From where we are based, Nottingham is not a track where we have been frequent visitors in recent years. We have always had closer options, certainly Wimbledon and Hove, and since their massive improvements, Central Park, where I also start our young dogs.
But in the last couple of months I think I have studied more trials and race at Nottingham than in all my previous years combined and I hopefully I have educated myself a bit.
It occurs to me that in some ways it is a bit like Newcastle, and it also reminds me a bit of Wimbledon. The Newcastle similarity is due to the very long run-up from the 500 metre traps which means the dogs are travelling at top speed when they reach the first bend. They have little little room for error.
It also reminds me of Wimbledon in that a lot of the dogs move off the rail on the run-up and try to swoop back in to the rails at the bend. For that reason, I think the majority of runners are middle seeds at Nottingham.
The problem is – and this isn’t about Nottingham, it happens at every track in the country, trainers with middle runners choose to seed them rails because they know there is a strong chance as a middle, that you will be drawn trap five, or even trap six. There were 116 railers entered for the Derby.
I wonder how many of those would be seeded middle if they were told, ‘you are guaranteed three or four’.
Along with Paul Young, I understand that we have the biggest Derby entry of the UK trainers, eight runners.
It is too easy to say that they all have equal chances but the reality is, I think King Lennon would appear to be our number one chance based on what we have seen. The dog is very lightly done so far, only eight races including one where he was knocked over, but he seems well suited by the track.
As to whether Lennon is the best of the litter, I guess we will ever know because I have been absolutely flabbergasted by King Sheeran who recently did 28.35 for the 480 and 29.55 for the 500. The Boss said to me the other day, ‘did Sheeran really break his hock?’. I replied, “he did, and he has two pins still in there to prove it.’
You do leave yourself wondering, ‘to do those times, it surely can’t have affected him‘ But then I think, if anyone asked me about a dog of theirs, and whether a broken hock would knock at least a couple of lengths off them, I would say, ‘always’.
The other one who I would hope will put together a great performance is Queen Beyonce.
As far as King Turbo is concerned, he has been struggling to see out the trip though he wasn’t blowing quite as badly after his last run. But he is a quality dog with the early pace to lead at the bend and, even though he is a preferred railer, he can run from any box. Given what might be happening on the inside, it wouldn’t be a disaster if he drew five in some of his races.
King Cash is a wide runner and will need to not get wiped out on the outside if there is trouble on the rail, though his 5.05 sectional means he might get clear. Diamond looks vulnerable over the 500 and Idol is still very young but has trialled well.
Beyonce, Lennon, Diamond and Dylan are due to have their final trials on Friday and that is the preparation over. Win lose or draw, I would settle for eight sound dogs at the end. It should be a great competition and I can’t wait.
The latest litter of pups had their first trials at Central Park on Wednesday. They are January ’18 pups by Leamaneigh Turbo out of Queen Asia (Droopys Scolari-Shaws Dilemma) and at the same stage, they look every bit as good as the Lennon, Beyonce, Sheeran litter.
We have stayed with the musical theme with King Louis, and ‘Queens’ Franklin, Tammy and Dolly. There are two more dogs who have been held back and are still at Bicester being schooled.
I have been asked a few times about the names, particularly, King Elvis, and there is a funny story behind it.
It goes back to when Brendan (Kehoe) was building these kennels. Brendan is an absolute perfectionist and insisted that everything be done just right, no matter what the cost. I used to tease him and say ‘it’s all very well building the Hilton, Brendan, but if you don’t have Elvis for a performance. . . .’
Then one day we spoke to Bicester about a litter being schooled and they said, ‘you have a dog who is definitely going to be a champion’. You can imagine the next bit when we brought him home . . .the big announcement. . . ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is in the building’.
I also wanted to say a few words about Leamaneigh Turbo who died of cancer recently after a short illness.
Most people probably don’t know the story of the dog. Brendan bought the dog after the 2012 Comerford Cakes Final at Shelbourne Park and I think the dog’s racing career for Brendan lasted about 60 yards before he broke a wrist. Various vets in Ireland looked at him and said he would never race again. A couple suggested he should be put to sleep.
He came over anyway, what else were we going to do with him? I could see why they were so pessimistic, it was an absolute mess. Brendan said, ‘you never know’, but I thought he was dreaming. It was impossible that the dog could ever race again with a wrist that size.
We left him alone and gradually he started to run around the paddocks. After four months, I decided to give him a trial at Wimbledon and he did 16.18 in his first sprint trial and 15.93 in his next one.
He went on to win a 416m Festival final at Monmore, he won the Coral Sprint, and clocked 27.22 at Henlow 27.30 at Yarmouth and 28.21 at Wimbledon. He also won the veterans race on Derby Final night at Wimbledon.
He absolutely loved his racing. His training was running around the paddock with Wee Tiger Tots. We would come in lame and we left a pale with ice in it and he used to walk over and put his sore wrist in it. He wasn’t even on a lead. After a few minutes he would take the foot out and was quite happy to go back to his kennel.
It was Cecil Law who said to me one day, “you should definitely take a litter off that dog. Any dog that has achieved what he has after such a bad injury must have the heart of a lion.”
We took his advice and the first mating to Wee Tiger Tots produced King Turbo.
When we found out that he had cancer, I wanted to get him back here because I wanted to bury him in the corner of the field next to our brood bitches. But it was too far gone and would have meant putting him through too much pain.
A wonderful greyhound