“I had no ambitions in the world to train dogs. It never occurred to me”
So said the main who landed his first Category One competition, two months after his trainers license dropped through his letter box.
On Thursday night, half of the George Cunningham’s kennel strength – Narcos The Great (T2) and Lav Yin Yak (T1) – went to traps at Sunderland for the final of the ARC Classic. Favourite Mindhowyougo was in trap five.
George said: “I’m not being wise after the event, but I really fancied Narcos after trap draw was made. I thought the favourite was drawn too wide to get a clear run and sure enough he tried to move in from the traps. I thought that Narcos would get a great run on the rail and that is exactly what happened.”
At this point, you might expect a tale of a former flapping Jock finally achieving his ambition of landing a big race after years of trying.
Not a bit of it.
George said: “I’m actually quite new to the game. I went with friends of friends to Shawfield about five years ago and eventually decided to buy my first dog. I wanted to put him with Gary Carmichael but he was talking about giving up, so Jimmy Fenwick took him for me.
“Eventually Gary relented and the dog went to him and as far as I was concerned, I was simply an owner. My best dog was Little Emir who ran in the Derby, and one of the dogs involved in the case that saw Gary lose his license. At that point I decided I would have a go myself.
“Thursday night made it worth all the effort. There was a lot of tension on the way down, but coming back after the win was brilliant. I realise how lucky I am after only training for such a short time.”
An Edinburgh based bricklayer by profession (What is it with Scottish brickies? Memo to Graham Rankin), George has seven kennels and four racers at present.
He owns Narcos in partnership with Bob Cunningham, and normally goes on a three man raiding party with Lee Easton and David Smith.
George said: “I have to thank my wife Mikhaila too. She has a lot to put up with these dogs because I also have a litter of eight pups who are now ten months old. They are out of Lav Yin Yak’s dam Swift Lavender and will be off to Damien McCann for schooling when they are old enough.
“As for the future, hopefully the All England Cup. Narcos The Great is still only a young dog. He was getting himself very worked up when I first got him and kept cramping. I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet.”
Sunderland General Manager Joanne Wilson said: “The Classic is our biggest race of the year and the evening was a huge success with great racing and it was fantastic to see the crowds back enjoying the event.”
While Newcastle General Manager Ian Walton also enjoyed the night. He said: “It was a great run by the winner and a fabulous night. The downstairs was packed with proper dog people, everywhere from Newcastle, to Pelaw to Shawfield.
“Sometimes when the big kennels turn up, you don’t even see the owners, but the atmosphere was really buzzing.”