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Cuteness as well as raw passion is always helpful
SOMETIMES you can let a personal theory run amok and so it was this week when speaking to Barrie Draper after his Ballymac Eske had completed an unbeaten run through the Caffreys Puppy Classic at Nottingham, following up a facile near-record semi success with a far more hard-working but nonetheless equally impressive final victory.
My problem is that, even as he was breaking Monmore's 480m clock a couple of months ago, I've regarded Ballymac Eske as a potential superstar stayer in the making and those thoughts were only exacerbated during his Puppy Derby campaign at Wimbledon. He might have just been touched off by kennelmate Farloe Warhawk in the final, but he'd look ill-equipped for the challenges of Plough Lane's 480m course in his two earlier runs there and didn't strike as ideal Derby material on that evidence.
So it was that I found myself asking Draper whether he would be tempted to up Ballymac Eske in distance in the short-to medium-term. It was probably a valid question, but even as the words left my mouth I knew it was a daft one because why would he? Draper, thankfully, treated the query with respect and explained that, no, four bends was the way forward with the Olympic at Hove a possibility and the Eclipse back at Nottingham definitely in his plans.
The Sheffield handler has already said that Ballymac Eske will have to get accustomed to Wimbledon because that is where the £150,000 William Hill Derby is due to be and that is a must on his future agenda. It's a really refreshing attitude, and positive campaigning such as that is what has seen Team Draper into the top six in the Trainer of the Year standings with a certain Eden Star soon ready to return from the sidelines.
Later in the week, it was good to see owner John Turner break his big-race duck when Jaytee Monroe landed the Brighton Belle for another trainer who campaigns aggressively in the shape of Paul Young. Actually, aggressive is probably an unfortunate choice of word as Hove was the venue for Turner's biggest setback earlier this year when high-profile and expensive purchase Jaytee Apache was warned off for a second and final time for deliberate interference - that decision by the stewards was unavoidable, but the Brighton Belle still represented redemption for Turner no doubt.
The Coral Champion Stakes got under way on Friday with Airforce Roger fastest for Frank Taylor, but Westmead Maldini looking menacing to all after easing his way through. Both are more than capable of coming from off the pace which will stand them in good stead in an event where many of the other main contenders really need to lead.
And what a story potentially awaits at Doncaster on Tuesday where Elaine Parker's comeback king Welton Arthur has made it through to the Gain Foods Yorkshire St Leger final unbeaten. Not only has he come back from a broken shoulder sustained in this very event last year but from a subsequent, some thought harsh, disqualification at Monmore in June. No surprise, then, that Sky Sports's Julie Collier chose Parker for her kennel feature which should be a fascinating part of Tuesday's broadcast from the track.
Saturday started with a fruitless, for a Middlesbrough fan such as myself anyway, visit to the New Den to see Millwall pick up three comfortable points, but a trip to South Bermondsey always sharpens your wits which was no bad thing ahead of my stint on Racing Post Greyhound TV that night where Greyhound Trainers' Association chair 'Call Me Rick' Holloway was the guest.
It was Holloway's third appearance on the channel, but first since he received an overwhelming mandate from his fellow trainers and he is now in the process of engaging with the greyhound authorities so he can properly put the GTA viewpoint across.
The organisation held its AGM last week and now has a strong-looking committee in place although, from a personal point of view, I do feel it is in danger of becoming too fixated on individuals rather than the bigger picture.
It is abundantly clear that there is no love lost between many of the new GTA movers-and-shakers and current practioner representative John Haynes, whose initial 'coronation' and subsequent appointments to that position have not been in entirely satisfactory circumstances or manner, but there is a process in place to to deal with that issue and the GTA will have to follow it.
Presently, the practitioner representative is appointed by agreement between trainers, owners and breeders' associations, and Haynes currently has the support of two of those three even if he clearly does not the other. However, it is interesting to note that he was officially ratified by the previous GTA regime as recently as May which, with an election on the horizon, was surely interesting timing at the very least.
Anyway, on the show Holloway was his usual passionate self, hitting the target on many occasions, missing on a few others. He will be judged by results not rhetoric and my belief is that there is more understanding within the corridors of power about trainers' predicaments than he might realise - where we differ to some degree is in the way he goes about chasing improvements.
I suppose I'm advocating making an omelette without breaking eggshells, but that might just be the way forward in greyhound racing.
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