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Credit Sittingbourne for Tuesday's Sky showcase
TWO Sky meetings since the last missive, contrasting in many ways but ultimately both exactly the same with victories in the feature events going to Sheffield-based greyhounds.
Wimbledon was the first port of call for the Williamhill.com Puppy Derby final meeting, although I will admit to being a little late on parade as I was very distracted by the final night of Olympic action in the Velodrome – I’m afraid Sir Chris Hoy, Laura Trott and Victoria Pendleton appealed more than the four-runner open which opened Sky proceedings at Plough Lane.
The lack of greyhounds entered for the Wimbledon supports has been quite a talking point and there is no getting away from the fact that it was a disappointing card early on. Many reasons have been put forward, and the Olympics was certainly a factor as people had been convinced not to take journeys to London unless absolutely necessary, but I do think one solution could have been to delay closing the races and really advertise the fact how thin the entries were.
If Wimbledon was lacking quantity, certainly the second half of the card was not short of quality and the Puppy Derby final itself was an absolute belter. It was a major triumph for Barrie Draper as he not only won the competition for the second year, but landed a one-two as Farloe Warhawk just held off kennelmate Ballymac Eske.
I don’t think many doubt that Ballymac Eske is just the faster of the pair, but Farloe Warhawk’s early pace means he is made for Wimbledon and he will always have the prospect of going from the front.
Ballymac Eske has already franked the form with a best-of-night victory in the Puppy Classic at Nottingham and he is in action in the semis there on Monday, just hours after Farloe Warhawk plies his own trade in a Monmore puppy competition. It’s good to see them being kept on the go and not wrapped in cotton wool.
Team Draper enjoyed a good night at this week’s Betfred Steel City Cup fixture at Sheffield with a treble on the card – a feat matched by Stuart Mason who was formerly attached there – but it was another Owlerton handler, Elaine Parker, who took star billing when sending out Skywalker Louie to land the feature.
The celebrations were loud and long, and more power to connections for really enjoying the moment. Owners need to be encouraged, and the former high-profile general manager who once told me they should be neither seen nor heard would not make many friends now.
Incidentally, Fund chairman Tom Kelly and secretary Margaret Woodruff were on hand at Sheffield to view for themselves past and current projects that have been backed there and if there is a better illustration of why capital grants have a place in greyhound racing I have yet to come across it. Sheffield is a venue you would be happy to show to anyone to illustrate the excitement of greyhound racing, and how many other stadia up and down the country can we say that about?
In between Sky fixtures, Taylors Sky looked back to his very best when easily setting the standard in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup at Monmore which was no surprise to trainer Charlie Lister who has never wavered in his faith.
The Greyhound of the Year could easily have retained his Derby crown but for being clipped from behind in the final, and this is his next title from 2011 he is putting on the line. The evidence so far points to it being retained.
The Sky cameras roll into Sittingbourne on Tuesday for a Kent Derby/Grand National double-header which is great credit to management at the track for putting the dual Category One night on when it would have been easy to settle for a lot less.
The other big news of the week was the appointment of Ricky Holloway to the training ranks at Wimbledon. I think it’s a tremendous move for all concerned, and hopefully the inevitable bumps along the way will be far outweighed by the stability that a sizeable kennel strength will bring.
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