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Revitalised TV Trophy offers a timely boost
NEWCASTLE last week was a fantastic advert for all that is good in greyhound racing with a four-figure attendance on a non-normal racenight producing a terrific atmosphere and big-race wins for Mags Gamble and Teejays Bluehawk both fitting of the occasion, as was the state of the running surface which has not always been the case at recent major meetings.
It also reignited the Trainer of the Year battle with Paul Young within 80 points of long-time runaway leader Mark Wallis going into this Thursday’s action when both are represented in the Category One (50 points) Ladbrokes TV Trophy final at Monmore and Category Two (20 points) Henlow Gold Cup decider.
Young’s Bubbly Phoenix picked up a tendon injury in the All England final, but the good news this week was that it was not a rupture rather a strain. He’ll still be on the sidelines for a few weeks, and connections have stressed that he won’t be rushed back, but he should be back as good as ever in 2013.
The Champagne Club suffered further injury woe when debutant Bubbly Lucky suffered a stress fracture to a hock at Hove and you have to applaud chairman Steve Fluin who, on breaking the news to members, offered to refund anyone wishing to opt out of the dog by returning their share.
Syndication has grown apace in recent years and is an obvious way forward in tough economic times and, as the public face of arguably the most successful syndicate, it is refreshing to see such a gesture from Fluin even if the hope in this quarter is that few took him up on the offer with the dog expected to make a full recovery.
Bubbly Phoenix’s setback has possibly ended his hopes of picking up the Greyhound of the Year award which promises to be an exciting subplot to the end-of-campaign action.
There is still time for things to change, but at this stage the four-bend division looks set to provide the winner as it has been so strong throughout 2012. For my money, retired Derby champion Blonde Snapper is still perhaps just ahead as he also has the Golden Sprint on his cv, but there are other dual Category One winners, ahem, snapping, at his heels such as Loughteen Blanco and Mags Gamble, while Ballymac Eske has a Cat One and Cat Two to his name and the possibility of more to come.
With the Derby being the most valuable, both in terms of prizemoney and points, competition of the year, it’s no surprise to see Blonde Snapper as biggest scorer in Trainer of the Year terms having amassed 193 points.
But he isn’t certain to hold on in that either with Loughteen Blanco (155), Mags Gamble (150) and Ballymac Eske (129) all within striking distance even if the likes of Bubbly Phoenix (140) and Coolavanny Bert (131) are done for the year.
Back to this week’s main feature and how unfortunate for connections that Tynwald Tom had to be withdrawn from the TV Trophy final as he looked a big runner on heat evidence.
In his absence, Blonde Reagan and Storm Pockets dominate the market but a bigger priced winner wouldn’t surprise in a race more open in my opinion than the betting suggests, indeed I think it’s pretty difficult to confidently rule out of any of the quintet.
Ladbrokes, and operations director Gordon Bissett in particular, deserve great praise for the way they have bought into the whole ethos of the TV Trophy with the competition revitalised as witnessed by the bumper entry chasing hugely attractive prize money.
The bizarre decision to omit Lil Risky from a supporting open apart, Ladbrokes and Monmore have set a benchmark for others to follow in future years, although we still await news of whether future coverage will come courtesy of Sky Sports with whom GRA managing director Clive Feltham continues to negotiate ahead of the end of the current contract in December.
The threat to the coverage is distinctly real and the one sombre note at Newcastle last week was the genuine concern of those involved at the sharp end with Sky Sports’ output. There are many who think that Feltham should not be doing greyhound racing’s bidding but it is his company, and his company alone no matter how much it now lacks credibility in the eyes of the sport, that Sky itself is prepared to deal with as rights holders of the major British races.
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