Weblog: At large in the greyhound world
Maurice Watkins: an ear -whisperer extraordinaire
FOR the second successive Friday, you’d have to say the racing at Wimbledon was disappointing in terms of showmanship. It was processional stuff, and again reflected my general view that tracks nowadays are deliberately kept on the slow side because of well-meaning, but mistaken, Greyhound Board advice.
Caution underpins everything in modern day life, but track preparation should also be about providing a stage – and previous Wimbledon Derby champions such as the Hawk, and Moral Standards (see Saturday’s Racing Post Greyhound Great feature) would today do well to reach the final, never mind win it.
Yet last Saturday, in a horrible downpour, the track was pulled together better and whilst running even slower, the greyhounds seemed to enjoy more purchase off the back – the racing, bizarrely given the weather, was fantastic.
Slow and loose is as unsatisfactory as fast and firm – the perfect track always used to be one that was finessed between either extreme. The sport has lurched too far in one direction.
Looking at the results, the only winner in Friday's eight heats in round two of the williamhill.com Derby to effectively 'come off the back' was Taylors Sky, who is really a front-runner himself.
The Derby champ lost his footing at the start, and was then baulked at the bend, but showed his class in a relatively weak heat to overpower his rivals at the third.
Kennelmate Bucks Blade also led off the last bend but this was a race where he turned second and, another kennelmate, Tyrur Justin who was leading, presented him the race when veering very wide off the last (he had screwed wide early too).
All the other heats were over by the bend.
Charlie Lister, after a long day that started at the Palace – look for the wonderfully evocative picture in Saturday’s Racing Post of him receiving his OBE from Prince Charles – will have climbed finally into bed back in Newark well satisfied. A double, including a forecast, and four of his five runners safely through. Congratulations to him, his family, staff and loyal owners – and indeed greyhound racing as a whole. It was a rare day, and thanks too to Greyhound Board chairman Maurice Watkins, who seems to know the right ear to whisper in. If he can now whisper in somebody else’s about being less cautious in digging up tracks, then all well and good!
And you’d have to say Dolores Ruth will also have gone back to her temporary Kelly Findlay-base well-pleased. Razldazls Rioga and Bugatti put their respective races to the sword within yards of the traps opening, and with Bugatti clocking the fastest in the final heat, you’d have to argue that was the run of the round so far – and of course she has her main hope, JFK, to come Saturday night as the second round concludes.
Just before heat 9 on Saturday, Paul Brown, Greyhound Editor of the Racing Post, will hand over the Performance of the First Round award to the connections of Bubbly Phoenix. Malcolm Watt, one of the Champagne Club syndicate, was drawn by chairman Steve Fluin to be the recipient.
Two more similar awards will be made - after the second and third rounds.
The draw for the last 48 will be made after racing on Saturday, and connections also need to be aware that this is their last chance to alter seedings. Once that third round draw starts, that’s it. No more agonising, you stay as you are.
We will continue with heat by heat analysis Saturday night – and then put up the draw, expect that to follow at around, or just after, 11pm, so patience please!
Look out again in Saturday’s paper for the extraordinary voucher that offers free admission for up to FOUR, a racecard AND a free pint. Come along, see the world’s greatest race – then stop and see the draw. It will take place near the Hills betting shop underneath the stand.
You can also use the voucher for any night at Wimbledon during the Derby, save the final itself. Saturday week, the last 48, is always one of the nights of the year.
See you at Wimbledon
**William Hill Media Tipping: the leaders
(courtesy of John Johnson)
1 Admiral Benbow +7.80
2 Hobbsy +6.94
3 Michael Fortune +6.80
4 David Clark (RFO) +5.38
5 Birchy +4.98
6 Muttley +4.70
7 Kate Miller (Hills) +4.46
8 Gary Wiltshire +1.84
9 Ploughman (Wimbledon) +0.86
10 Procter House (Greyhound Board) -0.06