Monday 8th December 2014
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How could winning both semi finals of the ECC Timber Oaks on Friday possibly be topped. Well it really was on Saturday as Imperial Kennels created yet another piece of history as Fairest Royal trapped superbly and led all the way to land the opening race at Towcester, the first new Greyhound track to be built for over 20 years.
Starting with Towcester all I can say is wow! If anyone had been there earlier in the week when the place still resembled a building site and the Tuesday night trials didn't finish until after midnight you had to fear the worst and say how could they possibly be ready for Saturday's opening night launch, but ready they were, and what a night! As I approached the Stadium down the A5 the moment I set eyes on the amazingly illuminated racecourse I knew then we have something special here..the car parking was a dream, the hospitality marquees looked busy an hour before racing and the magnificent Empress stand was buzzing with activity. For four years since I was first involved in the initial talks about this possible venture I dreamed of what the first night would be like and I wasn't disappointed. The track looked glorious with the HD lighting and the 100k + super screen and the Grandstand was a sight to behold. I made my way up to the top of the stand where my Racing Club had hired one of the superb spacious Hospitality Suites (holds 40 comfortably) and the view from the balcony over to the track was spectacular.
As the greyhounds came out for the first race my attention quickly focussed not just on what a momentous occasion this was for our sport but could we win this race. We created history in a sad way when we sent out the last ever winner at the much missed Walthamstow and I've always stated I wanted to have the first winner at the new Towcester. We had two chances in the shape of the well fancied Benkaat Boomer and the unfancied but consistent Fairest Royal. Matt Chapman was on hand in the commentary hot seat and was whipping up the now huge crowd. As the hare was set on its way a tremendous roar went up that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, the traps opened on the beautiful track and the runners came out in good fashion. Fairest Royal trapped in great style while Benkaat Boomer was only moderately away and as the runners all glided around the galloping and welfare friendly bends it was Fairest Royal who had the lead. From this moment I knew she wouldn't get caught and she crossed the line a couple of lengths clear to a famous victory. The presentation area just in front of the stands was buzzing and we were greeted with many well wishers and our victory was warmly applauded and received and Dick and Ann Barfoot were deserving owners who have seen the many ups and downs of our sport in the last couple of weeks.
I could write a book on the whole night but I won't bore everybody. The open races all went well and it was great to have a 1-2 in the 655m stayers heats and Vanrooney looked a shade unlucky in the feature 5k one off race. The races went off virtually on time and really the night went far too quickly, the atmosphere was electric on a chilly but bearable December night. Even I still had doubts about the two eight dog races having never been involved in them before. I need not have worried as both races were a delight with hardly any trouble, both our runners ran well and I can't wait to be involved in them again.
It was so good to see so many friends old and new and of course the initial opening was always going to attract a decent crowd. As Kevin Ackerman, the instigator of the whole project along with Lord Hesketh later told me, they haven't even begun to promote the track properly so this crowd exceeded even their wildest dreams. Praise has to go to them especially, also it was fitting that Martin White's Kilglen Chief took the £5,000 race in great style, only a handful of people know how much work Martin has done to help them get this brilliant new concept underway, why he gets some unjust public criticism is beyond me. Chris Page also had put some tireless work into making this the first new track for over 20 years come to fruition and he must have been a proud man at the end of the night. Chris is without doubt the best Racing Manager that has graced our sport in its entire history and Towcester and Greyhound racing are lucky to have him at the helm. His team of Andy Lisemore and Steve Cale in the racing office are more than helpful and a credit to the track. Praise must go to the much maligned SSS (Sports Stadium Specialists) who built the magnificent track and Jason Begg was on hand to make sure it went smoothly - on the whole a brilliant, brilliant night.
It was a memorable Friday night for the kennel as well as we travelled to Belle Vue for the semi finals of the ECC Timber Oaks and Laurels. Blue Moment battled hard to make the Laurels final for owners Miles Anderton and Steve Murphy but it was the performances of our two bitches that lit up the night. Evanta Evita, still yet to recapture her best form since a lay off, produced a stunning burst of early pace and though evident she isn't bang on form as she never really got away from the field her class saw her just hang on to win by a short head in 28.03. Cashen Maureen on the other hand is a bitch who is on fire at present and another blistering turn of foot again saw her clear at the first bend and from there she produced another scintillating display of front running. Last year's runner up Greenwell Flyer kept the winning distance down to a respectable level of just under 4 lengths and the time was an incredible 27.59 on a slow track, that was also much faster than the three Laurels semi finals! The draw for Wednesday night's £15,000 to the winner final sees Evanta Evita in trap 4 and Cashen Maureen in trap 5. Sectionals suggest that they will both arrive at the first bend together and that is already giving me sleepless nights, if ours come together the dream of a first ever Oaks winner for Imperial Kennels will quickly disappear as this will open the door for the strong runners in the race. It's no good thinking what might be because all we can do is prepare our bitches the best we can, enjoy the night and keep our fingers crossed it works out for us.
Of course it goes without saying we have to mention Tuesday night at Romford where tragedy struck in the final of the Essex Vase and it was so sad to see two dogs badly injured and ultimately put to sleep. Unusually for a Romford competition, after the semi finals where Adageo Bob and Blonde Razor were absentees it meant the make up of the final would have been different had one or both of them had lined up in it and that difference didn't make me feel too good. Obviously in any contact sport these tragedies do happen and we have to realise it is a rarety. Although it doesn't seem so important now, the kennel had an excellent night with four winners on the supporting card and it is certainly not worth saying what might have been but Adageo Bob's performance was again out of the top drawer as he put some decent rivals to the sword equalling the track record in 34.67. There were good runs also from Aayamzaone in a flying 23.76 and also Aayamzamodel stepping up in trip for the first time winning well and at last seeing Wanted get his head in front.
After Tuesday's escapades at Romford we returned to Hove on Thursday with Benkaat Nero warming up nicely for the forthcoming Coral Olympic with another good win over 515 metres (30.14). Toosey Fern also ran well when 2nd in a 475 metre race.
Friday night as said above things went well at Belle Vue and over at Romford the best performance of the night from our six runners was a return to form for Evanta Fantsy who absolutely bolted up in a decent bitches race to win by 4 3/4 lengths in a time of 23.92.
The review of Towcester is as above. Billy's Bullet and Black Francis produced a kennel 1-2 in the stayers event. In the bit Invitation Race worth £5000 to the winner Vanrooney took a hefty bump at the first bend but ran on well to finish 4th and was eye catching to the drop.
It was nice to go out with a splash at Yarmouth on the BAGS/SIS Championship final leg. Yarmouth put up a brave fight winning the leg but ultimately not making the finals. We ended a successful association with Yarmouth with a fantastic 4-timer and Swift Sandra (28.21), Saffrons Champ (28.24), Kilmagner Mike (16.39) and Rockburst Louis (28.08) all ran superb to land their legs while Benkaat Panther was a creditable 2nd and pup What A Laugh was desperately unlucky when last after just failing to make the bend in front. What a great way to go out!
TOWCESTER GRADED REVIEW
Fairest Royal landed the first ever race at Towcester in style in the Invitational Graded race in a fine 28.55. Two 8 dog graded races were one of the highlights of the whole card and Darian Star (4th 29.05) was involved in an almost blanket finish in the first 8 dog race ever staged there. In the other 8 dog race worth an outstanding £2000 to the winner Swift Sandra ran through the pack to finish 2nd (28.99) and we look forward to more of these 8 dog events.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
Wednesday will be not only one of the biggest nights of this year but could potentially be one of the biggest nights of the kennel's history as we are trying to land our first Oaks title and we have two chances with Cashen Maureen and Evanta Evita. Cornammady Jumbo, Ilewin Allot and Wanted all grace the card.
We will be back at Towcester on Friday and Saturday and opens are advertised for both nights wtih Saturday night being the gala Sky card which again should attract a huge crowd.
We are also planning a trip to Romford on Friday and unusually a rare trip to Hove on Sunday morning as the Olympic Heats over 515 metres take place.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
A fine win by Aayamzaone on Tuesday set the tone for our week as our ante post Oaks bets fairly bolted in in the semi finals and we are sitting very pretty going into Wednesday's final.
Billly's Bullet in his first run for the kennel at Towcester was most impressive and he may well be a backable price to follow up in the final on Saturday.
BILLY'S BULLET - 3 pts win - Towcester - Saturday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
EVANTA EVITA - 2.5 pts e.w ante post 12/1 - ECC Timber Oaks - Belle Vue - Final Wednesday
CASHEN MAUREEN - 2 pts e.w ante post 10/1 - ECC Timber Oaks - Belle Vue - Final Wednesday
AAYAMZAONE - 3 pts win - Romford - Tuesday - WON 11/10