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Delighted pandemonium over Charlie's honour!
IT is fair to say that there was a certain state of pandemonium on the Racing Post greyhound desk mid-afternoon on Friday when we were alerted to newswire reports of the New Year’s Honours List.
We’ve never really had to consider it before. Yes, there has been the occasional gong for those involved in greyhound racing – think recently Mick Wheble and Maurice Watkins – but not for anything they have done greyhound-related as such.
Which is why is stood out. Charles Richard Lister, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE to you and I), “for services to greyhound racing”.
Wowza! For services to greyhound racing . . . as Charlie, ahem, Mr Lister OBE said when I called him soon afterwards, that meant almost as much as the award itself. Of course he and his family are proud and rightly so, but Charlie was very keen to stress how he saw this as reflecting well on greyhound racing as a whole and being great for the greyhound industry.
He’s so right. This award would not have happened were greyhound racing seen as shady or as having skeletons in the cupboard and, for that, everyone associated with the sport should feel a warm glow.
But, deserving as Lister is, and surely no-one has ever been more worthy of official recognition after a career which has seen a record six wins in both the English and Scottish Derbys, 14 ‘Classic’ victories in all and almost 50 other major competition successes, he would not have received it without a concerted push.
As this is all so new to us, I’m really not sure what the protocol is about revealing the background to GBGB chairman Maurice Watkins nominating Lister earlier in the year, but I’ve heard the Tower of London isn’t as cold as you’d think at this time of year so here goes.
Initially, the venerable George Curtis had been earmarked as the potential nominee on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Ballyregan Bob’s world record32nd successive victory, but a re-read of the guidelines issued by the Cabinet Office soon made it clear that there was little chance of success due to the very time that had elapsed since Gentleman George’s fantastic career achievements.
So it was that the focus was changed to Charlie and the GBGB set about putting his career on paper – and that took more than one side of A4 I can assure you – in addition to collecting the requisite testimonials.
As chairman of the Greyhound Writers’ Association, I was asked to pen a few words, a selection of which are reproduced here.
“In my time involved professionally in greyhound racing, the name of Charlie Lister has stood out as a colossus amongst his peers as he began systemically rewriting the record books.
“Such has been his impact, particularly over the past 20 years, that some of his supposed powers have reached almost mythical status such as his ability to get a greyhound to leave the traps fastest in big races – ‘Charlie can get them out’ being one of the sport’s best-known sayings.
“Although fiercely competitive, Lister’s biggest commitment is to the welfare of his greyhounds. At times he can be outspoken, but he speaks only with the best interests of his greyhounds in mind and he has certainly encouraged more enlightened thinking by many others.
“In short, Charlie Lister is possibly the greatest British greyhound trainer ever, and is certainly so in terms of statistics.”
It was a proud enough moment receiving my own letter from the Cabinet Office acknowledging receipt of my missive, but nothing to that I felt when greyhound editor Paul Brown broke the news of the OBE award on Friday afternoon.
Yes, the next few hours were hectic to say the least, but I’ve never been happier to feel the strain. Greyhound racing has had a fantastic few months, quite brilliant really, but this tops the lot.
Happy New Year!
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