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It never seems to amaze me the roller coaster ride that is Greyhound Racing, especially on the open race scene, and certainly the last 7 or 8 days have proved that. I’ve always loved chasing the Category 1 and 2 competitions and being successful in those are the reasons why we accumulate points that go a long way to winning the overall Trainer of the Year award. Of course no one needs reminding that we have 10 of those awards sitting on my mantlepiece since I took over from my mother in law Linda Jones in 2005, indeed as an Assistant Trainer to Linda there were another two titles won in 2001/2002, so for the kennel to have won 12 of the last 20 it proves that we have found the correct formula for being successful. 72 Category 1 titles (13 for Linda) are an incredible achievement and I wouldn’t have a record of the complete list of Category 2 ones but no doubt it would be similar and as for the Category 3 victories that are mainly made up of a heat and a final that alone would run into the hundreds. I’m not saying this to be big headed but maybe I do need reminding that when it does occasionally go pear shaped, which I feel it has slightly this week, it’s likely only to be a temporary blip.
As said one of the main reasons why we score so many points is because we do so well in Category 1 and 2 competitions and I love being involved in them. 5 points for heat wins and 10 points for a semi final win then up to 50 points for winning a Category 1 (25 for a Category 2) and decent points if you just make the final. I would say 80% of our points accumulated in the Trainer of the Year standings come from these types of competitions. Quite often people think we have 50 or 60 runners chasing these points but many would be surprised that only about a dozen top open race dogs in our care score around 60-70% of the points we accumulate at the end of the year. The key to me is to have a variation of runners in different distances, it’s no good having just a load of four bend runners or six bend stayers, same for sprints and marathons, with every division of distances catered for with Category 1’s all year long it’s vitally important to have the correct mixture of talent in your kennel and no doubt we have always been ultra clever in covering all angles over the years in doing this. I quite often look at our team like a football manager would, not only do you need a top class striker but you need a good midfield and defence to be able to win trophies, whenever I feel we are short on quality in certain areas I’ve always tried to bridge that gap by encouraging owners to spend their hard earned cash on ones that suit them and us. This of course can happen naturally at times, we might buy a dog for four bends that turns out to be a top stayer or one that drops down in trip to become a top sprinter etc etc you could even say to be completely covered a good hurdler and a good British Bred dog covers even more angles. I certainly know when I’ve got it spot on when you come to the industry awards each year and we have once or twice been fortunate to have 4 or 5 Greyhounds nominated in different distance awards, that alone signifies that they must have done well in the big events just to be nominated,.
I’ve heard it said that particular trainers are much better with a particular type of dog. The greatest trainer in the modern era Charlie Lister was always known for his four bend stars as seven winning Derby’s prove and although along the way he’s popped in a St Leger and a few top sprinting and marathon titles it certainly was the standard distance he excelled in. I could give a few more examples given some research. Looking at our own overall record it’s only the Sprinter of the Year title we have never won, yet I feel that we have had some top class sprinters over the years yet we have only ever won one Category 1 sprint title (Cotton Pants last year). I’ve heard many people say that we are a kennel to be feared when it comes to stayers and, yes, 5 St Leger winners in 10 years says this is an area we excel in but we have also won two Derby titles and two Oaks and who can forget the great Cornamaddy Jumbo, the only hurdler to have ever won the Greyhound of the Year title!
Currently as the Trainer of the Year stands we are second behind my friend and former Assistant Patrick Janssens and it’s no surprise to see one of the reasons he has scored so well to date is his variety of distances he is covering with his powerful kennel. Kilmore Lemon, Magical Houdini (Sprint), Seaglass Phantom, Seaglass Tiger (standard) and Goldies Hotspur (marathon) particularly highlight this. Maybe that’s something he picked up upon during our 14 years working together! We ourselves this year seem more stayer orientated as Aayamzabreeze‘ s Regency victory is our only real big race success thus far this year so it was a real blow last night that we missed out in the current Category 1 the George Ing St Leger at Yarmouth seeing all three of our semi finalists eliminated at the semi final stage. Patrick’s two runners also failed to make the final and this certainly gives another powerful kennel in Hayleigh Keightley a chance to really close the gap in the title race on Patrick and ourselves as they look to have a strong hand with two runners in the final, namely Roxholme Poppy and Butt. I have a feeling this title race may go all the way to the wire as I also expect the likes of Kevin Hutton and Seamus Cahill to come on strong as the season progresses while Liz and Rab Mcnair could be winning a number of Category 1 events with their super talented hounds which would catapult them right up the table.
We also felt we missed a chance at the weekend at Crayford in the Category 2 Ladbrokes Vase where both our runners Saleen Ash and Antigua Flash failed to make the final while also our luck was against us in the BGBF Scurry event at Henlow, another Category 2 competition, as our semi finalist Deans Hail Mary had to be withdrawn lame. We now need to dust ourselves down and re-evaluate some of our team and bounce back in the next few weeks though nearly everything in June centres around Nottingham for the Greyhound Derby.
That would normally be the major write up for myself at this time of year but this year, I would say, is the lowest entry we have ever put forward for the Blue Riband event since I started in 2005. We have six entries in total, this is not because there is restricted entry (192) or because the venue has been changed to Nottingham following Towcester’s closure but simply because we are not over strong in the four bend department at the moment, though I do feel that may change by the end of 2019. Now, talking of a roller coaster if ever we needed a winner this weekend then it came in the shape of Brinkleys Poet, yes a lot has been said about the circumstances he arrived at our kennel and yes many will think a Greyhound with a serous wrist injury can’t come back but tell that to the owners and the magnificent dog. Last night in a Derby Trial Stake he blew a lot of people away who said ‘they don’t come back’ with a scintillating 29.60 victory, his early pace and his balance around the first two corners are a joy to behold and maybe, just maybe even we can dream of a potential third classic victory! Remember Blonde Snapper? he came back from having a fractured wrist to win the Derby in 2012, let’s hope that it’s deja vu!
On Monday at Yarmouth in the George Ing St Leger heats we had good wins for Brigadier Bullet and Aayamza Breeze while Antigua Fire qualified when second.
At Hove on Thursday Alien Sea could only finish 4th in the Maiden 515 final but we did see an excellent win for the improving Avastorm over 695m who beat the talented Goldies Hotspur in an excellent 41.37.
On Sunday at Henlow Deans Hail Mary (lame) missed the BGBF Scurry and Chubbys Turkana was surprisingly caught on the line over 550m. Brinkleys Rosie returned to the winners podium over 428m in 25.92.
On Monday Towstar Billy won well in a D1 sprint in 16.96. Just a few runners on Tuesday evening with Bobs Boy, Adageo Zoomer and Shazzas Bullet all second.
On Thursday Aayamza Bonnie ran well landing an A4 in 27.85 at 7/1 and also the same odds on Friday for a Jazz Jake taking an A6 in 28.20.
On Saturday Towstar Zelda ran well to win an A6 in 28.10 and on Sunday Algo For You was impressive winning an A1 by 3 1/2 lengths in 27.85.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN RACING - AVASTORM
GRADED - AAYAMZA BONNIE
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
A busy and indifferent night at Yarmouth and Nottingham last night. A fairly quiet week but we will have open race action at Yarmouth and Sheffield on Saturday and at Henlow on Sunday.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
It’s always difficult picking selections blind but Brinkleys Poet duly obliged in great style at Nottingham last night (4/1 available in the morning) while Busters Bullet was knocked over but thankfully seems ok.
Our best action comes this week at Yarmouth and Sheffield on Saturday and the marathon is going to fill by the look of it. Aayamza Breeze unluckily eliminated in the George Ing St Leger could go well over this 843m trip.
AAYAMZA BREEZE - 3 pts win - Yarmouth - Saturday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
BRINKLEYS POET - 3 pts win - Nottingham - Monday - WON 6/4
BUSTERS BULLET - 2 pts win - Nottingham- Monday - lost