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.
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.
A 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.
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.
I can safely say we have an excellent team of greyhounds to start 2013 with. The likes of favourites like Lil Risky, Benkaat Blue, Jazz Apollo, Dixies Air and Ayamzaman enter their third calendar year of racing and form the basis of our kennel strength but what about the exciting talents of proven dogs like Blonde Reagan, Glanmire Lad, Planning, Castlebride Dan, Bridge Ruth, Jazz Tilly, Ayamzabeauty and Airforce Diva? These alone will ensure another challenge for the Trainers Championship and looking ahead we will see some exciting youngsters unleashed, the likes of Sidaz Dippy, Garryglass Rodge, Extreme Lad, Fairest Royal, Keats Babe, Mallogs Holly, Ballymoney Chris, Ard To Beat with my 'Racing Club' dogs I Am Titanium and Ollie Blue I most certainly would say we can repeat 2012.
This just leaves me to thank our loyal staff Gary, Pete, Sid and Cheryl our Saturday/Sunday girls Ria and Tasha, thanks to Kevin and Helen for all their help and to Ron Mills for his superb physio service to our kennel. Thank you to my mother in law Linda for everything she does for us and a special thank you to my wife Sarah without whom we wouldn't be where we are today. A big thank you as always to Mick and Maureen who run our brilliant website and markwallisgreyhounds 'Racing Club' and it goes without saying thank you to all our owners who stick by us through thick and thin and myself, Sarah and all our kennel would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
Risky Lass was our first runner of the year in graded company at Yarmouth and our first winner of 2012. Munster Champ runs riot in a heat of the Coronation Cup over 575m at Romford winning by 7 lengths to land our first open race win of the year. Dramatic news from the kennel as long time Assistant Trainer and friend Patrick Janssens leaves to pursue other business interests.
The Betdaq Premier League ran by GOBATA kicks off at Yarmouth and in the first leg our team 'Imperial Rockets' finishes 2nd behind Matt Dartnall's 'Team Desperate' on a high quality card. Lil Risky wins our first Sky open at Hall Green and a week later Aero Majestic breaks the magical 35.00 barrier at Romford on Sky.
The Betdaq Premier League back at Yarmouth sees wins for Dixies Air landing our Joker which gives us an overall lead of 1 1/2 points going into the third and final leg. Massive efforts from SOS to return greyhound racing to Walthamstow Stadium start to gather momentum.
The GBGB Awards night in London sees Blonde Fletch unanimously win the Stayer Of The Year but loses out to Taylors Sky for the Greyhound Of The Year while we welcome Gary Crathern to our team at Imperial Kennels. A steady flow of open race winners and Mountjoy Osprey's Coral On TV Puppy Trophy Final win sees us top the Trainers Championship Standings at the end of the month.
A busy month of open racing started in arctic conditions with temperatures dropping to -14 on a couple of days. The GOBATA Premier League third leg at Doncaster was hit by the weather and was forced to cancel. Benkaat Blue performed well to finish 3rd in the final of the Category 1 Henlow Puppy Derby Final behind impressive winner Coolavanny Bert though we were out of luck in the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket at Crayford but on fire Aero Joker landed the supporting Peter Bussey Memorial Trophy Final worth £2,000.
Winners came at a rapid rate of knots at Romford with Mountjoy Osprey landing a 9 timer and Aero Majestic taking the Coral On TV Stayers Final after clocking an incredible 34.82 (4 spots off the clock) in the heats. 2011 William Hill Classic winner Blonde Snapper returned to the track in successful style landing the Coral On TV Standard final while both Jazz Apollo reached the Betfair Arc final at Swindon and Royal Premium made the William Hill Springbok final.
My first appearance on RPGTV as a guest was interesting. Kelly Findlay having a great month was one of the key members in the Dunham Devils who took the overall honours in the GOBATA Premier League at Doncaster but with plenty of winners everywhere we overtook Kelly at the end of the month to lead the Championship standings.
The whole month was dominated by the threatened boycott of the Betfair Trainers Championship as trainers tried to highlight the industry's poor prize money levels and the general lack of transparency from the GBGB and BGRF and their complete snub of GOBATA. Betfair did not take the threatened boycott well and Sky were faced with a possible cancellation causing problems all round. Thankfully after Bags supremo Tom Kelly's intervention the trainers called off their action.
Our luck was out a bit in the big finals as Royal Premium could only finish 5th in the Springbok at Wimbledon, Benkaat Blue was very unlucky when looking a likely winner of the Monmore Puppy Derby but eventually was last while Jazz Apollo ran well to be 3rd in the Arc at Swindon won by the in form Matt Dartnall's Ballymac Cryan. The winners were still ticking over nicely and Aero Joker landed a 7 timer at Romford.
The Betfair Trainers Championship at Perry Barr despite the politics was a star studded event and we were a touch unlucky when having three second places but no winners with the title being won by Nick Savva who overturned a strong Charlie Lister team.
The politics of the sport were again making plenty of news as Norah McEllistrim steps down as head of the GTA which looks to have its first election for a new chairperson in 13 years. Good news as well as Harry Findlay secures a licence to re-open Coventry. On the track Blonde Fletch returns from injury and outstanding Tralee puppy winner Airforce Diva is brought for owners Simon Wooder and Guy Williams and will head for our kennel later in the year.
Blonde Snapper produces a brilliant display to land a hot Category 1 Coral Golden Sprint for our first major win of the year and then heads our six entries for the William Hill Greyhound Derby. Altogether there are only 131 entries which sparks some serious debate again on the financial state of our sport and brings concerns on the future of Wimbledon Stadium. The first round kicks off and Blonde Snapper glides to a smooth victory which was a relief after the year before's calamity where he was dumped out at the same stage. Some nice gambles were landed when Castlebride Dan won his heat and 4 of our 6 runners qualified for the next round.
The William Hill Greyhound Derby dominates the month although there is a cloud hanging over Wimbledon as strong rumors do the rounds about the track being sold for redevelopment. GRA supremo Clive Feltham again denies these rumours. Blonde Snapper and Castlebride Dan make to the last 48.
In a lively Waltham Forrest Town Hall Council meeting, with hundreds of Save Our Stow supporters present, the return of greyhound racing to Walthamstow Stadium receives a huge blow as a majotity of the councillors (all Labour) vote in favour of London & Quadrant's plans for redevelopment.
Aero Joker wins the Tony Byerley Quicksilver Trophy at Romford in a memorable tussle with Airforce New York while Blonde Snapper continues on his merry way in the Derby making it through to the semi-finals.
Coventry bucks the trend in greyhound racing when reopening with good crowds taking advantage of Harry Findlay's pledge to reduce tote retention's to 14%. Lil Risky and Springdale Hawk win for us on the first night. Ayamzaman formerly known as Mountjoy Osprey continues where he left off taking the Coral On TV Standard final in great style for his new owners the Ayamzaboys syndicate. Blonde Snapper defies most people's belief that he couldn't take quick runs and in a brilliant William Hill Greyhound Derby semi-final he just edges out old rival and defending champion Taylors Sky by a short head to land the spoils and make it into the Final.
Click here to read my exciting blog of Blonde Snappers brilliant Greyhound Derby victory.
The Greyhound Derby final night didn't start well for us with our first few runners beaten and sadly superstar Aero Majestic broke down with a broken leg when leading in the six bend race but either side of Blonde Snapp's brilliant Derby win Ayamzagirl caused a surprise when landing the prestigious Dorando Marathon and while we were still celebrating our Derby victory Jazz Apollo superbly defended his William Hill British Bred title in the last race of the awesome night, this ended a superb month for us which saw us climb to a 158 point lead in the Trainers Championship standings.
Aero Majestic had a successful operation on his broken leg and our kennel was strengthened with newcomers Bridge Honcho, Cuil Condor and Glanmire Lad who was snapped up from an advert on our Dogs For Sale page. On the track Blonde Fletch just missed out on a place in the Coral Regency final he won so well the year before and Jazz Apollo was a touch unlucky when a close up second in the Monmore Stud Book Trophy. Ballintine Molly was 3rd in the Category 1 Ladbrokes Summer Stayers at Monmore.
Blonde Snapper was paraded at our home track Yarmouth and shortly afterwards Mark Currell decided to call an end to his brilliant career. Having raced only 39 times in the very best class he had won 20 times his major victories included the William Hill Classic at Sunderland the Millennium Stand Bookmakers Golden Sprint at Romford and the William Hill Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon. He amassed £167,000 in prize money to become one of the sport's all time highest earners and a true place in all our hearts. Dorando Marathon winner Ayamzagirl was also retired, one of the most popular and enigmatic bitches over the last few years she was a real crowd pleaser.
Our popular 5 To Follow competition began with nearly 200 entries and a significant month for the GTA as Rick Holloway was unanimously elected as their Chairman. On the track the William Hill Grand Prix at Sunderland saw Dixies Air caught right on the by Paul Youngs Swabys Princess with Swift Reagan a close up third and Ballintine Molly last.
The London Olympics meant greyhound racing was a touch quiet as was our kennel with Jazz Apollo and Bridge Honcho just missing out on a place in the Sussex Cup final when both third in their semi's. Blonde Fletch was just caught on the run in for the Cock Of The North title at Belle Vue and Ayamzaman was runner up in the Ardbeg Mentor Memorial Trophy at Romford though Lil Risky marched into the Peterborough Derby Final unbeaten.
Plenty of winners on Sky with Bridge Honcho and Blonde Reagan landing some tidy bets at Brighton on the supporting card for the Sussex Cup won by Westmead Maldini and at Wimbledon Castlebride Dan and Risky Rosaleen won well on the Puppy Derby supporting card. We were out of luck with Jazz Apollo when just touched off for a place in the Kent Derby final he won last year and agony for Ayamzaman who led in the East Anglian Challenge at Yarmouth only to go down by the narrowest of margins in the final.
The month was dominated by Lil Risky who brilliantly landed the £10,000 to the winner John Smiths Peterborough Derby from an awkward trap 5 draw at the start of the month in a superb 24.99 and then 'Jimmy' ended the month by landing the Ladbrokes Festival 416m Trophy at Monmore in great style. Dixies Air was 5th in the Ladbrokes Festival 630m Trophy, Blonde Fletch made it four wins from four at Sittingbourne with another win on Sky but Jazz Apollo was just touched off by Westmead Maldini in the Cearns Memorial.
A massive month on the track and a few missed chances in finals for our kennel and a brilliant month for Paul Young saw a dramatic twist in the Trainers Championship race. Real concerns were being shown by owners and trainers on an abnormally high injury rate at several tracks and the GBGB were put under pressure to act. The GTA responded by giving the GBGB's practitioner representative a vote of 'No Confidence'.
Blonde Fletch marched into the Gain Feeds Yorkshire St Leger final at Doncaster but could only finish 4th behind Chris Allsopp's Peggys Style. Dixies Air also won his semi-final of the Coral Champion Stakes but got no sort of run in the final when 4th to Smiler Jack giving a tearful Chris Mosdall his first Category 1 success. Ayamzabeauty ran well when third in the Brighton Belle final.
Paul Young's Bubbly Phoenix took the East Anglian Derby Final and despite a couple of Sky's wins by Ayamzaman and Hometown Honey our lead in the Championship is severely cut, Glanmire Lad responds with an excellent display in the Coral Puppy Cup semi's with an emphatic victory.
Our new markwallisgreyhounds 'Racing Club' is announced and two outstanding bitches arrive at the kennel in the shape of Airforce Diva and Bridge Ruth.
Our month gets off to the best possible start as Glanmire Lad shows blistering early pace to land the Coral Romford Puppy Cup for a first Category 1 success for owners Dick and Anne Barfoot and a huge 50 Trainers Championship points. Bridge Honcho has long odds on favourite Ballymac Eske in real trouble when leading by 5 lengths in the Coral Olympic Final before succombing in the closing stages.
Another twist the next week as Paul Young lands the Northern Puppy Derby and if Bubbly Phoenix, who was favourite to win the All England Cup, had scored our advantage would have been down to next to nothing but Harry Williams' Mags Gamble produces a stunning display to win the title. We had near misses as Jazz Tilly makes the Produce Stakes Semi-final at Nottingham before bowing out and despite Ayamzaman and Castlebride Dan easing their way to the Henlow Derby semi-finals that was as far as they got while Mountjoy Orion did well to make the Kent St Leger Final only to finish last.
The greyhound world was stunned when the GRA along with their partners (much to the surprise of most people) Gilliard Homes announce plans put forward to Merton Council for a redevelopment of Wimbledon Stadium that doesn't include greyhound racing, you just couldn't make this up!, GOBATA responds with two seperate owners' meetings where feelings are running high.
Back on the track and Bridge Ruth and Airforce Diva both get off to a flying starts with superb wins at Hove but all eyes are on an incredible TV Trophy which featured a back to form Blonde Reagan and Paul Young's Aero Gaga. A victory for either would go along way to securing the Trainers Championship and it was amazing as Blonde Reagan flashed out the boxes and despite tiring close home held on comfortably to win giving owner Mark Currell and ourselves a first ever TV Trophy and the win almost guaranteeing us a 4th Trainers Championship as we hold a 125 point lead at the end of the month.
Lil Risky was left out of a Sky race by Monmore much to everyone's amazement and talking of Sky rumours surrounded doubt over whether they would cover greyhound racing in 2013 due to the incredible amount they have spent on Formula 1 and on saturation of football.
As Blonde Fletch and Blonde Reagan get our William Hill St Leger campaign off to a good start Pascal Taggart unveils his own plans for Wimbledon Stadium that obviously does include greyhound racing but bad news for Walthamstow Stadium as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson goes against his original pledge and fails to call in London & Quadran's application for redevelopment almost certainly putting the final nail in the coffin for the return of greyhound racing to the iconic stadium.
Our markwallisgreyhounds 'Racing Club' is launched that offers ownership at affordable prices but the whole month is about the brilliant performance of Blonde Reagan who lands our third St Leger in four years which emulated our famous Derby/St Leger double of 2009 and also capping off one of the most successful owner/trainer combinations in the history of the sport, Blonde Reagan's superb battling performance against the best six benders in training gives owner Mark Currell a Golden Sprint, Derby, TV Trophy and St Leger four timer for 2012, what a year! say no more.
With the Trainers Championship all wrapped up it dtdn't stop us having a fabulous end to the year, I Am Titanium became the first winner in our new venture markwallisgreyhounds 'Racing Club' and in the Laurence Jones Memorial festival at Monmore Bridge Honcho and a back to form Lil Risky took the 480m dogs and 416m races respectively, both worth £5,000 and although Planning was well fancied when 4th in the Essex Vase final and Bridge Ruth was knocked out in the semi-finals of the William Hill Oaks both can look forward to an exciting 2013.
The GTA recieved some recognition when the GBGB announced that some selected representatives would be allowed on some committees while the main kennel news was the announcement that both kennel stars Blonde Fletch and Aero Joker had been retired and what fabolous servents to us and their owners they have been. Blonde Fletch had amassed over £36,000 in prize money in a great career. Aero Joker had won 17 races in 2012 but Ayamzaman notched another couple of wins in December to be joint leading open racer on 21 victories.
Glanmire Lad and Ballintine Molly also won on Sky and on the last meeting of the year at Wimbledon Lil Risky capped a phenomenal 2012 with another win in front of the cameras to be joint top Sky dog for 2012. If we needed the year to end on a high note then Castlebride Dan secured that landing the £4,000 to the winner Swettenham Stud Golden Muzzle Trophy at Coventry and followed up the next week when landing a friendly match race against Muzzle runner up Bower West in a blistering 29.14 which ended up our last winner of 2012.
MAJOR RACES WON IN 2012
Category 3 (January) Coral On TV Puppy Final Romford - MOUNTJOY OSPREY(Ayamzaman) £750
Category 3 (February) Coral On TV Stayers Final Romford - AERO MAJESTIC - £750
Category 2 (February) Peter Bussey Memorial Trophy Final Crayford - AERO JOKER - £2,000
Category 3 (March) Coral On TV Standard Final Romford - BLONDE SNAPPER - £750
CATEGORY 1 (April)
MILLENIUM STAND BOOKMAKERS GOLDEN SPRINT - Romford - BLONDE SNAPPER - £8,000
Category 3 (May) Tony Byerley Quicksilver Trophy Final Romford - AERO JOKER - £750
Category 3 (May) Coral On TV Standard Final Romford - AYAMZAMAN - £750
CATEGORY 1 (May)
WILLIAM HILL GREYHOUND DERBY WINNER - Wimbledon - BLONDE SNAPPER - £125,000
Category 3 (May) William Hill Dorando Marathon Wimbledon - AYAMZAGIRL - £1,000
Category 3 (May) William Hill British Bred 480 Wimbledon - JAZZ APOLLO - £1,000
Category 3 (June) Jamaica Sprint Trophy Final Coventry - AERO PRINCE - £500
CATEGORY 1 (August)
JOHN SMITHS PETERBOROUGH DERBY - Peterborough - LIL RISKY - £10,000
Category 3 (August) Ladbrokes August Festival 416m Final Monmore - LIL RISKY - £1,000
CATEGORY 1 (October)
CORAL ROMFORD PUPPY CUP FINAL - Romford - GLANMIRE LAD - £8,000
CATEGORY 1 (October)
LADBROKES TV TROPHY - Monmore - BLONDE REAGAN - £8,000
CATEGORY 1 (November)
WILLIAM HILL ST LEGER - Wimbledon - BLONDE REAGAN - £15,000
Category 2 (December) Lawrence Jones Memorial 480m Dogs Final Monmore - BRIDGE HONCHO - £5,000
Category 2 (December) Lawrence Jones Memorial 416m Final Monmore - LIL RISKY - £5,000
Category 2 (December) Swettenham Stud Golden Muzzle Final Coventry - CASTLEBRIDE DAN - £4,000
Category 3 (December) Muzzle Match Race Coventry - CASTLEBRIDE DAN - £750
MOST WINS IN 2012
1st AYAMZAMAN (21)
2nd LIL RISKY (19)
3rd AERO JOKER (17)
4th BLONDE REAGAN (16)
WEBSITE TOP PERFORMANCES OF THE YEAR
1st LIL RISKY (7)
2nd BLONDE REAGAN (5)
3rd BLONDE SNAPPER (4)
CASTLEBRIDE DAN (4)
1st BIT VIEW EMMA (5)
2nd PLANNING (4)
3rd DARIAN STAR (3)
NEWINN CHICK (3)
SWIFT LUCOZADE (3)
IMPERIAL KENNELS PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
(William Hill Greyhound Derby Final)
IMPERIAL KENNELS GREYHOUND OF THE YEAR
WEBSITE 5 TO FOLLOW COMPETITION
1st MATTHEWS MARVELOUS MUTTS (375 pts)
MOLLY2 (375 pts)
3rd ASHLEY BECKWITH (373 pts)
STAFF 5 TO FOLLOW COMPETITION
1st RON MILLS (337 pts)
2nd RIA TILLET (336 pts)
3rd MARK WALLIS (322 pts)
WEBSITE 5 TO FOLLOW TOP SCORING DOGS
1st AYAMZAMAN (122 pts)
2nd BLONDE REAGAN (113 pts)
3rd LIL RISKY (81 pts)