Monday 19th August 2013
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We are right in the middle of what is an incredibly busy open racing mid season and the Ladbrokes Trainer of the Year title looks set for a titanic battle between the big four for the last third of the year. We have dominated proceedings for most of the year but a great run of form from both Paul Young and Chris Allsopp has meant there is now only 30 odd points between us three and Charlie Lister sandwiched between us. So have we got a chance of landing a 5th title in nine years since I took over the reins at Imperial Kennels?
Firstly I must say the Trainer of the Year title isn't the most important issue when we start our campaign off at the beginning of the year. Of course it's important to me for us to be in the top six (something our kennel has achieved for the last 13 years) but winning the Derby's, Classics and Category 1 titles are what gives me the most pleasure and gets that pure adrenalin rush that makes me and my staff want to get out of bed in the morning and do some incredible hours and mileage in the vans and train greyhounds for a living. Being of such a competitive nature I like tables and things to aim for so this Trainers table is something to focus on and we will do our very best to retain the title we won by such a wide margin in 2012. Some people think that the big kennels have a distinct advantage with volume of runners helping win the title but its all about points gained in competitions and ultimately it's no surprise that the kennels winning or making the most major finals are the ones that win the Trainer of the Year title. One off races help but only account for a fraction of the points scored at the end of the year. Yes we know that at the start of the year only about four or five trainers have a realistic chance of landing the title but that would be the case in most sports.
What's disappointing is the value our sport puts on the Trainer of the Year title. The winning trainer only receives £2,000 yet the coverage it gets in the press is very good and now the bookmakers know that it's a solid market for them to take bets on, as the chance of it being manipulated are very small, the rewards should be considerably higher and not just for the winner. I strongly believe we should reward not just the winner and the top six who are invited into the prestigous Trainers Championship meeting but also the top 20 open race trainers in some sort of ladder style payment. This could easily be achieved by some sensible suggestions of use of some BGRF fund money put aside. Let's not forget the open racers receive nothing via the fund unlike the graded runners which receive £5 per greyhound per race (£30 per race). If open racers received this amount it would by my maths have around £125,000 in a kitty of which half could be used for a ladder style payment as suggested and the other half perhaps used to benefit other open race trainers in some other way (what, I'm not quite sure). This could then guarantee the winner of the Trainer of the Year title a minimum of £10,000. Ultimately this could make the open racing much more competitive than normal creating better turnover for the bookmakers and giving trainers much more of an incentive to do well.
Incentives for practitioners all across the board are needed if we are to turn our industry around. There is a shortage of dogs simply because breeders have no incentives to breed. A working party should be set up immediately to solve this problem and that means breeders from here and across the sea should be involved in talks as to the way forward. Injuries are part of our sport and as with any athlete, canine or human, when travelling at fast speeds this is inevitable and ourselves like most trainers seem to have had it bad the last month or so. Now don't get me wrong there is not a major welfare issue here but it is now a regular occurrence that around August time year after year injuries seem to be at their worst, why? Let's get the experts we have at our disposal to simply solve this problem. Jeff Sealey, Dave Houfton, John Forster are without doubt the leading experts in this field but it seems politics gets in the way of calling upon their services, this can no longer be tolerated. Who are SSS? who the GBGB currently use for track maintenance and safety and what qualifications do they have to gain vast amounts of money to use at their disposal. Who knows, they may be very good but let's put differences aside and sort this problem out, after all we all want what's best for the greyhounds! In Jonathan Kay's Racing Post blog last Monday he was right in being critical of certain aspects of the GBGB and made some valid points and although there is clearly no love lost between him and Ricky Holloway, our GTA leader, he has to remember Rick was voted in democratically and why should the GTA put in a 'yes' man in his place. I personally feel that if the GBGB brought Rick on board his passion would shine through and he would be a great asset for the sport but for this to happen some strong discussions need to take place.
Prize money levels are an issue simply because they seem to be stagnant year after year and we wonder why owners are dropping out the sport in large numbers. There are many debates on this and I have not got enough time or space to cover them all but the one thing that strikes me is that the bookmaking industry, who do so well out of greyhound racing, seem to feel that they don't need owners and that trainers have no problem owning the dogs to supply to Bags and RPGTV. I can tell you now without doubt this is a complete disaster waiting to happen. It is financial suicide for a trainer to own more than a small percentage of his kennel. Urgent talks are needed to set a completely new blueprint for our sport on prize money because if don't we will have some serious canine and human welfare problems to deal with in the near future.
One good bit of news is that Coventry, under the passionate leadership of Harry Findlay, are the first to introduce a new Super Jackpot guaranteeing a massive £40,000 with a chance of earning another £40,000 in a bonus race. This Super Jackpot is the idea of Harry working with Colossusbets.com and can be bet through them or Covdogs.com or through 24dogs.co.uk and started last night and will roll over if not won. All you have to do is pick 8 winners, easy! I'm sure if this is given some massive exposure it will bring in punters far and wide and can be an idea the whole industry can work on, well done Harry again. It would be great if RPGTV could bring Coventry back on Sunday nights as no disrespect to Henlow their Sunday night meetings are not a patch on Coventry's and now with their new Super Jackpot a lot more viewers could be attracted which must be good for all in the long run.
Getting back to the Trainer of the Year title, I was looking at the current prices 2/1 us, Paul Young and Charlie Lister while Chris Allsopp is a generous 6/1. Charlie is not over bothered about winning this title but does have probably the best four and six bend dogs in the country in Sidaz Jack and Fear Emoski. These alone could be multiple Category 1 winners and sling shot Charlie to the top. Paul Young would be itching to get his hands on this trophy for the first time and in the 'Champagne Club' he has some strong backing while Chris's dogs are in form and his team will travel far and wide in search of second title.
Looking ahead at the big competitions coming up starting with the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Monmore this afternoon Charlie's Lemon Pluto heads the market while Chris is well represented not just in the Gold Cup but in the supporting competitions at his home track. We will have to get something from the £5000 Category 2 six bend event with Sidaz Dippy, Blonde Bobby or Fairest Royal if we are still to keep our lead after Friday's finals day.
At night Paul Young has a strong hand with four representatives in the Puppy Classic at Nottingham but Chris and Charlie are in the event as well and we have the improving Sidaz Harris who hopefully can get in the final.
Next week the TV Trophy kicks off at Yarmouth and though Dean Childs Musical Gaga will be a strong favourite we have Aayamzabella and defending champion Blonde Reagan while Paul Young has the flying 5 year old Aero Gaga. I'm not sure if Chris has anything and will Charlie put Farloe Tango in?
The Betfred Steel City Cup comes next at Sheffield and could see plenty of entries from all four of us. We have Bridge Honcho leading a small team.
It's back to Yarmouth afterwards as the East Anglian Derby gets underway. No doubt that Charlie Lister will have a strong hand and Derby winner Sidaz Jack will be a hot favourite. Last year's Romford Puppy Cup winner Glanmire Lad, sadly one of our injury casualties this year, kicked off a tremendous last few months of 2012 for us but Paul Young has some very good pups at the moment and he is sure to go well here. Have we got another Glanmire Lad? well I'm not sure but keep your eye open on Swift Sean (name could be changed very soon) and Strawpedo Jet who could go well in this event.
After these events it could still be close cut we will do well to still have a lead and then all the major races that will be left are The All England Cup and Northern Puppy Derby, the Grand National and Kent Derby all in October then in November the British Breeders Stakes, the Eclipse and probably what could be most crucial the St Leger at Wimbledon. If it is still close by then the last two events of the year the Oaks and the Essex Vase could prove vital to the destiny of the title.
Our injury toll is one of the reasons why we have not scaled the heights of 2012's stellar year as well as some of our older stars coming to the end of their careers but have we got the ammunition to win some big events or score heavy by getting in the final and win this Trainer of the Year title? I'm not sure but if the likes of Blonde Bobby (surprisingly not sold on our website yet) and Fairest Royal can improve to join the likes of Sidaz Dippy (definitely capable of winning a big event) and Hometown Honey we will have some top stayers who can score good points. Blonde Razor, desperately unlucky in last week's heats of the Puppy Classic could potentially be better than all these if he stays like I think he will and though I have some people questioning the price we have him for sale I hope to prove them wrong, one thing for sure he will not be leaving our kennel. Blonde Reagan is very frustrating but what a bonus it would be for us if he was to hit form. Of our older dogs, time is running out for the likes of Bridge Ruth, Bridge Honcho and Ayamzaman to win a Category 1 event but they are still huge talents and a big part of our team. We have some solid open racers in Planning, Jazz Tilly (in season), Reel Trickyone, Benkaat Blue, Bridge Bandit, Carkei Max (still for sale and an ideal little open race dog), Darian Star and Killacolla Kaka who will all win their fair share and are capable of making a big final. So where our our youngsters? Blonde Razor and Sidaz Harris are well established and should do well for the rest of the year while youngsters Strawpedo Jet, Swift Sean and Benkaat Boomer (formerly Swift Zach) and Swift Eire are all lightly raced and could come up to top class if they improved a little. Look out also for, though maybe not this year but certainly next year, Saffrons Dream (markwallisgreyhounds 'Racing Club'dog) and Benkaat Dolly who look very promising. Benkaat Nero suffered a broken metertarsal last week and joins Garryglass Rodge on the sidelines for a couple of months which follows the retirement of Glanmire Lad, Castlebride Dan and Benkaat Boy who suffered career ending injuries this year which as I said is a real blow for our team. W hatever our fate this year I will be looking to add at least a dozen potential stars by the end of this year to ensure we have the best chance possible of winning major events.
In Monday's Caffreys Puppy Classic Sidaz Harris qualified safely when a well beaten 2nd while Blonde Razor (4th) was unlucky when taken out at the first bend when leading up.
At Romford on Tuesday supporting the Champion Stakes final Blonde Reagan just failed to get up going down by only a neck over 750 in a fast 47.23.
At Yarmouth on Wednesday Aayamzabella won a TV Trophy Trial Stake in great fashion by 7 lengths in a fast 53.45 while Darian Star ran an excellent race back at Yarmouth winning in a fine 29.94 while Swift Sean was just beaten in a Maiden 462m.
Not the best of cards at Romford on Friday bar a couple of top quality events and Reel Trickyone (2nd) and Strawpedo Jet (3rd) ran well and we did come back with a winner when Newinn Chick won a weak 575m Maiden in 36.25.
At Coventry last night Blonde Razor was in the wars again when bashed at the first bend before running on to be 3rd while Darian Star failed to double up when also 3rd in a Bitches race.
YARMOUTH AND COVENTRY REVIEW
Just four runners at Yarmouth on Saturday night with Toosey Milly best when 2nd in an A3 while at Coventry last night of our three runners Hillcross Kansas led all the way to win well in A3 grade in 29.76.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
At Monmore this afternoon Benkaat Boomer (Swift Zach) runs in the supporting Puppy event while the Festival Stayers sees Sidaz Dippy, Fairest Royal and Blonde Bobby who should all go well.
Sidaz Harris runs from trap 1 in the Puppy Classic semi-finals at Nottingham at night and on a busy day Swift Sean, Skips Special and Swift Obama head to Romford for the weekly heats which is a Maiden 400m.
A rare trip to Sheffield on Tuesday where Bridge Honcho, Bridge Bandit and Killacolla Kaka prepare for the Steel City Cup in trial Stakes and on Wednesday Baran Bally Hi takes in the Hurdle competition at Coventry.
The Brighton Belle heats at Hove is the feature of Thursday's card and both Bridge Ruth and Darian Star head our entries.
On Friday it's finals day at Monmore in the afternoon and we will be at Romford in the evening.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
Sidaz Harris flys the flag for us in the Caffreys Puppy Classic at Nottingham tonight and on Thursday we have to give Bridge Ruth another chance in the Brighton Belle heats.
BRIDGE RUTH - 4 pts win ante-post - Coral Brighton Belle - Hove - starts Thursday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
SIDAZ HARRIS - 2 pts e.w ante-post 16/1 - Caffreys Puppy Classic - Nottingham - semi's tonight
BLONDE RAZOR - 1 pt e.w ante-post 14/1 - Caffreys Puppy Classic - Nottingham - lost