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JIM CREMIN

Weblog: At large in the greyhound world

Crown to give Salad a battle for best of British

MONDAY COLUMN

FILLING out the forms for Swindon’s annual Two Year Old Produce Stakes is like finding the time to do your tax return – all too easily left to one side.

That proved a shame in the case of William Hill Derby hero Salad Dodger, whose connections were, at the eleventh hour, disappointed to discover the British-bred wasn’t actually entered for the competition.

Pat Rosney, whose partner Julie McCombe was the breeder of Saturday’s champion, Take The Crown, joked afterwards: “I’m delighted Rick Holloway [breeder of Salad Dodger] didn’t pay that initial £25 to enter his litter!”

McCombe picked up £2,000 as the winning breeder, the breeders of the other five finalists got £1,000 apiece. But biggest pay-off was the £15,000 pocketed by winning owner Darren Price.

It would have been preferable to see Salad Dodger take his chance, especially given the forced alternative of seeing him beaten in the Betfred Select, then the Coral Sussex Cup, which led Barry Silkman to describe Salad Dodger as the slowest dog he has seen win a Derby, terming it “the worst Derby final ever!”

Steady on Silks, but I suppose it makes a change from arguing about who was the best.

My personal worst Derby final is also a candidate for most exciting. Bandicoot Tipoki’s 2010 triumph, coming from a hopeless position, was due to the leaders kidding in front. A great ‘show’, but for purists, a deeply unsatisfactory one too.

Tipoki wasn’t a slow dog however, and I’d have to make Allen Gift, who scored that shock win for Claude Gardiner ten years earlier, my nomination for that particular ‘award’. He got to the front in the 2002 final, the field bunched up behind, he took his chance.

Of course professional trainers up and down Britain and Ireland have been beating themselves up with frustration that Salad Dodger nicked the £200,000 pot.

Tough luck guys, but there was a record entry so it hardly came easy for Bruno Berwick’s star. He ran Wimbledon exceptionally well throughout, and on the big night proved the best dog.

Incidentally, the Greyhound Stud Book says they have never fielded so many enquiries about how to enter future Produce Stakes after Salad Dodger’s omission was highlighted, so he’s getting everyone going.

Bob Gilling, secretary of the Breeders’ Forum, explains there used to be a late supplementary entry stage years ago for the old Harringay Produce event, but there was negative feedback to perceived gold-diggers pinching the prize.

The issue with a Produce Stakes is that you need a lot of early entries to make up the pot. But there has been a steady decline in the number of British-bred litters whelped.

In 2009 there were 462, and each year since it has fallen with just 295 possible litter entries for next year’s Produce. Encouragingly, the Stud Book reports a slight upturn in litters registered so far this year.

The Fund generously contributes £15,000 towards the Swindon pot, and also covers the entire funding for the new 36-runner British Breeders Stakes, a Category One at Nottingham in October won for the inaugural time last year by Adageo Bob.

There is no litter or entry fee involved, and this year the final is on Sky Sports, and is for 2012 whelps with an £8,000 winning owner’s prize, £1,000 for the breeder of the winner, plus £200 apiece for breeders of finalists.

That may feature a clash between Take The Crown and Salad Dodger, with Rosney’s dog having now landed three key British-bred events this year – the Produce Stakes, the Truframe Greyhound Stud Book Trophy at Nottingham, and the British-breds race on Derby final night.

Rosney is hoping to wrestle the title of British-bred Dog of the Year off Salad Dodger, normally a certainty as the Derby winner, and who did, after all, earn Holloway £2,000 for being the British-bred that survived furthest.

Another terrific Fund incentive is that there is £500 paid for the breeder of the best-placed British-bred finalist in every Category One – that will be Cathys Clown in Tuesday's Sussex Cup final, bred by Debbie Mullins.

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