Preparations are just about complete at Suffolk Downs with Kevin Boothby hoping to get GBGB licensing within the next week.
He said: “I’m really excited with the progress we’ve made especially given the challenges the team has faced sourcing the materials and equipment needed. The inside rail went in last week, a new vet’s room has been built and the kennels have been completely renovated and air conditioning installed.
“If we can get the stewards along in the next few days, we will be able to start trialling by the first week in December and ready for racing before the end of the year.
“There is a great look and feel to the place and I’m delighted, along with Towcester and Oxford to be bringing racing back to another track. I am planning on four Category One events at Suffolk Downs in 2022.
“At Oxford we have an army of fantastic volunteers on the ground. There is still some minor configuration work required on the track and a full rebuild of the kennels will be completed in January to allow us to start trialling.
“Away from the track itself there has been tons of activity in preparation for the re-opening. We have a commercial team already in place and they are doing a great job.
“I have never known interest quite like it; there are so many local businesses looking to sponsor – Oxford Stadium is such a part of the community. We will have at least eight Cat Ones there next year, maybe more, and none of the embarrassing £6K or £7K finals.
“The minimum will be £10K, and some at £12,500 with a huge event soon after we open. But there are loads of other things planned for Oxford that will get us national attention. There will be some announcements shortly but they will reflect well on the whole industry.
“In terms of Towcester, we’ve just agreed a flagship meeting with RPGTV to welcome in 2022 with a major night of open racing on New Year’s Day.
Looking ahead, we have already started taking bookings for next year’s Derby semi-finals and final I can assure everyone, the 2022 Derby the best this country has seen in many many years.
“You wouldn’t believe how many people are already looking for Derby dogs, myself included.”
It has been a tough couple of weeks for the Boothby family with Kevin and Dave having lost their dad Barry to serious illness.
Kevin said: “It was my dad who gave me my love of dog racing. We used to go to Nottingham together years ago and despite his illness, he still loved following the dogs. Watching racing brought him such a lot of happiness during his illness.
“He always supported the Savanas, even when I didn’t fancy them, and I was hoping that Savana Volcano could win the First Containers Marathon which would have been one of the last races he saw before we lost him.
“Unfortunately, she went lame on a shoulder or I am convinced that she would have won. She was only beaten two lengths in total and went wrong on the first circuit.
“It wasn’t to be but I am planning some races in dad’s memory. He absolutely loved the Boxing Day Meetings and we will have £500 Barry Boothby Memorial races at all my tracks, starting at Henlow and Towcester every Boxing Day from now on.”
As Britain’s biggest greyhound owner, it might come as a surprise to learn that Kevin Boothby has major reservations over mooted increases in the GBGB’s Injury Recovery Scheme.
He said: “If you haven’t thought it through, it would seem like a no-brainer, the tracks and GBGB covering veterinary costs when a dog gets hurt. It means less dogs get put to sleep and owners don’t have to pay the burden of the vet’s bills.
“But isn’t it a bit counterintuitive? They are having to increase the funding due to the number of injuries.
“It’s a bit like Formula One getting loads of serious accidents and having to fund more hospitals.
“How about trying to reduce the number of injuries? I know how many we get at my tracks and I would be quite prepared to have the statistics for each of my tracks made public, providing all the others would do the same.
“If the GBGB really wants an informed discussion on injuries then those statistics – by type/track/breeding should be transparent for everyone, especially owners and trainers who buy the dogs and decide where to race them.
“I am due to meet Professor Madeleine Campbell, who is one of the GBGB’s new independent directors. I read up about her and she is probably the leading name in Britain in ethics in the use of animals.
“ I wonder how she feels that individual tracks aren’t accountable for their injuries. Stories keep coming back to me about certain tracks having bad injury records but they can hide in the overall statistics.
“We do everything in our power to make our tracks as safe as possible but I absolutely accept that some injuries are inevitable.
“With that in mind, we have made plans for the industry’s best veterinary hospital to be based at Towcester. It will be run by vet Polly Smith with no expense spared on getting the best equipment and treatment possible.
“For the Towcester runners, it will mean immediate emergency treatment on site, and dogs from my other tracks will get the chance to use the facilities too.
“We are nothing without the dogs in this industry. I love the sport but particularly the greyhounds themselves. I have always kept or re-homed my dogs and have four in the house now.
“I will stop at nothing to do the best for all our dogs and if that means exposing those who don’t do their best, I am quite prepared to do it.”
Boothby’s most recent fall-out with GBGB concerns a £300 fine for allowing Droopys Prunty to contest a 712m maiden ‘for greyhounds who had not won an open race over six bends. Prunty had won over 575m at Romford two weeks earlier.
He said: “The racing office should have picked it up, and Paul Young shouldn’t have entered the dog in the first place. Mistakes happen.
“What I really want to establish is that I am being treated the same as anyone else. Other tracks make mistakes, are they all fined? We are currently looking into it.”
Boothby was also known to be furious when a stipendiary steward was seen to be timing the duration between kennelling and trials.
He said: “Does that happen at other tracks? I am entitled to know. I also plan to ask Professor Campbell whether she has concerns about potential corporate control of the Board. Ethically, could commercial interests override what is best for the industry?
“I’ll also be interested to see what happens in a forthcoming stewards enquiry where a dog ran twice at the same meeting at one of the Entain tracks.
“If that was at one of my tracks – one hundred per cent – they would take my licence away.”