Sunderland stage their biggest night of the year featuring the final of the ARC Classic and ten supporting opens writes Floyd Amphlett.

The fact that the main event is worth £6,500 to the winner (having once been worth £40K) resulted in it being completely ignored by the major Southern kennels. That led to much grumbling on social media depicting the continued slide of the industry, and 33,500 more reasons for owners not to own top class greyhounds.

There is a flip side to this of course. While the greater argument would appear valid, the reality is, the race sponsors won’t be able to charge the betting industry any more for top open races than they would for low quality graded fare. That is the bookies model.

Sunderland Racing Manager Joe Frelford will offer an additional take on the matter.

(And Joe speaks as a died-in-the-wool ‘dog man’ who grew up going flapping “six nights a week, every week”, including Sunderland when it was an independent.

He said: “There would be about eight of us cram into my dad’s Cortina – you could do that kind of thing back then – and we would pay him to pick us up and drop us off and pay him £2 a man for the petrol. Most nights it would be Sunderland, Wheatley Hill or Easington.

“Years later, after I had been working as a racing manager, I caught up with Jeff McKenna and said, ‘I can now appreciate what you had to put up with and I’d like to apologise for any grief I put you through when I used to bring my dogs to Pelaw and come moaning into the judge’s box’. He just laughed.

“I also had a spell working as a kennel lad for David Mullins when he was training up here. He was always a very good man with a dog and I still follow his runners.

“I was hoping that we might see him up for the Classic, but I can understand how it can be hard to justify for £6,500 when there are easier pickings close to home. Brookside Richie’s owner Richie Vickers is a local owner of course with Yvonne Bell.)

“Everyone knows that at heart I love my graded racing but it is nice to see the top open dogs every so often. Realistically though, my priority is the locals who support us week in, week out, and when these events are on, they miss out. We have 350 dogs on the strength; at least with the Southern dogs not coming, a lot of the locals get chances to run in the opens.

“I would love to see big prize money events but the game has changed. The crowds don’t turn out now, whether it is £6,500 or £40,000 to the winner. There will probably be a hundred people in the restaurant on Thursday, but those dog men aren’t around. Those who want to see the race will probably watch it on their phones.”


Was the fact that ARC now insist on greyhound trialing on the track where they intend to race was another significant factor in damaging the Southern entry?

Joe said: “Without a doubt. If you have to travel 300 miles for a trial, you might think twice about entering. But I have no issue with that. It is 100% the right thing to do.

“You cannot expect to come to Sunderland without a trial. It can be a tricky track if you don’t know it, but it isn’t just your own dog that you are risking. Even experienced open racers can get the first bend wrong. If they happen to draw one and move off, it might be someone else’s dog who suffers.

“Welfare is a big thing. We operate a policy now that for the local dogs, they have to run a solo when they qualify. I know that some trainers might deliberately seed dogs wrong in trials, hoping that they will find a bit of trouble and save themselves a few spots.

“So we insist on their last trial being a solo and watch where they prefer to run. We then write what we think is their ideal trap on their grading card and whenever possible we grade them in that trap.

“When we get open racers turn up and ask for a particular seeding, if I don’t agree with it, I will phone and tell the trainers why. To be fair, nobody has ever argued if I think they’ve got it wrong.”


So how does Joe see the final going?

He said: “There are four middle seeds and although trap five doesn’t look ideal for Mindhowyougo, he showed that he can run from there in the heats and he has the time on his card. I think him and the six will go up fast, but six isn’t getting home, which has really surprised me.

“On the inside, I like Narcos The Great, who has been running on well, but I’m not convinced that he will get to the front two in time.”

Bresbet odds: 11-10 Mindhowyougo, 9-4 Moanteen Mikey, 11-4 Narcos The Great, 9-1 Borna Dime, 14-1 Lav Yin Yak, 25-1 Dunquin Dreamer

Semis reminder:

Narcos The Great (T4) beats Moanteen Mikey (T6)

Dunquin Dreamer (T4) beats Lav Yin Yak (T2)

Mindhowyougo (T3) beats Borna Dime (T4)