Monday 15th December 2014
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Cashen Maureen was simply magnificent as she landed our first ever Oaks title on a bitterly cold and wet Wednesday evening at Belle Vue. For years this Classic has eluded Imperial Kennels and I made no secret at the start of the year that this was a major target of ours, and boy! didn't she do it in style! Paul Clark's stunning 32 kilo fawn bitch came to us only a few weeks ago and despite a very good record of 7 wins from her last 9 races with previous trainer Ted Soppit she was lame and expected not to run for our kennel until the New Year. Some brilliant work by myself and my team and especially our physio Ron Mills meant we were able to get her 80% right so she could take her chance in the Bitch's Classic. An eye catching head defeat in the heats to ante post favourite Jaytee China was most encouraging in the opening round in a fast time but we couldn't envisage what pursued in the next three rounds - an 8 length win in round two in a ultra quick 27.41 was bettered in a warm semi final timewise where she won by 3 3/4 lengths in a brilliant 27.39.
The scene was set for the £15,000 to the winner final and to make it interesting we had also qualified Evanta Evita even though Evan Herbert's flyer was still struggling to recapture her best form since a long lay off from a seasonal and injury break. A strong head wind on a cold and wet night made conditions sticky underfoot and our kennel had been out of luck both in the Laurels with Blue Moment and in supporting races, most notably when Cornamaddy Jumbo was beaten a short head in a hurdles race, so confidence in our runners in the final was beginning to fade. We need not have worried as Cashen Maureen smashed out the boxes whilst Evanta Evita was held up as trap 3 Bromwich Sue broke in front of her but there was no stopping Cashen Maureen as she comfortably led round the first bend. Evanta Evita, whose only chance was to lead, scrambled into second place but was crowded at the 3rd bend before dropping away to finish 5th, a good effort nonetheless. Meanwhile, as in the previous two rounds, Cashen Maureen was bowling along in front and she majestically strode out to score by 3 1/4 lengths from Bromwich Sue (ran a blinder) to take the ECC Timber Oaks in a superb calculated time of 27.29.
The celebrations were great afterwards and all the connections with owner Paul Clark were thrilled to bits with Maureen's victory. I have to thank all my staff for this stunning victory especially Kevin Ulla who had made some hazardous journeys in previous rounds to get our runners to the track. Of course it goes without saying a big thank you also to our physio Ron Mills for his expertise in making sure Cashen Maureen was 100% sound throughout the event, thanks also to P J Fahy for his generous sponsorship of both the Oaks and Laurels finals.
Myself and Kevin returned from Manchester well after 3 am and it was a good job I had a satisfying feeling as within an hour and half it was time to start getting our dogs out and loaded for a mammoth trial session at Towcester on Thursday morning. With all our staff and 25 dogs on the vans and safely en route to Towcester it was left to me on my own to finish the morning's let out and breakfast until Sarah arrived after doing the school run. A busy day followed with preparing our weekend runners whilst feeding and paddocking the rest of the kennel. Ron Mills was also back weaving his magic for us and I can honestly say by the time I'd finished around 7pm and sorted all the trial dogs out upon their return I was thoroughly shattered! I managed to just about stay awake long enough to see Blackstone Marco and Vanfrenchie win their heats of the Cesarewitch at Henlow that night, it's tough at the top but I love it!
The Grand Opening of Towcester Greyhounds would of course 99% of the time have been my opening headline but for winning an Oaks! Anyway after last week's brilliant first meeting a much quieter Friday night card of both graded and minor opens all went very well. A decent crowd again enjoyed the top facilities available at Towcester and it was good to see none of our six runners out of the first three with two winners on the night. On to Saturday and owner Lord Hesketh officially opened the new Greyhound track and Sky Sports covered the meeting on a rare Saturday night. A brilliant card with some top Irish stars made it another special night and though not as big a crowd as the week before, mainly due I would say to below freezing temperatures, the atmosphere was superb. Even a hare malfunction in the first race didn't spoil a great evening and on the whole I was delighted with the way our 8 runners performed, despite only having one winner. That winner Vanrooney, stepping up in trip for the first time, lifted the roof off the stand when winning the 686m Stayers race and he could have a tremendous 2015 for the kennel.
There is such a great feeling at Towcester and everyone I have spoke to is right behind Lord Hesketh and his team in his quest to bring the sport into the 21st century! I'm proud to be a trainer at Towcester and they make you feel that way. The next few meetings will see many of the Greyhounds that have been qualifying in graded trials over the last few weeks on the cards in a mixture of 6 and 8 dog racing. Yes of course it will be difficult to match the first three nights but I for one can't wait for the next meeting!
It was a pleasure this week to be the only trainer invited to the annual Greyhound Writers Luncheon in the centre of London at the lovely Simpsons Tavern. Many owners with potential Greyhound Of The Year winners were also invited including our Cornamaddy Jumbo's Scott Fraser who flew down from Scotland for a long weekend and he presented a decent case for a Jumbo victory both on RPGTV last Saturday and at the Luncheon on Monday. Tt was a superb day well organised by Jonathan Hobbs and I can honestly say there is a real buzz about our sport at the moment with Towcester being the main reason for renewed optimism.
Last week we topped 1,000 points in the Trainer Of The Year battle and I would love to get up to 300 winners. By the end of the week we were up to 270 so may just fall short of that target but no doubt it's even a brilliant 2014 for the kennel and an Oaks winner to savour! Lovely jubbly.
On Wednesday we travelled to Belle Vue and came back with the prestigious Oaks winner Cashen Maureen, not much luck in the supporting races though with Cornamaddy Jumbo unluckily caught right on the line in a 460m hurdle race.
On Thursday our three entries in the Henlow Cesarewitch all made it through to this week's semi finals with Vanfrenchie (33.56) and Blackstone Marco (33.43) both scoring and Rosealinda dead heating for second.
On Friday a mixed card of opens and graders at Towcester was interesting. In the opens Vanfrankie caused his own trouble when cutting in at the bend before finishing 3rd. Swift Sandra ran well but had every chance when 2nd in a Maiden Stayers while Benkaat Dolly was 3rd over 480m. Win machine Domino Storm has showed a real liking for the new circuit and despite only just coming out of season blasted out to make all in a 480m Standard to hold on to win in 28.79 on a slow but good track.
Over at Romford a decent night with 2 winners from our 6 runners. Do It For Twiggy was 2nd over 575m and Evanta Fantasy a very good runner up in the top 400m race with wins for Huggies Buck (24.43) and Blonde Razor taking the top 575m race by over 4 lengths in 35.25.
In Saturday's big gala opening meeting at Towcester the well fancied Billys Bullet missed his break from trap 5 in the WilliamHill.com Stayers Final and could only finish a running on 3rd with Black Francis in front of him who ran well when trying to catch pace setter Holdem Hawk going down by a 1 1/4 lengths in 39.42. In the William Hill Super Stayers over 684m a high class field produced a thriller with Vanrooney, stepping up in trip for the first time, holding off the strong challenge of Chicago and Tough Tackle. In the big race of the night the Towcester versus Ireland challenge worth £5,000 to the winner Adageo Bob ran a blinder when second to the impressive Peter Cronin trained Metro Jack beaten a length in 28.43 as the track began to slow down. Aayamzamodel despite being favourite ran well when 3rd in the 655m race, overall a superb night.
Our week was completed as we travelled down to Hove Sunday morning for the heats of the Olympic and Benkaat Nero completed a hat trick of open wins when winning by 4 lengths in 30.59 (-50) with Evanta El Greco back in 5t. Jimmy Nailed On just failed to qualify when 4th in his heat.
TOWCESTER GRADED REVIEW
On a chilly Friday night a few graded races along with some opens saw a fine win for Rockburst Louis in 28.72 (-20) with Aero Gerry leading in another A4 before finishing 3rd. An eight dog graded race on Saturday went well despite being a rerun after the hare stopped at the first attempt and though Benkaat Boomer was only 7th he will win his fair share.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
A quieter week after the hectic one last week. On Thursday we will be entering both Billys Bullet and Vanrooney in the Ballyregan Bob Memorial race.
We will be at Romford on Friday and back to Hove on Sunday with Benkaat Nero in the Olympic semi final.
Towcester this week gives the graded dogs a chance to shine and we will have some interesting newcomers.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
Cashen Maureen brilliantly took the ECC Timber Oaks at Belle Vue on Wednesday giving our supporters a nice pay day just before Christmas. Evanta Evita agonisingly got caught close home for that vital 4th place which would have made it an even better result.
Looking at the week ahead it's difficult to see a bet for the Christmas bonus but I have a feeling that the Towcester card on either Friday or Saturday could see another win for Fairest Royal who is in love with the track.
FAIREST ROYAL - 3 pts win - Towcester - Friday/Saturday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
CASHEN MAUREEN - 2 pts e.w ante post 10/1 - ECC Timber Oaks - Belle Vue - WON 25 pts profit
EVANTA EVITA - 2.5 pts e.w ante post 14/1 - ECC Timber Oaks - Belle Vue - lost
BILLYS BULLET - 3 pts win - Towcester - Saturday - lost