Monday 25th August 2008
Imperial Kennels from last Saturday is getting to grips with life after the huge loss of Walthamstow Stadium and yes it is going to be hard to replace with what was without a doubt the best contract that a professional trainer could have. Although there are a few tracks which had surpassed Walthamstow's prize money levels and trainer bonusses a long time ago, nothing in my opinion could beat being attached to the famous north London track. We have had quite a few of our greyhounds at Harlow either in trials, opens or inter tracks in the last few weeks in our efforts to qualify some onto the strength and it looks as though our first official graded runner will be this week and I would be the first to admit how surprised and pleased I am at the way they have taken to the track. Plans over the coming months to improve the standard on all levels at Harlow are exciting and let's hope the vast crowds that flocked to Walthamstow can be re-directed their way.
After an exhausting last few weeks I was fortunate to be able to have a couple of days off and centred my time around the superb Emily Wood charity gala night at Hove on Thursday. Leaving the kennels early on Thursday I met up with 'Jem Racing' bookmaker Martin Johnstone at the beautiful East Brighton golf course for a three ball with one of his managers, Graham Dunn. We all played some great golf for the first five holes and despite our high handicaps (a dodgy 21 from Mr Johnstone!) we produced a birdie blitz. Sadly that's where it went all wrong for me as I managed to blob the next four holes resulting in a decisive win on the front nine for Martin. Fortunately my game picked up and, though the match was gone, pars at the last three holes gave me the back nine although it was not enough to overhaul Martin for the overall score. A stunning course that I would recommend to any one.
A quick dash followed to check in at the Queens Hotel on the sea front where I met in the bar John Jeffrey (Butterbridge Ali, Discreet Cat etc) and his colleague Danny with Dan Daley (Lockdales) joining us before we grabbed a taxi to the track. Inside the atmosphere was electric and we joined our owners' tables that included Scott, Kev, John and Alun (from the Centaur) with all their guests, also John (Eye Onthe), Darren Johnson (Kinda) with Butch, the Forsdyke family (Aero) and my guests Paul Ephremsen with Toby. The racing matched the quality of the organisation of sponsor Dave Wood (Questhouse Kennels) with Graham Holland's dogs from Ireland in scintillating form with victories from Carrib King, Broadacres Turbo and, the most impressive of the night, Handy Princess (29.49) in the Bitches race which gave him the £1000 for the night's trainer title.
Anticipation and nerves for our runners was high and first up was Arc hero Centaur Decree but a slight stumble out the traps looked to have given him no chance but the old pace that had seen him destroy the best in training pre injury was back and as he flew down the vast back straight to challenge the leaders for a second the impossible looked on but sadly his path was blocked rounding the last two bends and his lack of race fitness told as he dropped back to 5th. Still a pleasing run none the less and he will now head to Yarmouth for a crack at the East Anglian Deby. Discreet Cat in the veterans' race also mistimed his start and neither him nor the rest of the field had any answers to the evergreen Fear Haribo who won by over 5 lengths in 29.86. Tipp The Breeze was without a doubt our best chance of the night in the 695m after her fine second last Saturday at Walthamstow to the record breaking Butterbridge Ali but when she was badly impeded at the traps and the first bend a win looked remote but her class and determination saw her weave through the field to take it up on the run in and score by over a length in 42.04 much to the delight of all connections and supporters who had piled on her in the ring to be the best backed greyhound on the night. The Olympic Final was next up and my golfing buddies of the day Martin Johnstone (part owner of winner Shelbourne Rich) forgot to tell me that the dog was a good thing! The drink was now flowing and my prediction to all that was near me in the restaurant of hurdler Eye Onthe Flame being a certainty was being treated with a quick run to the track bookies and tote terminals. When he was only fourth rounding the first bend I began to look where I could make a quick exit but a dynamic burst of pace allied with some breathtaking jumping saw him pass the pace setting Stevensonrocket with little trouble and my ear popping cries of Oi Oi's had the restaurant turning in our direction. Even a slightly below par performance from Aero Blackjack could not stop what was a memorable night's racing.But still the night was young, a few more drinks before we made our way downstairs to the auction with as usual some more than generous greyhound people dipping into their pockets for a good cause. In total over £25,000 was raised on the evening with Dave Wood looking an exhausted but proud man. Hopefully this can become an annual event.
Leaving the stadium at about 1.30 a.m slightly worse for wear and relieved of £400 (free mating to Geordie Parker) from the auction, myself Scott Fraser and fellow scot Mark decided it would be rude not to join the others in the Grovesnor Casino which just happened to be next door to the hotel. Not the greatest decision of my life as Paul and Dan raped me at my favourite pastime poker for the next three hours before leaving a broken man for 1 1/2 hours sleep back at the hotel. This was because we had a pre arranged tee off at 9.20 a.m which had been booked at the magnificent London Golf Club near Brands Hatch. My partner for the day Darren Johnson is a member at this top class course and thankfully he had sloped off early from the night before and looked as fresh as a daisy when we arrived just before 9 o clock. Wisely we made the stakes decent as our opposition Scott Fraser and Paul Ephremson had the look of beaten men before we started and after the first nine holes they had done well to keep the match down to just 2 behind. With the game looking over Scott Fraser picked the right moment to impersonate Tiger Woods with two birdies (one was a bit flukey! having cleared the water protecting the green by 1/2 an inch on the long 12th par three and rolling up to the flag to about 6 inches! no seriously a glorious strike) to level the match and with my game gone and my partner struggling they failed to kill us off when given the chance. Regaining our strength of mind we recaptured the lead and with three holes to go my form returned as I parred the 16th to make it dormi with two to go and when Paul and Scott fluffed their tee shots at the 17th we took the match 2 & 1 - a great end to a fabulous couple of days.
On the racing front the high class Champion Stakes at Romford has kicked off and, as I have said before, the form of Lenson Joker and our Directors Chair is rock solid and again they both proved that they are the ones to beat with easy wins in their respective heats. Sadly Eye
Onthe Veto defending champion and winner of the last three Category 1 competitions at Romford just missed out on qualifying by a short head but was not disgraced and who knows he might still be around to try and win a third Essex Vase title later on in the year.
A friend of our kennel Anne Fanous wife of Premarket Pets Ltd owner Charles Fanous is doing a sponsored cycle ride of 350 miles in September for the worthy Marie Curie Cancer Care fund and I will be trying to help with sponsorship. If anyone would like to help they can through myself or online at http://www.justgiving.com/annefanous.
A low key start to the week with our first opens at Harlow and in the 592m Monkey Maiden Stayers heats Princess Orgarna led until caught on the run in by favourite Westmead Serin and was beaten 2 1/4 lengths in 38.47. Bell Tornado got the better of Copper Penny in a tight finish to win in 38.39 in heat 3 and in the 415m Standard Jonos Patience caused an upset when winning on merit by a short head in a good 26.12 at juicy odds of 12-1. On Thursday at Harlow the Maiden 415m saw Rusheen Classic and Rank N File finish 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Bowmers Legend in 25.95 (+20)
Hove's gala night on Thursday was covered above and on Friday the heats of the Champion Stakes over 575m at Romford started with six heats. Coolanga Flyer and Elusive Jazz managed to get in each others way when trying to qualify in heat 2 and both were knocked out. Directors Chair bolted out the traps in heat 3 and never looked like getting beat coming home in a fine 35.12 (+20) with Eye Onthe Veto unluckily being edged out in 4th. Eye Onthe Spirit battled bravely to qualify in heat 5 behind Blonde Bliss beaten just over a length in 35.64 (+20). Blackie Said So (2nd) and Roswell Startrek (3rd) both ran well in supporting races.
On Sunday a good varied card at Sittingbourne featuring the Kent Derby final and we had plenty of interest in the supporting finals and races. Pinewood Evo (2nd), Eye Onthe Flame (3rd) and Genesis Alix (2nd) all had their chances before Mooloolaba caused a surprise in the Ron Luton Memorial Stayers Final when bolting out the traps and leading all the way to win by 1 1/2 lengths in a flying 40.03. In the Redec Maiden 500m Final Corrig Vieri was crowded just at the wrong times and despite a strong finish could only finish 3rd behind Blonde Drummer beaten 2 3/4 lengths in 30.63. Butterbridge Ali is in fine form and again showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals winning by 4 1/4 lengths in 40.31.
No luck with our runners in the inter-track races on Thursday but on Saturday Rhias Beauty returned to the winner's podium after her seasonal rest scoring by 5 lengths in 38.25 (-20). In a better class 592m Genesis Sister also scored after some solid runs in defeat though she had to do it the hard way coming from behind to win by 3/4 length in 38.54 (-30).
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN RACING- MOOLOOLABA
GRADED- RHIAS BEAUTY
WHATS ON THIS WEEK
The build up to next week's Champion Stakes final begins with supporting competitions on Monday with Kinda Classic, Risky Fabio and Bell Tempest in action. Wednesday at Romford also sees more heats and the Champion Stakes semi-finals with Directors Chair pitched in with ante-post favourite Lenson Joker in a mouth watering clash. Opens are planned at Harlow on Wednesday and Thursday. The Sky card is unusually on the same night at Belle Vue and we will look to put some runners on which might include Goldcrest King and Genesis Dream. Friday at Doncaster the Carlsberg Tetley St Leger heats begin and in form duo Butterbrige Ali and Tipp The Breeze should go well. We will also be at Romford the same night in a busy week which includes trials at Yarmouth (East Anglian Derby) , Peterborough (Puppy Cesarewitch) and Belle Vue ( Manchester Puppy Cup) to try and keep our lead in the Trainers Championship.