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IMPERIAL KENNELS - 1989-2005 - LINDA JONES

Linda Jones and her husband Doug moved to Lakenheath in 1989 and formed the now famous Imperial Kennels.  Starting with four racing greyhounds and a couple of litters of pups set in the Suffolk countryside the kennel quickly established themselves on the local tracks of Swaffham, Mildenhall and Yarmouth.  Mark Wallis joined Linda in 1990 and with daughter Sarah (Mark’s future wife) the family business gradually built a kennel strength of over 30 race dogs.  Imperial Kennels was also now being recognised on the open race scene and Linda’s favourite dog Lonely Mixture achieved their first big win at Bristol winning the William Hilll Sprint Championship. Lonely Mixture

Linda’s major breakthrough came in 1994 when gaining a lucrative contract at Romford and, with the kennel picking up bigger prizes and attracting more quality greyhounds, the scene was set for Linda’s rise to the top.  1998 was a special year with the kennel breaking through the 100 open race winners in a year for the first time - 138 winners in all putting Linda into 7th place in the Trainers Championship. Better news came when one of the top six trainers dropped out of the Trainers Championship Meeting (top six invites only) at Walthamstow and Linda was drafted in as first reserve. Despite being 100-1 outsiders, Linda’s team brilliantly won the meeting.  1999 also saw one of the winning greyhounds from the championship meeting, Secret Crystal,  perform admirably to provide the kennel with their first Greyhound Derby Finalist, finishing a creditable 4th.

Honky Tonk GirlOn 1 November 1999 Linda took another major step on the road to success when landing a contract at the country’s premier track Walthamstow. This was to prove a major success as a month later Honky Tonk Girl raced to glory in the Essex Vase at former track Romford to give Imperial Kennels its first Category One success. This was quickly followed up with Mumble Swerve winning the Eclipse Final at Nottingham a couple of weeks later.

The Millennium Year was another outstanding year with 212 open race winners and 632 points that propelled Linda to second place in the Trainers Championship behind Linda Mullins.  Courts Legal’s East Anglian Derby and Laurels success in the space of a  few weeks was the highlight of a year which also provided the kennel’s second Derby Finalist Greenfield Deal who was a creditable third behind Rapid Ranger.

2001 was to provide not just Linda and the kennel with an incredible year, it was also to see the triple Category One winner Kinda Magic - Pall Mall (Oxford), Golden Sprint (Romford) and Peterborough Derby, burst onto the scene.  Along with Pinewood Blue (Kent Derby at Sittingbourne) Imperial Kennels raced to an incredible 235 open race winners and 1001 points enabling Linda Jones to be crowned Champion Trainer of 2001.

Ronnies FlightThe success continued in 2002 with Kinda Magic making it four Category Ones when retaining the Golden Sprint at Romford.  With Vancouver Jet winning the Arc at home track Walthamstow and Top Power winning the Essex Vase at Romford alongside prolific open racer Rossa Ranger (leading open racer of 2002), Linda and Imperial Kennels ran up an amazing tally of 323 open race winners and 1081 points to land a second Champion Trainer title.

2003 (3rd) and 2004 (5th) were reasonably quiet years with Special Trick (2003) and Ronnies Flight (2004) being the only Category One successes when landing the Grand Prix at home track Walthamstow.   These enabled Linda to amass 13 Category One successes before deciding due to ill health to step down from training with Mark Wallis and her daughter Sarah taking over the reins at Imperial Kennels.

Linda has happily regained her heath and now works tirelessly with greyhound welfare and family commitments and is still on hand to help Mark if called upon.  Her past achievements and continuing work endorse her legendary status in the greyhound industry.

IMPERIAL KENNELS - 2005-PRESENT - MARK WALLIS

After taking over the training from his mother-in-law Mark kept the Imperial Kennels success story going straight away, although after a few near misses in finals few people could have predicted the amazing success to come in 2005.  Fear No One’s Peterborough Puppy Derby win was to start an avalanche of big race wins, Go Commando providing Mark with the first important category One win in the Gymcrack Puppy Final at Hall Green when fairly bolting up in an incredible 28.11 (2 spots outside the track record).  Fear No One then went on to win the Peterborough Derby and the East Anglian Derby (Yarmouth).  Ronnies Champion (Nottingham Puppy Classic), Bell Legend (Steel City Cup at Sheffield), Fear Assassin (Romford Puppy Cup) and Lethal Rumble(Grand National) were all pivotal in making Mark Champion Trainer 2005 at the first time of asking with 1445 points and 305 winners.

Star of Dromin2006 started a bit slowly and didn’t get going until the Trainers Championship Meeting at Wimbledon in March and although not as big a price (10/1) as when Linda won in 1999 (100/1) the kennel bolted in with some great winners like the “Queen of Walthamstow” Star of Dromin.  Category One winners were to come in the shape of Fear Robben (Nottingham Puppy Classic) and January Tiger leading home an unbelievable 1-2-3-4 for the kennel in the Grand Prix at the Stow.  Roswell Starship (Puppy Cup Romford) and current sensation  Eye onthe Veto who won the Essex Vase at Romford in December to completed another excellent year with 329 winners and over 1131 points amassed.

2007 started very well for Imperial Kennels with Eye onthe Veto’s success in the Category 1 Emerald Cup at Coventry being the highlight early on. We had big runs from Butterbridge Ali who’s second in the important Monmore Puppy Derby behind Rough Ronaldhinho was a great achievement. This followed Ali’s runner up spot in January’s Zigzag Puppy Championship. Raging Jack reached two big finals (Birmingham Cup and the Walthamstow Arc) while Daisyfield Seani and Blackmagic Guy were second and third respectively in the Golden Jacket.

This year’s Trainer’s Championship meeting was held at Hall Green. We defended our title won the previous year at Wimbledon with great credit and only lost on the last leg after an epic battle with Charlie Lister. A great performance by all our team and encouraging for the year’s target of regaining our Champion Trainer title in which by the end of the month we had a 100 point advantage over our rivals. April was the launch of this highly acclaimed web site and Centaur Decree was a great Ocean Trailers winner.Eye onthe Veto Our next big race winner in September came in the shape of Eye Onthe Veto in Romford's £10,000 to the winner Champion Stakes. Plenty of finalists but no wins until that fine specimen of a greyhound Eye Onthe Veto won his fourth Category 1 race in his career when defending his Essex Vase title, a feat that earned him a nomination for 'Greyhound of the Year'. Directors Chair was a fine 4th in the St Leger final and confirmed the promise when winning the Midland St Leger at Hall Green. We ended the year in 3rd place in the trainers' standings with 276 winners and 926 points, about 72 points behind winner Charlie Lister.
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2007 HERE

 

Centaur Decree2008 Well here we are again, the end of another year and wow! what a year! Our kennel has proudly won back the Trainers Championship we last won in 2005 with some 315 open race wins that included the magnificent performance of Centaur Decree in the £13,000 to the winner Ladbrokes Arc Final recording our 15th Category 1 win in four years. 2008 included twelve Category 1 finalists (1 win, 3 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 fourth, 2 fifth, 1 sixth and 1 ko'd,) four Category 2 winners and twenty Category 3 winners + 19 wins on Sky TV which got us up to 985 points for the year, over 200 points clear of our nearest rival Seamus Cahill.

Ourselves and the sport have had to suffer the dramatic loss this year with the closure of Walthamstow Stadium in August and along with the downturn in the economic climate we have survived with our heads held high. Still with all this Greyhound racing has seen some phenomenal stars on the track with the likes of Boherna Best, Lenson Joker, Bubbly Totti and Flying Winner who are all fighting for the Greyhound Of The Year title and with ambitious plans for stadiums like Harlow and Henlow and a new ruling body in the GBGB there is a strong hope that the future of the sport can grow again.
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2008 HERE

 

2009 will go down in history as a stellar year for Imperial Kennels. Even after I have put it down in writing it is still hard to believe we achieved so much. Where do we start?

Kinda ready Derby Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes looking back over 2009 we do have to pinch ourselves, can you believe it! Our first Greyhound Derby winner in Kinda Ready sprouting wings to catch Charlie Lister's Fear Zafonic, so sweet !

Kinda Easy St Leger Winner

 

 

A brilliant double for owners and kennel with our first St Leger winner as well from Kinda Easy in an epic duel with our own Droopys Zach who himself had been a revelation for most of the year landing a Category 1 Summer Stayers at Monmore.

 

 

 

The second richest prize a whopping £40,000 was landed with the ultra consistent Jogadusc Ace in the William Hill Classic at Sunderland. The year started and finished well with the scintillating victories of Bomber Bailey in the Springbok and Corrig Vieri in the Arc at Swindon and then the emergence of Eye Onthe Storm who went on an amazing run of eleven consecutive wins landing both the Puppy Classic and the Eclipse in glorious fashion at Nottingham propelling him to Derby favouritism for 2010.

Not forgetting some great performances from the likes of Eye Eye Pickle, Eye Onthe Flash, Kindred Sparky and many more. We broke records galore in our defence of the Trainers Championship ending the year some 585 points clear of our rivals in amassing 1,327 points with our kennel being the first ever to pass the £250,000 barrier in win prize money. In total we finished with 322 open race wins at a healthy strike rate of 25.7 %.

In what was an astounding year we won over £250,000 in win prize money, a record for the sport, we landed 7 Category 1's including a Derby and St Leger and had 322 open race winners scoring over 1,300 points nearly double our nearest rival Charlie Lister. What a year!
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2009 HERE

 

2010 It has to be said looking back on 2010 it has mostly been a year to forget.Eye on the Storm Blue Riband We were always going to struggle to beat an epic 2009 with our record breaking efforts but after a slow start to the year we picked up nicely in March and at the end of the month were standing on top of the world after a dramatic win in the Trainers Championship meeting at Doncaster with superstar Eye Onthe Storm clinching a nail biting victory in the last leg to land us the title we had not won since 2006. Eye Onthe Storm landed us our only Category 1 success of 2010 with an unbeaten run in the Blue Riband at Hall Green and was a clear Greyhound Derby favourite going into the first round way back at the end of April with us standing some 80 points clear at the top of the Trainers Championship standings. The whole story is well described in the review below but no one will forget in a hurry how the injuries to the likes of Eye Onthe Storm, Bomber Bailey, Eye Eye Pickle, Droopys Zach, Corrig Vieri, and to a certain extent Kinda Ready, Blonde Snapper and Blonde Ross have had on our year. We finished third in the Trainers Championship behind Charlie Lister in second with a first title going to a well deserved Seamus Cahill who had the kind of year we had previously, of course without that magical Derby win.
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2010 HERE

Another year gone and one we can reflect on with pride. Altogether in 2011 we had four Category 1 winners, two Category 2 winners and 11 Category 3 winners as well two valuable one off races (see below). We amassed £120,940 in win prize money and had 216 open race winners (the GBGB table only shows 204 but we had a dozen open wins in races off less than £150 that don't count towards the Trainers Championship). We scored 857 points which in most years would be good enough to win the title but Chris Allsopp had an exceptional year and he and his team just shaded us by 30 points and congratulations to Chris. Looking back at my review through the months I'm kicking myself over a few hard luck stories and the fact that back in August Sittingbourne were only a few quid short to make the Kent Derby that we won with Jazz Apollo a Category 1 and not a Category 2 that scored 30 less points, exactly what we lost the title by!

The highlight of the year was without question the sensational double at the William Hill Festival of racing at Sunderland. Blonde Fletch landed the richest staying race of the year worth £15,000 namely the William Hill Grand Prix in a tight finish and then a race later Blonde Snapper broke the track record when scorching to victory in the William Hill Classic worth a fabulous £25,000. I gave this as the performance of the year as Blonde Snapper had been hit by some serious injuries and was a first round elimination in the Derby when well fancied to land outright honours but bounced back to prove to everybody that he could win a big one. What a great night for both ourselves and owner Mark Currell!

Blonde Fletch is one of a few dogs that's worthy of a mention. At the start of the year he was well known as a bit of a clumsy but fast four bend runner but I had always said that when he was stepped up to a distance with a bit more of a gallop he would be sensational and indeed he proved me right. As well as the Grand Prix he landed the Category 1 Regency at Hove as well as two Category 3's and the valuable Betfred Select Stayers at Nottingham. Both he and Lil Risky were the leading open racers in the country of 2011 with 19 open race wins to their name.

Lil Risky had a tremendous year and after being sent down to us by the astute Jimmy Fenwick who kept a share in him with Scott Fraser and Brian Usher he won a little Maiden stake at Romford and then just improved out of sight. Before the end of July he won another three titles at Romford and then dropped down to two bends he took some notable scalps and won at five different tracks.

The superbly welll bred Jazz Apollo came along slowly at the start of the year but after a decent run in the Derby he was quickly making waves in the four bend department and his highlight was a Westmead Hawk type finish to land the Kent Derby at Sittingbourn. 15 open wins altogether in 2011 dosen't quite tell you how unlucky he was not to have captured another big one or two in 2011 but maybe 2012 will be his year.

 

Aero Majestic only had his first race in May but it wasn't long before he was stepped up in trip and he looked a serious prospect. I thought the St Leger might have come too soon for him but 'boy' did he prove us wrong. Showing a scintillating burst of pace he took an 8 length lead by the third bend that was never going to be pegged back. A terrific win not just for the kennel but his patient owners the Forsdike family who had at last landed that elusive Category 1 classic.

 

All the dogs just mentioned have been recognised in the nominations at the forthcoming GBGB awards night though I think Blonde Fletch is the most likely to pick up an award on the night, still a great thrill just to be nominated.

Other dogs that have served us well in 2011 include Bourne Masons, Dalcash Scolari (now retired), Rookery Pedro, Mountjoy Orion and Ayamzagirl who was one of the most talked about greyhounds all year. She ended up being the top Sky dog with six wins during a great year full of ups and downs. She should have been nominated in the Marathon Category but her indiscretion when disqualified at Crayford counted against her.

The industry in general has faced some tough times for the last three or four years in a tough economic climate and I won't lie when I say we have came close to calling it a day on a few occasions this year with ever spiralling costs making it almost impossible to run a profitable kennel which in turn makes it difficult to keep loyal staff in a job and with more and more owners who seem to be dropping out of the game it's almost impossible just to make ends meet but looking back on the year I wouldn't swap my job for anything and we will have to go bankrupt before I packed in doing what I love.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We haven't lost any tracks in 2011 and at last the bookmakers who control the purse strings in our industry are beginning to realise that in Greyhound racing they make huge profits and they need to put some more money back in to keep that alive. The new 'Owners Bonus Series' and the Bags/Begs 'Intertrack' are hopefully the start of things to come. We have a new dedicated Greyhound channel and Sky still do a fantastic job of showcasing our great sport. The GBGB have their critics and I for one urge them to talk to the likes of GOBATA who can help them to stop any further decline but overall they are getting things right. GOBATA have not gone away like so many similar organisations in the past and in its chairman Martin White we have a proper gentleman who is passionate to keep our sport alive. The promise of a 'Premier League' has turned into a fact because of GOBATA which in itself has sparked some in the sport to 'up their game'. Walthamstow is still not dead and buried yet and we have SOS to thank for that. Talks of a new track at Towcester and the return of the fantastic galloping track at Coventry are all probabilities rather than pipe dreams so the future is brighter than this time last year. I truly hope we can say this time next year that our sport is healthy than it's ever been and that Imperial Kennels is still where it belongs, at the top!

Talking of the future, I do feel we are starting 2012 with a decent squad of dogs that can help us go one better than in 2011. I am currently just doing a 'Class of 2012' on our Feature Page that will show all our kennel strength individually and owners can download and fill in a Q & A form and I'm sure some will make interesting reading! I will take this opportunity to thank all my loyal owners that have supported us through thick and thin and hope they continue to do so in the future.

Once again I would like to also say a big thank you to all my full time staff Patrick, Pete and Sid, also to Cheryl for her hard work as well as Kevin, Ria and Duane who help out, to our Physio Ron Mills for his continued expertise, a big big thank you to my mother in law Linda for all her help and support and most importantly to my wife Sarah, not just for putting up with me! but for all the work in the background that nobody sees without which we couldn't function. Thanks again to Mick and Maureen for their unselfish work producing this superb website and to all my suppliers and friends that support our kennel. Here's to a great 2012 be lucky!
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2011 HERE

 

2012 Well where do we start!! What a year! I don't think I've experienced as many emotions in this one year as I have in the previous seven since I took over the licence at Imperial Kennels, a second Greyhound Derby victory that you could write a film about from the magnificent Blonde Snapper being the ultimate highlight of a stellar 2012 on the track. A fourth Trainers Championship for the kennel and one that I will cherish for the rest of my training days. Politically the sport has also seen a wave of emotions but for me it's all about the stars on the track and this year we can talk about plenty and for deserving owner Mark Currell and his family his greyhound dreams have more than come true.

Blonde Snapper Derby Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the start of the year, having just lost out narrowly to the emerging force of Chris Allsopp in the Trainers Championship in 2011, our kennel was rocked by the news that long time assistant and friend Patrick Janssens was leaving to seek other business interests which left many sceptics predicting our kenne's downfall. With Charlie Lister still running a high class kennel you could never rule him out of adding a fifth Trainers Championship and young guns Matt Dartnall, Dean Childs and Kelly FIndlay all looking to get their first but most importantly Paul Young's well backed kennel it was going to be tough to reclaim the crown we last won in 2009.

The new Betdaq Premier League organised by GOBATA proved a success at both Yarmouth and Doncaster and we were more than pleased to recruit the experienced Gary Crathern to our staff. We got off to a good start with Ayamzaman, Aero Majestic, Lil Risky and Aero Joker all in scintillating form. The decision to race the rested Blonde Snapper harder and at Romford proved one of my better ones and, after landing the Coral On TV Standard Final, a few weeks later on his return to Romford he landed our first Category 1 of the year with a scintillating burst of middle pace in the Millennium Stand Bookmakers Golden Sprint. Could it get better? yes it most certainly could and a second Greyhound Derby win for our kennel completed Blonde Snapper and his owner Mark Currell's fairytale, my excellent blog is still worth a read on the whole Derby experience.

Lil RiskyA quieter spell in the summer for the kennel saw Paul Young mount a serious challenge and I was almost regretting the bold statement I made that I would streak naked around Yarmouth in January if we lost the Trainers Championship but crucially one of the best dogs to ever grace Imperial Kennels Lil Risky deservedly won his first Category 1 event the Peterborough Derby while the rocket that is Glanmire Lad landed the Coral Romford Puppy Cup but still Youngy was hot on our heels. The last three months of the year were completely dominated by Blonde Reagan who landed our first ever TV Trophy and followed up with the brilliant double of the Stayers crown winning the William Hill St Leger putting the small matter of the Trainers Championship to bed.

Blonde Reagan St Leger Winner

In all in 2012 we won 252 opens (11 not recorded as they were worth less than £150) and amassed nearly £242,000 in winning prize money. We finished with an astonishing 1215 Trainers Championship points some 331 points ahead of our nearest rival. We won six Category 1's including the Derby, four Category 2's and ten Category 3 titles in an extraordinary year.

 

 

The sport has had some real problems this year with the financial plight of many trainers seeing discontent on a large scale. A new GTA election, the first for 13 years, has seen Rick Holloway in the Chairperson seat and he has certainly caused waves. The GRA have shown their true colours with only one thing on their minds and that is to be nothing more than property speculators and the closure of Oxford has left a sour taste in all our mouths. The final nail in the coffin for a return of Walthamstow Stadium was put in by Boris Johnson and we still await the opening of Towcester. Coventry's return under the leadership of Harry Findlay was the brightest note of the whole year. RPGTV is still with us and has a chance of becoming very successful but sadly Sky as we know it after 15 years of coverage has come to an end which has already caused some big events at the start of the year to be scrapped. This must be rectified or we could face huge problems. The GTA will push for better prize money both graded and especially open racing which has been completely ignored over the last few years and both the GBGB and BGRF will have to change their stance on a few things or I can only see major disputes from those they are supposed to serve in the very near future.
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2012 HERE

2013 After riding the crest of a wave at the end of a monumental 2012 not even in my wildest dreams could I predict what an eventful and emotional roller coaster of a ride 2013 was going to be! Where do I start?

You would think after all that success in the year before things would come a little easier, the expected burst of new owners with top class canine talent banging on our door never happened and if I'm brutally honest that was disappointing, so much so that at the start of the year we had around 70 race dogs but by the end of the year we have only around 40 which really makes what we have achieved this year in winning a 5th Trainer Of The a Year Championship all the more unbelievable! along the way staff have came and gone and I owe so much to the loyal staff who surround me and to my wife Sarah and Mother in law Linda without which none of our success would be possible.

Yes a 5th Trainers Championship wow! one that has seen a different leader each month for the last 6 or 7 months of the year and the battle between ourselves Charlie Lister, Paul Young and Chris Allsopp has seen us all trade at odds on with the sponsors Ladbrokes at some point in the year, with only 6 or 7 weeks of the year left and over a 100 points behind the leaders we were actually quoted at 25/1 to retain our title but a stupendous November and December saw us amazingly win the title by a clear 76 points, the performances of Reel Trickyone, Adageo Bob and Bridge Honcho to name but a few were truly brilliant in that time.


Reel Trickyone wins Coral Essex Vase

A historic achievement for the kennel was reached early in December as Reel Trickyone landed our kennels 50th Category 1 title, when winning the Coral Essex Vase , since Linda trained Honky Tonk Gal to win the same race back in 1999, I have been fortunate to have been involved in all 50 victory's including two Greyhound Derby winners and I was struggling to hold my emotions as I held Reel Trickyone on the podium that monumental night!

After a good start to the year we were rocked by some injuries to top class dogs as the season progressed, dogs like Castlebride Dan, who I actually fancied to go a long way in the Derby, and Glanmire Lad were a real blow to our kennel, Glanmire Lads short but very good career came to an end after sustaining a broken hock when leading a hot 400m race at Romford, of course injuries will always play a part in our sport and like those above the greyhounds can be fixed to make great pets but we had more than our fair share in 2013, Planning, Benkaat Boy and Baran Bugatti were other top performers to be forced into retirement far to early while high profile runners Garryglass Rodge and Benkaat Nero both owned by a luckless Dan Daley have missed a large part of the season through long term injuries, if that was not enough owner Peter Bridges two superstars Bridge Honcho and Bridge Ruth suffered career ending injuries in the very last week of the season, both won top class competitions and races in 2013 but that is small consolation as both had a lot more to offer on the track in 2014.

As well as an injury hit season we have said goodbye on the track to 2011/2012 stalwarts Lil Risky, Jazz Apollo and Blonde Reagan and what brilliant dogs they have been for Imperial Kennels, all irreplaceable, we suffered two spells of poor form that had many critics saying we were on the slide and couldn't win the Trainers title, our 2012 Owner Of The Year Mark Currell decided half way through the season that he needed a break from the sport and was to sell his current crop of greyhounds, respectful of his wishes it was still a huge blow to our kennel

So what were the highs of 2013? after all we secured 1027 points only 188 less than 2012 where we won a Derby, St Leger and a T.V Trophy amongst others, we had 218 open race winners in total again only 34 less than 2012 and remember this year we had no Sky in place until March and the open race scene was vary bare in the first two months of the year. In any trainers books winning four Category 1's, four Category 2's and 6 Category 3's in a year would be incredible but I suppose after 2012 we would only be described as reasonably successful, to me we have achieved this under immense pressure and without such depth in quality and numbers as in previous years and that's something we can be proud of more than anything.

Bridge Ruth was an inspiration all year, so good sometimes, so unlucky others, a major title looked likely to elude her but if there was one track built for her then that track is Hove and in the Brighton Belle she showed just how good she is with a scintillating 7 1/2 lgth success in a flying 29.44 calc, as much as two or three of our kennel stars won bigger races she is our websites choice for our Greyhound Of The Year.

There can be no doubt Reel Trickyone is a close second and would win by a mile if he had had another month earlier in the year like December, a Category 1 title in the Essex Vase at the start of the month was followed up by the Category 2 Henlow Cesarewitch at the end of the month, believe me this clever little dog knows he's no.1 in the kennel at present as he struts around the place with his head held high!


Adageo Bob wins British Breeders Stakes

Adageo Bob (formerly Blonde Bobby) along with Blonde Razor were two of Mark Currell's higher profile dogs put up for sale and after a month of no takers with a few forumites saying they were only expensive graders, Dick and Ann Barfoot of Glanmire Lad fame stepped in to buy the pair of them, they were quickly rewarded with a plethora of wins and Trophy's by both but most importantly Adageo Bob won their second Category 1, almost a year to the day since Glanmire Lad won the Romford Puppy Cup for them, in a nail biting finish he just got up on the line to take the inaugural British Breeders Stakes at Nottingham sparking a superb run of form for the kennel, a brave runner up to Reel Trickyone in the Essex Vase last month must make him the bargain buy of the year in the whole sport, and there will be more to come in 2014! despite having his moments we still haven't seen the best of Blonde Razor yet but I'm positive he can be a big race winner!

Hometown Honey was immense in our Trainer Of The Year battle winning our first Category 1 of the year at Sunderland after a thrilling finish to the William Hill Grand Prix she dead heated with Ted Soppit's Calzaghe Lilly, when she is in form she is as good as any stayer in the country as scalps of superstars like Farloe Tango proves and her wins in December were crucial, she should still be a force in 2014.


Bridge Honcho wins The Eclipse

Bridge Honcho is the fairytale story of 2014 as well documented, brilliantly fast he came back from a broken tibia bone last December to record some stunning trials, his racing comeback has been hit and miss and it looked as if that Category 1 success was beyond him, a finalist in the Sussex Cup and the East Anglian Derby were great efforts and eliminations in the first rounds of the Derby, All England Cup and Olympic were all unlucky, it seemed his best chances had gone but a victory in a hot heat of the Betfred Eclipse at Nottingham was followed up with destructive semi-final win, still not over fancied in a class final containing category 1 winners he popped out the boxes and cleared the dangers at the first bend, staying on strongly he crossed the line over 3 lgths to the good in a stunning 29.29 winning a first ever Category 1 for his delighted owner Peter Bridges,most definitely the performance of the year from our kennel, obviously losing him and Ruth from the track doesn't bare thinking about.

Others of note have to be Aayamzabella who was unfortunate to come to the fore in a very hot marathon division this year but she still had her moments and broke three track records at Coventry and more notably Newcastle and Sittingbourne, not yet three years old she should still be a major player in the 2014 T.V Trophy, Aero Twizzle has shown awesome early pace and he could be a real force in the sprinting division in 2014, Bridge Bandit won plenty of races without being noticed this year, Jazz Tilly had some fine moments and Ayamzaman though lacking that vital yard of pace of old still notched up plenty of wins, Murlens Crash was an unexpected hero in December when we needed one, Garryglass Rodge was much talked about in 2013 but injury has meant he hasn't reached his full potential yet, he may well do that in 2014 and still remains our main Derby hope as we stand today.

As for the industry as a whole in November I decided to take a step back from the politics of the sport, I relinquished my roles on the GTA and GBGB Committees to concentrate on our business that at one point seemed like it was in real trouble but hopefully we are now going the right way, trying to balance the books as a greyhound trainer is nigh on impossible and I feel I have done my bit for the cause and have to leave that part to others now, I did find the GBGB side of things a real eye opener and can see things from both sides of the fence, to me if anything goes wrong in our business the buck stops with me and I know it, I wish the same could be said for the GBGB, to me our leadership at the top has to take a leaf out of my book and give up other things to concentrate solely on the job in hand, the main part of that job is to negotiate with off shore bookmakers and make them understand that we have a seriously underfunded industry, that is an industry that gives them loads of turnover and decent profit margins!
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2013 HERE

2014 will go down as a very special year in the history of Imperial Kennels for many reasons. Writing the review below has taken many hours but it's certainly been most enjoyable when you read back what we have achieved in a fascinating 12 months.

In a year where I celebrated my 50th birthday we superbly won our third Trainer Of The Year award in succession and in the ten years since I have taken over the reins from my mother in law Linda Jones we have now won this title six times.

 

This year it was gained really through a fantastic start to the year, the magnificent first four home in the Coronation Cup led by the brilliant Reel Trickyone in January paved the way for a year where we simply just didn't stop having winners.

 

 

Hometown Honey

 

The highlights were undoubtably our first Golden Jacket winner with one of my favourite all time bitches in Hometown Honey and probably even more notably our kennel's first ever Oaks winner with the brilliant Cashen Maureen, something I had purposely set out to win this year.

 

 

Cornamaddy Jumbo

 

We made history in two different ways. Cornamaddy Jumbo will go down as possibly the sport's all time best competition hurdler ever as he unbelievably won all three major hurdles events in 2014 starting with the Springbok and the Champion Hurdle at Wimbledon and then gloriously landing the Grand National at Sittingbourne. His honours might not have finished yet as he's a leading player in the Greyhound Of The Year award later this month.

 

 

 

Our other history making achievement was a promise I made to myself some three years ago when I said we would have the first winner at Towcester and this came true when Fairest Royal scored on a memorable first night at the first new venue to our sport for nearly 20 years.

Cashen Maureen
Cashen Maureen wins The Oaks

So Towcester, yes here is the future of not only our sport but our kennel. We left Yarmouth with a burst of winners in the Bags/SIS Championship and we had nearly five happy years at the East Anglian venue and a big thank you to the Franklin family for all their help in that time. We now will concentrate on Towcester and all that is promised there and I feel our future is safe in the hands of Lord Hesketh and his team led by the breath of fresh air that is Kevin Ackerman. It's a pleasure working with Racing Manager Chris Page again and we are all looking forward to 2015.
SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2014 HERE

Our exploits in 2014 with the likes of Cornamaddy Jumbo, Hometown Honey and Casheen Maureen was always going to be a hard act to follow in 2015 but boy! did we give it a good go, it's fair to say we totally dominated the Trainer Of The Year battle from start to finish and a fantastic 7th title looked in the bag as early as March. A plethora of open race winners resulted in us reaching the 100 mark by the 19th April at an incredible strike rate of 38%, that was never going to be maintained but what we did do for the last four months was rack up three memorable Category 1 victories.

After a magnificent start where superstars like Billys Bullet, Blue Moment, Domino Storm, Evanta Fantasy, Vanrooney, Calco Flyer, Jimmy Nailed On and Black Francis were winning races for fun there is always a kick in the nuts around the corner. An unbelievable Trainers Championship meeting at Sittingbourne looked a certainty to be ours at the halfway stage until a magnificent four timer from Kevin Hutton snatched it away, no problem that's racing! and fair play to Kevin and his team but the real blow for us was seeing Billys Bullet go lame a month later when 8 lgths clear in his heat of the Regency at Hove, thankfully he is now looking well after the badly broken hock was brilliantly repaired by Daniel Doherty and he may well return to his awesome best in the coming months, I've no doubt if this injury hadn't occurred this fella would have dominated the staying division and there would only be one winner of the Greyhound Of The Year award.

Pete Vernon my Assistant Trainer left our kennel in April for pastures new after 14 years great service and we wished him well in the future and my son Daniel decided to join us full time after he left school in June and he has been a real asset. A huge Derby entry from our team never really looked like we would add to our two Derby triumphs though Evanta Evita and Evanta  Fantasy deserved a lot of respect for being the two bitches going the furthest but their quest for glory ended at the quarter final stage

domino_storm_oaks.jpgTowcester was always in the spotlight but for me it provided stability with a healthy graded strength and new owners coming through, this stability allowed us to go in search of the big winners on the open race scene that we were possibly just missing out on and Patchys Kerry's glorious Champion Stakes victory in early September eased a lot of pressure and we never looked back, Swift Whirlwind, Domino Storm, Aero Babooshka, Calco Flyer, Evanta Evita, Black Francis, Reel Shirty and the emerging Clondoty Alex, RIbble Atom and Airforce Duchess kept up a magnificent strike rate and we were pulling well clear of our rivals, indeed by December you could forgive us if we cruised home but no, we wanted to sign off the year with bang, a magnificent 1-2 in the EEC Timber Oaks led by the 'pocket rocket' Domino Storm who beat the gallant and loveable Evanta Evita had the greyhound world in awe of our kennels achievements, Domino Storm epitomises what we can achieve and she rightly has the award of our Website Greyhound Of The Year she was brilliant all year!

Back to Towcester and my way of thanking them for all they gave us was to throw ourselves into the Bags Track Championship and we had some fantastic winners along the way like our Markwallisgreyhounds Racing Club star Saffrons Anna who was awesome at Yarmouth and Peterborough and step in Ballymac Shirley for the Nottingham and Towcester legs which helped Towcester to an easy group success, the Grand Finals at Perry Barr on the 23rd December will be a day I will never forget and I was as pleased with Ballymac Shirley and Ferryforth Fran's wins as any individual competition win, Ribble Aon's second place in a later leg was possibly the best runner up we have ever had and helped massively towards the memorable victory that was Towcester's and wow! did we celebrate, the cry's of 'there's only one Lord Hesketh' sums the day up, superb!

Sadly the greyhound world lost one of its great supporters as popular owner Mitch Millward lost his brave battle against cancer and passed away in late October, truly a sad day, his send off was befitting of such a nice person and hopefully his Millward prefix will be around for as long as there' is greyhound racing.

blonde_bobby.JPGThat brings me onto our final story and yes, save the best until last, Romford rightly named their end of the year showcase competition the Mitch Millward Essex Vase, I announced in the press that whatever his fete this would be ADAGEO BOB's last couple of races in a distinguished career, despite a stunning record that elusive big Romford win had still hadn't come and many out there thought we was mad giving him one last go, earlier in the year he had been 2nd in the Coronation Cup and 3rd in the Champion Stakes behind Patchys Kerry and most though his chance had slipped away, his preparation hadn't been ideal but Bob won nicely in the first round and then his destruction of a decent semi final field suddenly had people sitting up and taking notice, he couldn't could he?? Yes he bloody could!!, a magnificent burst of early pace in a top class line up saw him 3/4 lgth up as they approached the first turn, after throwing himself in the bend like a two year old he brushed aside his rivals and to a stunning roar from the terraces he emerged out the second bend 2 lgths in front, to be very honest the next 25 plus seconds was a lap of honour as he scorched round to an 8 lgth success with the crowd clapping and shouting 'easy easy', incredible scenes and the standing ovation at the podium standing with all our kennel staff and Bob's proud owners Dick & Ann Barfoot and their family was another memory I will never forget, what a way to go out, certainly worthy of our Website Performance Of The Year and maybe the training performance of my 12 years in charge at Imperial Kennels!

Below is the month by month blow of our season and at the bottom our website awards, that just leaves me to thank my wife Sarah, the backbone of our success, my staff Sid, Luke, Daniel, Kevin and the support of Linda, thanks to my part time help Ron, Joe and Jamie and my daughter Emily and to our resident physio Ron Mills, thank you as always to Mick and Maureen who put together our superb website and of course a massive thank you to all our owners without none of this success would be possible and lastly to our beautiful greyhounds in our care who never disappoint, let's hope 2016 can be another great year!

SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2015 HERE


2016
Since I took over an already legendary kennel from my mother in law, Linda Jones, at the start of 2005 I must admit that not even I could have possibly envisaged the level of success we have achieved over the next 12 years. 2016 will go down in history as the year we won a record 8th Trainer of the Year title beating John McGee's record that many said would never be broken. Of course that's a personal triumph that makes me so very proud and it will be an emotional night at the GBGB Awards night later this month when I receive the trophy again but really it's a triumph for all our 'Team Wallis' as no way could I have done this without my family Sarah, Linda and now my son Daniel who has worked a full year in another astounding season. We all have our staff to thank as well headed by the popular Sid Huett and Justine Slater who joined us in 2016, my friend Kevin Ulla, who does our racing and trials, has put some miles in this year that's for sure! and a big thank you to Ron Mills who continues to keep our dogs free from injury with his superb physio twice a week, my part time helpers Ronnie and Pete have also been a big help.


ferryforth_fran_2016st leger.jpgI have now been at Imperial Kennels since 1990 as a mere kennel hand and bar a couple of years where I had my own Permit Licence I've seen first hand how Linda turned a small kennel, with only a handful of race dogs racing at Swaffham and Mildenhall, into a successful operation with a top contract, firstly at Romford and then the much missed Walthamstow. The legend was set and 13 Category 1 winners and a famous 100/1 Trainers Championship meeting victory made Linda a household name in the greyhound world. This year Ferryforth Fran not only landed our 4th St Leger in six years but our kennel's 63rd Category 1 success in its history. Yes we can do the maths and Fran was 'Team Wallis's 50th individual Category 1 winner. That is without doubt astounding and something I can take to my grave with me, has it ended there? well hopefully not and though I will take nothing for granted I will expect, and try my hardest, to win many more over the next few years and just maybe there might be an even more successful kennel for my son Daniel to take over if that's what he wanted to do in the future.

Sdomino_storm_select.JPGo in a stellar year what were our highlights as there was so so many. All Category 1 successes are magical and magnificent none more so than Billys Bullets victory in the Coral Regency, it was a fairytale come true and is now well documented. Patchys Kerry's demolition job in the prestigious Ladbrokes Golden Jacket was awesome and possibly, bar the the Derby final, the best four bend race of the year was the Betfred Select Stakes at Nottingham and our little 'Pocket Rocket' Domino Storm destroyed some stunning opposition and gained some huge admirers in doing so. As you will see at the bottom in our Awards Section I've actually made Ferryforth Fran my Greyhound of the Year, the reason being not just his two brilliant Category 1 successes including a classic but more for the fact he epitomises what our kennel is all about, sold for a modest sum on my website with a reasonable Irish card he had a good 2015 but no one would have said that coming up to 3 years of age he would improve to the extent he did and he ran from January to December. I certainly have a real soft spot for him and who can blame me, like Billy & Meryl he is a real character. He might have been 14/1 in the Classic final but what a race he ran, that's what we are all about, class as well as longevity, that has been proved time and time again with the likes of Adageo Bob, Billys Bullet, Domino Storm, Clondoty Alex and a special mention to Calco Flyer who in our care all thrive and run as good as ever in their second and third seasons.

billys_bullet_regency16.JPGBillys Bullet, Domino Storm and Evanta Fantasy have now all been retired and how do you replace them? You can't but we do have some great talent to look forward to like Rubys Rascal, Ela Ela Genie and Roswell Romanov to name but a few and these were prolific in 2016. I will do a Class of 2017 soon highlighting other potential superstars. 

In total in 2017 we had a staggering 25 competition and major invitation winners which included for a 3rd time (2005, 2009) 7 Category 1 winners. We finished some 400 points clear of our nearest rival Paul Young and he had his best season to date! Yes we had a couple of lows, seeing Patchys Kerry leave the kennel was hard to take and tragically we lost one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever trained when California didn't come back from Ireland after a freak accident at Shelbourne. That hurt I can tell you but thankfully overall our injuries have been kept to a bare minimum in 2016.

The sport overall still has its problems but that's not something for now. We owe a lot to Towcester who continue to set the standards for other tracks to match and this year they have the Greyhound Derby coming their way and hopefully we can find one to at least make the final. We are a big part of their success story and I hope that continues for many years to come.

SEE MY FULL REVIEW OF 2016 HERE

 

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