If the directors of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain really want to understand the sport that they preside over they should shred their studies, reports and spreadsheets and watch the 35 seconds of Peter Harnden losing his shit in the Hunt Cup Final.

No dry analysis can explain why anyone would want to dedicate their lives to an underfunded, undervalued industry that has been in steady decline for more than 70 years.

But Peter Harnden, in his funny ‘lucky’ hat and almost losing his voice with hysterical screaming and cheering, will resonate with so many reading this feature. (Video courtesy of RPGTV)

Peter was born into dogs, and horses. His dad Don was a kennel lad at Reading in the 1950s before going on to run Long Eaton track, eventually seeing it switch from NGRC to independent racing.

Mum Madeleine was a fine horsewoman who was selected for British Olympic team as a showjumper. She was also a groom for one of the greatest equestrian riders of his era, Ted Williams.

Ted also had a strong interest in greyhounds; he was the trainer of 1975 TV Trophy winner Lizzies Girl. It was on a visit to Long Eaton with Ted’s dogs that Madeleine met Don, and you guess the rest.

Peter himself was a fine horseman and became both a World Individual Champion and World Pairs Champion in Mounted Games – a kind of agility gymkhana for horse and rider. It is a multi-million pound sport with an international following.

But it was greyhounds that would have an unbreakable hold on young Peter’s life.

He said: “I started out as a parader at Long Eaton when my dad was racing manager, earning £3 a week, plus the odd bit extra if the owners had had a winner.

“My next job was putting out the bookmakers boards at a pound a time. There were five bookies, twice a week, which was worth a tenner, plus any odd cash I found on the ground.

“As I got a bit older, I was put on the trip. It was an inside hare and the dogs went past once before you put the trip on. If you cocked it up you were in big trouble.

“Then I was promoted to hare driver. I don’t think most people today realise what a responsible job it is. But back then, the real dog men knew what a difference a hare driver could make.

“You could make the leader move off, lose sight of the hare or check its stride. When the regular hare driver went on holiday it was a big deal for the punters. Race results could depend on it.

“The ultimate job was the photo finish, and I moved on to that next. I was still at school and earning a nice few bob.”


In addition to running the track, the Harndens also had greyhounds at home and it then that Peter’s love of training developed.

Peter says: “My dad always had a few dogs and was great friends with Joe Booth. They would often loan each other dogs for jobs on the flaps. At one stage we probably had 20 dogs at home and I used to help walk them beside the River Trent.

During the 1970s Long Eaton was owned by Northern Sports along with sister tracks Oxford and Ramsgate. All were racing under NGRC rules.

Peter said: “David Hawkins, who owned the company wanted to upgrade Long Eaton but fell out with the local council. It was stupid, he built some toilets for workmen on site without planning permission and the council objected.

“My father went to the planning meeting and said there were a bunch of jobless councillors who had socialist issues with a wealthy businessman. So he told them he would invest his money where it would be appreciated and duly ploughed it into Oxford.”

Long Eaton struggled and eventually dropped out of NGRC racing and became an independent track run by Don Harnden.

Peter said: “It was a popular move. I can remember Paddy Sweeney holding a meeting to tell all the local trainers that the Government had decided that all dogs could run in their stud book names and there was nothing the NGRC could do about it.

“I’ll be quite honest, I always found flapping a lot more interesting than NGRC racing, it was more of a challenge.

“You were taking on the other trainers, the bookies and the racing manager. On NGRC, once the racing manager knows the ability of your dog, he has complete power. You only have winners when the racing manager allows it.

“That still goes on to this day. Some kennels are favoured over others and it has nothing to do with ability to train a dog. That is one of the reasons I much prefer open racing.

“Your judgement counts, not only in assessing the other dogs, but also on the ability of the other trainers.”


With Long Eaton gone, Peter had no option other than to switch to NGRC racing and it was back in 1997 that he arrived at Nottingham with a trainer’s licence application form.

He said: “I needed a reference and I asked Terry Corden and Nathan if they would give me one. Nathan agreed and a few days later, he said I could start qualifying my dogs.

“It came as a bit of a shock because I had never expected to race there and I only had two dogs. Eventually they sacked me because I didn’t have enough dogs.”

At that stage Peter, who had qualified as a joiner when he left school, decided to become an engineer as a means to an end.

He had decided that he wanted to train greyhounds full time and had to find a kennel and then build it into a business.

He said: “I was a buyer for a soft drinks company but was told that I could earn good money as an engineer at Walkers Crisps in Leicester. I worked three 12-hour shifts a week and put everything I earned into the kennels I had rented and then purchased from Emil Kovac.

“I was relentless. The kennels were in a terrible state and every penny went into them, much to the disgust of my partner Jayne and eventually we split.”

Over time, Peter was able to fulfil his dream, build his kennel, and with the backing of wife Jane, he has never looked back.

An emotional Peter Harnden receives a hug from wife Jane after Salacres Pippy’s Hunt Cup win
Towcester 14th November 2021
Photo: © Steve Nash

It was four month ago that Peter decided to end a long association with Nottingham and switch to Towcester.


Peter said: “I had a lot of happy years at Nottingham. I eventually built the kennel strength up to around 150 though it was about a third of that when I decided to move on.

“Even though it wasn’t flapping, I always felt that Nottingham was a ‘dog man’s track’. Terry Corden was a true dog man and although I had plenty of rows with him over the years, the place had a great atmosphere.

“In his latter years, Terry mellowed tremendously and built a lot of bridges with people he had upset in his early days. I don’t mind admitting I had great respect for the man.

“But over time, the industry model had changed. The betting shops became more important and trainers were struggling more than ever to make it pay, not just at Nottingham, it was the new industry model.

“A lot of the friendly banter disappeared. That was inevitable when people are struggling. They resent each other’s success.

“I was driving to the track one day and I realised that I wasn’t enjoying it any more. The thing is, nobody has greyhounds for the financial benefits. Or if they do, it is a very short relationship.

“They own and train because they love it. If they stop loving it, why carry on?

“We’d lost Salacres Punch last year through illness after winning his semi final of the National Sprint. He is, and will always be the greatest dog I ever put a lead on.

“Much as I have loved owning Pippy, winning the sprint at Shelrboune Park on Derby Final night would match it as one of my best ever memories in greyhounds.

“Covid played its part too and with no crowds and trainers struggling. Then Nathan left. I fell out of love with Nottingham.

“But I had been to Towcester a few times and it just felt so different. Kevin Boothby is a proper dog man and despite it being a huge and impressive concern, there is an atmosphere at the place that takes me back to being a kid.

“It is 70 miles to Towcester compared to two to Nottingham but the change has completely rejuvenated my love of dog racing.”


So – onto last Sunday. What was the mood going into the final?

Peter said: “I had never won a Cat One race and after losing Punch, had doubts I ever would.

“The reason is, I won’t page huge money for greyhounds. I once paid £10K for Salacres Polizzi from Dave Firmager. She was a cracking bitch who won the Cearns Memorial. She broke a hock and even though she was still top class afterwards, I decided I would never pay silly money for a dog again.

“We came close to a big win with Salacres Vision who was a much cheaper dog, and I have stuck to my guns.

“I am not prepared to divulge what I paid for Pippy, but it was nowhere near what Polizzi cost me so when she turned out as good as she did, it proves you don’t need to spend a lot.

“The thing was, I knew Pippy was good enough to win the Hunt Cup but we had to overcome her cramping. She had lead and got caught in the first round by Antigua Lava and Kevin Boothby said he was surprised she hadn’t held on.

“I told him that by the time she got to the pick-up, her back legs were absolutely solid.

“Going into the final I had taken the best advice I could from my old pal Gary Beadle and of course Liam (Dowling). We knew it would be a protein issue, it always is with cramping, but you can’t afford to lose too much condition by changing your feeding too much.

“On the day of the race, my guts were in turmoil. I was the same when I was competing in the riding.

“I expected Pippy to lead and I was hoping that either Bubbly Cristal or Troy Susieeq would follow her around and act as blockers.

“After she took the lead, I was just hoping that the cramp wouldn’t kick in too early. That is when I started shouting coming around the last two bends. I thought, ‘even if she cramps now, she can hold on’.

“As it turned out, she didn’t cramp, broke the track record and I don’t think the others could have caught her on the day.”


Salacres Pippy’s next engagement is a planned attempt on the Ladbrokes Cesarewitch over 874m at Crayford.

It certainly isn’t a move that most people would have anticipated even a fortnight ago.

Peter said: “Maybe not, but there is logic to it. On Sunday, when she didn’t cramp, Pippy was still in front at the pick-up, which is all of 800 metres on a tough track with high quality opposition.

“I think the 874m around ten bends would be a slightly easier run and I know Pippy loves the track, she did 33.33 for the 540m on her first ever look at the place.

“It won’t be easy, but it is a very well funded competition, £10,000 to the winner for two runs so we are looking forward to it.”

So, are we likely to see an emotional trainer if Pippy were to go on and win a second Cat One event?

Peter laughed: “You will have to wait and see. A lot of people have been in touch about that bit of video and it has been absolutely brilliant. I think it touched a chord.

“I remember watching John Mullins burst into tears after Swift Keith had won the Yarmouth Derby, a race that had always evaded his dad. It was a special moment.

“I know how these dogs can get to you. I’ve had it all my life.”

SALACRES PIPPY leads her rivals home in the Hunt Cup Final, setting a new 712m track record of 42.90.
Photo: © Steve Nash