kennel. Beaten in two races at Central Park, he struck at the third time of asking in the UK in the heats here before finding favourite Brinkleys Poet too good in the semis. Aims to land his experienced handler his biggest success as a trainer in his own right.

Geelo Blissful is one of two bitches in today’s final – both looking to become the first of the fairer sex to win the Betfred Gymcrack since 2012 winner Droopys Hope. Bought unraced by Nic Brereton of Geelo Racing after a deal was struck at the GBGB Awards in London in January, this half-sister of top Irish stayer Frankies Lady is another crack bitch from the same kennel which supplied last year’s GBGB Bitch of the Year and Lowther Stakes winner Geelo Sapphire

Bought out of Enniscorthy after noted making late gains in a trio of races there, the son of Scolari Me Daddy has sparkled in the UK with four wins and made of the final of the Monmore Puppy Derby where he finished third behind his Derby-bound kennelmate Rising Brandy. His two victories here have been faultless, with runaway wins and the two fastest clocks so far in the £8,000 competition, with 27.26sec in the heats and 27.23sec in last week’s semis. 

Unraced in Ireland, the son of Vans Escalade is second youngest in the field behind Geelo Blissful and started his career sprinting at home track Yarmouth where he has top-grade success to his name. That early pace was seen to the fore in heat and semi-final here, and he could have a say in today’s final if breaking well from a wider draw than usual. His trainer is part of a famous greyhound racing family – and the kennel is in-form after a one-two in the Guys & Dolls at Crayford on Wednesday.

Assuming the owning syndicate – the A Jays – are boxing fans (!), might Kanturk Repeat look to land a knockout blow today? This daughter of Tullymurry Act joins Geelo Blissful, whom she beat in the heats, as one of two bitches in the decider. The now Towcester-based bitch, where she has progressed from A7 to A4, came out of Cork where she had three races. Comes from the kennel which supplied the now retired Gymcrack third Holdem Rio two years ago.

A brother of leading Derby contender Droopys Verve, Itsur Mate is unbeaten in his second major puppy campaign having reached the semis of the Monmore Puppy Derby where he was narrowly eliminated behind Brinkleys Poet. His strong-running style has flourished here and he comes from a kennel with a most impressive Gymcrack history having won it three times with Droopys Woods (2000) and Reactabond Ace (2001), both at Hall Green, and Young Golden (2013), here at Kinsley.

Link to full card


 COMPARED to a majority of greyhound racing’s major events, the Betfred Gymcrack is a newbie – the first running of the puppies-only competition taking place at what was known as the ‘new’ Hackney Stadium, London, in 1994.


COMETWOPASS Gymcrack winner with owner Stephen Carroll (left) and trainer Peter Cronin. Photo: Steve Nash

The short-lived but rebuilt original ‘London Stadium’ had replaced the tired, tattered but spit-and-sawdust-wonderful old Hackney. Regeneration in that part of east London had begun to take hold and the Olympic dream would soon be on the horizon.

 For various reasons, the new project failed but not before three runnings of the John Power Gymcrack were staged – and there can be no event which boasts such impressive  winners in its first three years than the Gymcrack.

 Moral Standards and Staplers Jo won the first two runnings of the event, and these two canine powerhouses are amongst the best there has been – the former winning the 1995 Derby for Tony Meek and the latter a multiple big-race winner of Nick Savva’s.

 Staplers Jo would leave a legacy in terms of his breeding prowess as one of the most successful sires of the modern era, adding to the British breeding dynasty of Nick and Natalie Savva still supplying ‘Westmead’ winners to this day.


2016 Gymcrack winner DROOPYS TRAPEZE with trainer Jimmy Wright, his daughter Emma and partner/assistant Angela Harrison. Photo: Steve Nash

Night Trooper followed their lead when winning the 1996 running, still at Hackney. Nikki Adams’ dog was another major competition winner and, amongst his achievements, finished second to Shanless Slippy in the 1996 Derby final.

 Sadly the 1996 running was the last Gymcrack for four years following Hackney’s demise, before the track’s general manager Stephen Rea resurrected the competition when he returned to the sport as general manager at Hall Green, Birmingham.

 The race’s return in 2000 saw victory for Droopys Woods, trained by Paul Young, and the Romford handler is the most successful Gymcrack-winning trainer with three wins to his name – the most recent being here at Kinsley with Young Golden in 2013.

 The last-named runner, a 33-1 chance, is the biggest-priced winner in the race’s 21-year history – the shortest being the aforementioned Staplers Jo, who won at the prohibitive odds of 1-8 at Hackney in 1995.

 Taranis Rex, trained by Kevin Hutton, made his mark as the first winner of the Gymcrack when the event switched here to Kinsley in 2011 – and with it a new sponsor in the shape of leading bookmaker Betfred who have supported the competition ever since.

2015 Gymcrack winner STAY LOOSE with L-R: owner Stephen Laybourn, trainer Elaine Parker, her son and assistant trainer Sean, and kennelhand Becky Outhwaite. Photo: Steve Nash

 Ireland has also supplied a Gymcrack winner in the shape of last year’s champion Cometwopass, who landed the spoils for Peter Cronin, and who is due to return to these shores next month to contest the upcoming Derby.

 That underlines the status and quality of one of the leading puppy competitions in the GBGB Calendar – a competition that was originated to mirror its horseracing equivalent (Gimcrack Stakes), a test of two-year-old brilliance. Both now have a Yorkshire home.