28th December 2015
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We hope everybody enjoyed the Christmas festivities and may I take this chance to wish everybody a Happy New Year, we can only hope that 2016 is as successful as 2015 for the kennel which again has been a superb year. Next weekend, as well as our first blog of 2016, we will have a full review of our year including our Website Awards which I know many people look forward to reading.
We have to start this week with what turned out to be one of the best days of 2015. On Wednesday the Bags Track Championship Grand Finals took place at Perry Barr and six tracks gathered on a bright and warm December morning with their teams of 10 runners in what was to be an epic battle. The track was in superb condition and a large crowd descended on Birmingham to enjoy the spectacle including many supporters from each track. Towcester brought a coach full of the racing office, paddock staff and supporters and win, lose or draw they were determined to enjoy themselves, and they certainly did!
We had four runners representing the Towcester team and with Kevin Hutton's three and Patrick Janssens two the team was completed with Steve Rayner's one runner. There was a sense of unity amongst us all on what we had to do, there's no doubt that the strong Newcastle team was the one to beat and the bookmakers rightly made them short priced favourites to land the magnificent trophy and £15,000 first prize that Bags had kindly sponsored along with some tremendous also ran prize money. The event has grown each year and is now firmly established as one of the huge success stories of our sport. I certainly was feeling the pressure, which was totally different from having individual runners in big finals. After kennelling a nice spread had been laid on for all parties and then it was down to the action!
The event could not have started worse for Towcester with Patrick Janssens' Roswell Raphael going lame at the first bend, thankfully only a muscle injury, and with Newcastle winning the first leg the Towcester contingent looked shell shocked. Patrick's Flemish Idea ran a solid race to finish second but it was Belle Vue and Hall Green who set the early pace. Up came probably the most in form runner of the whole competition in Ballymac Shirley and she had a race on her hand with the classy Newcastle raider Some Woman in opposition but another clean break saw her gallop clear of her rivals to a fantastic 28.13 (-10) victory which certainly settled some Towcester nerves. With Some Woman running on for second both Newcastle and Towcester were now joint top with 18 points.
Ballymac Shirley's victory for owners Steve Murphy and Miles Anderton started what was a decisive move for Towcester as they then proceeded to rack up a four timer. Ferryforth Fran, our St Leger finalist wasn't expected to beat the 4/6 favourite Shellam Delano but a swift exit saw him get first run on his Newcastle rival and despite trying gallantly to get back on terms Ferryforth Fran held all the shots to win in 40.29 for his delighted owner Alan Morton. The next race saw Steve Rayner's Blackrose Cloud make a telling back straight run to lead at the third bend and score well. By this time I had moved back into the grandstand and joined in the brilliant atmosphere with the Towcester supporters, on the podium you could sense how proud and probably relieved Steve was with his winner. Next came the fast Magical Dougie for Kevin Hutton with his partner Donna doing the honours. Just back from injury and having his first race since September he produced another tremendous back straight surge to lead at the third bend to put the race to bed, now the roars in the stand were increasing by 10 decibels each race, quite extraordinary.
Amazingly Towcester's four timer had not seen them shake off Newcastle who scored well themselves and the lead was only 15 points at this stage and with four races to go it was all to play for. Newcastle's sprinter Bramble Bruno looked the proverbial good thing on the whole card and duly bolted up and wth our Oldfield Lynda the victim of a shocking seeding from Monmore's team with the wide running Sporting Captain in trap 1 taking her out at the first bend, she only managed 5th and now the gap was down to 7 points. Personally the key moment came in leg 8 with our decision to use Lord Hesketh's Ribble Aon who had only been a reserve in a couple of qualifying legs but was added to the team to do a job and that was to score good points. As it turned out she was the most unlucky loser of the whole event, breaking well she led up with the Belle Vue runner Delightful Girl but just as she was about to nip into the lead off the first bend the pair came together turning Ribble Aon sideways. She was forced backwards to the back of the field but more importantly the Newcastle runner Greenhill Beauty had now turned second behind Delightful Girl, she wasn't for passing though and kicked on to score but the real story was a huge amount of determination shown from Ribble Aon who ran bravely through the middle at the last two bends and then pass the Newcastle runner to grab a vital second place which didn't look possible at the halfway stage. This now increased the lead to 9 points but could have easily seen the two sides level again if she hadn't run so well.
With the ninth leg to come and nerves amongst the Towcester supporters at its peak, Chris Page and his racing office team worked out that if Kevin Hutton's Memphis Mafia could just finish ahead of the Newcastle runner Bramble Ted the coveted title was their's. Both Lord Hesketh and his right hand man Kevin Ackerman were now ready to accept what was an unlikely victory after race 1 and the 'Mafia' didn't disappoint, a surging run down the back straight after being in a not so good position at the first bend saw him get past the Newcastle runner to the delights of the Towcester faithful who erupted as he entered the home straight. It's been a long time since I could share in the celebrations of so many but what a feeling that was, I'm sure I've never cheered on another trainer's runner so loudly and Memphis Mafia wasn't even going to win! His third place ahead of Newcastle's Bramble Ted made Towcester the Bags Track Championship WINNERS. The Sky cameras turned its attentions to the victorious Lord Hesketh and his team and he was obviously a very proud man. Just over a year since Towcester's inception he was leading an important victory for his track, a victory that has a massive say in where our sport may well be going over the next few years, he deserved every bit of the victory and cries of 'There's only one Lord Hesketh' rang around Perry Barr's grandstand, and rightly so!
The last leg had now become irrelevant but for the record Reel Style was third for Towcester giving them a 10 point win overall on 67 points with Newcastle on 57 points and Hall Green a very creditable third on 51 points. Once the last race presentation had finished it was Towcester's turn to move on to the podium and all the team and supporters gathered in force to celebrate the memorable victory. Lord Hesketh spoke well and held the huge trophy aloft to rapturous cheers, the champagne flowed and everyone enjoyed at least another hour of well deserved back slapping and many drinks. A massive well done to all involved, that just leaves me to say the obvious, any future track championship without Towcester will be a poorer one that's for sure!
Our other news this week was our last open race meeting of 2015 at Henlow last night didn't quite go as we would have liked with Blue Moment and Aero Babooshka 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Category 2 Xmas Cracker over 460m, Aero Babooshka looked a shade unfortunate as she challenged at the third bend. We did have a nice winner in a supporting race, our 250th open race winner of the year, when Swift Whirlwind bolted in over 550m. Aero Babooshka and her sister the classy Evants Evita have now been retired to the breeding paddocks and I will do a review of their careers next week.
A busy weekend at Towcester starting with the Boxing Day meeting where we had 19 runners. I went with my son Daniel and when I got a chance to go over to the track and grandstand I can honestly say I was stunned. I was told it was busy but wow! I don't think I've seen that many people at a greyhound track in over 20 years, it was incredible. I'm not sure of the exact figure (5,000 is the rumour) but I expect even Towcester would have been surprised. The racing was fantastic (apart from the last race where a runner went seriously lame) and we had four winners which could easily been seven or eight with a bit more luck. Sunday's crowd was also decent where again we had another good day with three winners, certainly another positive in the future of Towcester.
It's straight into the action on New Years Day as another bumper crowd is expected at Towcester's day time meeting with entertainment laid on for all the family, our unbelievable mild weather looks the call again which I'm sure helps swell numbers. We will be trying our hardest to gain a record breaking eighth Trainer Of The Year title (five on the trot) in 2016 and a fast start may be possible as the Coral Coronation Cup kicks off at night time. With no Adageo Bob to look forward to we will look for the likes of Swift Whirlwind and Aayamzamodel to establish themselves as the older type dog to do well, having said that Swift Whirlwind is hardly old but was on the go most of the year and does seem one of those rare dogs that thrives on his racing. Patchys Kerry is already a Champion Stakes winner but may need the outing on her first run back from season but if she could qualify she will have a major say in the outcome of the title. Blonde Razor is another of our old guard and his career is nearly at an end, injury niggles and a split web from a race two weeks ago means his preparation hasn't gone to plan but again is more than capable, he clocked a stunning 34.72 in the heats last year, watch out also for Ribble Aon who is set for an excellent 2016 for Lord Hesketh.
Billys Bullet remains on course for a defence of his Prestige title at Hall Green that starts in three weeks' time and he will be kept ticking over with a couple of trials beforehand, a fit and back to form Billys Bullet may well be the key to our Trainer Of The Year aspirations. He may well have company from the kennel as the likes of Ferryforth Fran are also worthy of consideration in these big competitions. Opens are planned for Towcester this Saturday and we have a number of reasonable entries lined up. If the weather does stay mild then we will be travelling around and I would dearly like to see us amass 30 winners and 100 points by the end of January, targets are always worth setting to drive us forward. Again amazingly we start the year having recorded an incredible 2,976 open race winners since I took over from Linda in 2005 and the 3,000th winner will be special (hopefully before the end of this month), I will present a special trophy to the owner of that particular winner. In our kennel history we are fast approaching 5,000 open winners which will mean so much to Linda as well but I just need to find out how many opens we won since Linda first started the kennel in 1989 up to when proper records were recorded in 1993.
I will be doing a Class of 2016 early in the New Year as we have a load of new recruits coming in next week but looking at our kennel strength as we begin the journey again I can only see us going from strength to strength both on and off the track. We are set to do some major kennel refurbishments in the spring and I will be looking to add another full time member of staff to help with our workload. These things are only possible with a firm basis and Towcester provides that for us which I'm very thankful for. We have a mixture of first, second and third season greyhounds and one of the keys to our success is covering every distance with a healthy sprinkling of top class and potential Category 1 winning dogs, with kennel stalwarts like Adageo Bob, Evanta Evita and Aero Babooshka now retired we will need to find replacements, yes! how do you replace Adageo Bob, a true legend!
Some older dogs that have been great servants to both our owners and our kennel but are now on their last few races, Blonde Razor, Aayamzamodel, Ilewin Allot and Ilewin Frimley are all over four years of age but in my opinion more than capable of going out with a bang. We still have some top class third season dogs who will play a massive part in our year, Billys Bullet and Domino Storm are as good as anything in the country and definitely have one or two more big race wins in their lockers while the likes of Blue Moment, Calco Flyer, Evanta Fantasy, Black Francis and Saffrons Anna are all class acts that have a lot more to offer.
Of our second season dogs we have to be excited by Roswell Iceman and Clondoty Alex who look born winners, these two will look to lead our Derby aspirations and of course any other four bend events. We have a few strong running four bend bitches in the shape of Airforce Duchess (Brighton Belle winner), Alice My Angel, Deanridge Angel and the in form Ballymac Shirley to look forward to who could all have excellent 2016's. Our second season stayers look very strong and I'm positive Patchys Kerry, already a Champion Stakes winner can be a major force throughout the year. Garryglass Pixie and Ferryforth Fran are set for good seasons and Ribble Aon is one who I particularly like and could be a competition winner for Lord Hesket., Swift Whirlwind is as fast as anything in training but occasionally frustrating. Of course our marathon division has one real superstar in the shape of Ribble Atom and though her recent Irish campaign gave her two creditable runner up positions I think now back over here she has the potential to be the leading marathon runner in the UK for 2016.
So what of our stars of the future? Ela Ela Genie only a May 14 looks a potential superstar sprinter in the making, weighing in at 38 kilo's he has already obliterated a good graded field and must surely improve. Droopys Achieve got no sort of run in a minor final at Hove last week but looks a great prospect being only an April 14 and she should stay in time. Famias Hope and Newross Johnny are well raced older pups but have a certain something about them and are without doubt very fast. Of the very young pups in our kennel then we are spoilt for choice, I can't wait for Experto Crede and Swift Slaney to step up in trip and look open race stayers later on in the year, as for Rubys Rascal you had to be at Towcester on Sunday to see what a potential brilliant stayer this fella might be and he is only a July 14! Swift Clare, Calco Swift and particularly Mass Megan and Tellhimjohn have shown enough pace to be open race winners or better for sure while we have to keep an eye open on the likes of Parkers Prince, Swift Turbo and Fearsome Folly who are open to enormous improvement.
As said we have a solid base of Towcester stars that are all capable of adding further opens to their tally and maybe not just at home either. Macs On Storm, Parkers Poison, Adageo Djongo, Toosey Fern, Sosaidhs Blue, Airforce Karla, Ribble Rush and Vanfrenchie (back from serious injury) can see us stay at the top while I will be amazed if Oldfield Lynda, Cisberry Geo, Rufford Atom, Nimrod Son, Vandiva and Fivestar Calvin don't break their open race ducks very soon. Airforce Joe, GIveabitback Sue, Airforce Cluxton and Carden Punch look progressive in the grades and should also be good enough to start winning opens.
We have a few coming back from long term injuries that will also add to our open race strength. Ballymac Sinbad has been injury plagued since September but is top class when right, we have already mentioned Evanta Fantasy while injury has made sure we haven't seen the best of Garryglas Droopy and Ribble Rush yet. With some unfamiliar names to hit us soon look out for Ivyhill Boxer who has a top class Irish card bought for our Markwallisgreyhounds Racing Club with the Derby in mind and also other big four bend events. Have we got maybe the next Evanta Evita in Shlowdown Sally who trials shortly and looks a cracking bitch (1 share left for sale).
Apologies if I've left any owners' dogs out of the above mentioned but reading through the above our reign at the top could well continue given any amount of good fortune. I'm blessed with not only great staff but great owners who put me where I am today, I wish everyone a very Happy and prosperous New Year!
Congratulations to Chomies Homes the winner of this year's Five to Follow competition. They were long time leaders but the final results were extremely close and changed in the last week of racing. They win two tickets and overnight stay for the GBGB Awards and second placed John's Towcester Teasers 4 win a £100 voucher and joint third Domination and Saracen's 2 win £50 vouchers each. Full details on the link from the home page.
As said our only action was last night where Blue Moment and Aero Babooshka were 2nd and 3rd in the Henlow Xmas Cracker final. Ilewin Allot was also second over 460m but Swift Whirlwind ensured our open race final tally was 250 when he won well over 550m in 33.71 some 17 spots faster than the Henlow Cesarewitch final!
After the brilliant Bags Track Championship reviews above an incredible Boxing Day crowd turned up to see some great action. Swift Turbo and Swift Darien got in all kinds of trouble on debut when down the field in a P8, Famais Hope scored for the 4th time in 13 races when winning an A3 well in 29.58 (-10). Swift Slaney looked set for a win and despite this strong running pup leading he was collared right on the line by an incredible finish from Roseville Bolt to go down a short head in 29.67 (-10), that was Swift Slaneys fastest run to date and the pair pulled right away from the field so the form looks rock solid. Macs On Storm returned from injury after breaking his tail, now with only half a rudder 'Stumpy' defied all odds to scorch home in a kennel 1-2 beating kennelmate Vandiva in an excellent 28.36 (-10). Parkers Poison was so unlucky in an S2 having seen her run interrupted several times before going down by a little over 2 lengths with Benkaat Dolly in front of her holding every chance in second. In a very good top grade sprint Newross Johnny showed what enormous potential he has when beating seasoned sprinters in a fine 15.42 (-5) and our 4th winner of the day followed shortly after when Sosaidhs Blue caught the in form Rufford Atom right on the jam stick to win by a short head in a good 39.78 (-15). Calco Flyer ran much better this week when 3rd in a good A1 and Farkland Jackal went down in most professional notebooks as possibly the most unluckiest loser of the whole year, I won't elaborate as the race was marred by a horrendous incident that is so very rare in our sport.
On Sunday Experto Crede was a running on 3rd and Libertine Louis 2nd while Penny Seabiscuit was also 3rd before Carden Punchscored her best win to date in an S3 in 40.22, Airforce Cluxton got himself off the mark a the second attempt winning an A6 in 29.23, in the Owners Bonus Series final Rubys Rascal pretended to be Scurlogue Champ coming from a mile back only to see his path blocked at a crucial stage costing him victory, still a second place had many people talking about him for the future, Deanridge Angel only 70% fit made it a weekend to remember with a bold win in an A4 in 29.68.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN - SWIFT WHIRLWIND
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
All eyes will be firmly at Romford on Friday as our 2016 campaign kicks off with the heats of the Coral Coronation Cup.
A busy Towcester schedule of Friday (day time) Saturday (opens scheduled) and Sunday should see us with plenty of runners.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
I have to say how unlucky were we not to finish the year with four winners from four! Ribble Aon was very unlucky at Perry Barr and Rubys Rascal's defeat yesterday had to be seen to be believed! Still a profit was shown with Towcester's magnificent Bags Track Championship victory and banker Ballymac Shirley bolting in.
For a bet in the Coronation Cup starting on Friday to get the year started I'm going to put up a lively outsider in Ribble Aon who could go well at a big price.
RIBBLE AON - 2 pts e.w ante post - Coral Coronation Cup - Romford - starts Friday
ADVISED LAST WEEK
BALLYMAC SHIRLEY - 5 pts win - Bags Track Championship- Perry Barr - Wednesday - WON 11/10
RIBBLE AON - 2 pts win - Bags Track Championship - Perry Barr - Wednesday - lost
TOWCESTER - 3 pts win 5/2 - To win Bags Track Championship - Perry Barr -Wednesday - WON
RUBYS RASCAL - 4 pts win - Towcester - Sunday - lost