Second winner for Wallis as defending champ Taylors Sky is bundled out of it...

IT may not have been a vintage Derby final - too much rough and tumble from the boxes up to and rounding the first bend - but if ever a race brought out the true passion of an owner wildly in love with the game it was Mark Currell, whose pride and joy, the Mark Wallis-trained Blonde Snapper, avoided the aggro at the first bend and skipped away to make it third time lucky for him in the classic final at Wimbledon last night.

Currell was literally lost for words, choked up with tears and unable to respond to the many post-race questions but he will be basking in glory today, tomorrow . . . having seen his two previous finalists, Blonde Mac (second to Westmead Hawk in 2005) and Blonde Dino (third to Loyal Honcho three years later) beaten in the big one.

It was a scrappy affair up to the first corner, with the two early pacers Farloe Ironman and Coolavanny Bert bumping each other at the boxes, Ireland’s Judicial Ruling clobbered at the corner along with defending champ Taylors Sky and Westmead Adonis unable to go the early clip, though his day will come when upped in distance.

While all this was going on, Blonde Snapper did a Houdini at the first bend and went on from that point and it looked curtains for the rest as he turned the second in front and, galloping strongly, the race looked all over, and so it proved.

But the heavily backed Farloe Ironman, 9-2 down to 6-4! (more on that betting conspiracy theory later) came alongside down the back stretch and looked a serious threat. But the Dartnall dog could not sustain the effort as the Snapper pulled away going home to beat him nearly two lengths in 28.65sec. on normal going, as it was throughout the meeting.

Any one of them could win the most competitive final of recent years... 

THE old lady that is Wimbledon Stadium is tired and not a shadow of her once pristine self, it is shabby, you need the neck of a giraffe to get a full view of the racing and waders too when it’s raining to avoid drowning on the short walk from the car park to the admissions area - in a word the place is a shambles.

But none of which, you can bet your bottom dollar, will deter that diehard throng of dedicated greyhound racing fans from making the trek to South-west London on Saturday for the most exciting greyhound event of the year, Derby final night!

That is one of the most competitive finals of recent years adds to the fascination of a race which, following more than a month of qualifying, will be all over in less than half-a-minute and see the lucky owner £125,000 better off.

But GOBATA trainers have four in the final... 

WIMBLEDON was not the place for the feint-hearted on Saturday, especially for those who jumped on the bandwagon by backing the leading Derby fancies ante-post or on the night because semi-final time at Wimbledon yesterday was Armageddon greyhound racing style!

No fewer than four of the top six in the ante-post lists won’t be going back to Plough Lane on final night next Saturday, for two of them their participation in the big race was snuffed out before the first bend, including the only unbeaten dog left in the competition, the white hot favourite, Razldazl Jayfkay.

After another speedy getaway, his hopes were shattered by the kamikaze-type heroics of Ireland’s Judicial Ruling, whose place in penultimate round was under a cloud right up to the day of the race. But turn up he did, took his chance and in the process ruined the chances of Jayfky who was almost knocked off his feet by the wanderlust Judicial Ruling.

It’s crunch time at Wimbledon in Derby semis... 

FOUR trainers with runners in Saturday’s Derby semi-finals have tasted success in the premier classic at Wimbledon, Charlie Lister, six times a winner and in danger of an inquiry on behalf of the Monopolies Commission, Nick Savva, four times a winner and Mark Wallis and Dolores Ruth one apiece.

Been there, got the T-shirt etc but there is little more the trainers can do with their charges on the run-up to Saturday when the runners are faced with their third run in eight days. Gruelling is not the word and the semi-finals will be as much a survival of the fittest battle rather than one of just pure speed and the obligatory huge slice of Lady Luck!

Numerically speaking the money would have to be with the Ruth kennel, her three Razldazl dogs have done her proud up to now and none is showing any chinks in their armour, all three have been bombing out at Plough Lane and getting home well, with the exception of Bugatti in the last round. 

FORTY years in greyhound journalism and I cannot remember being at such a low ebb. 

In the early 70s the sport was buzzing. More than 50 tracks in the UK were treating us to some great action.

Brilliant performers such as Patricias Hope, Jimsun, Myrtown, Balliniska Band and Lacca Champion were thrilling the public and crowds of around 30,000 regularly attended Derby finals, which were run on lush turf at White City, London.

We were also drenched in publicity, thanks to the Greyhound Express, The Sporting Life, Sporting Chronicle, Greyhound Owner and Greyhound Magazine, while the Mirror, Mail, Express and Sun gave dog racing brilliant extra national coverage.

Inevitably, the opening of betting shops in 1961 was gradually starting to eat away at crowd levels.

This hungry off-course threat that would, over the years, lead to half of our stadiums being devoured was still not being treated seriously. 

Derby outsider in with a squeak of reaching the semis... 

TREWMOUNT SNAP might well be the complete outsider of the two dozen runners left in the Derby but his Alfreton, Derbyshire trainer, Darren Fretwell, pays no attention to the bookmakers and is hopeful that his lightly-raced 80lb whopper could well qualify for the semi-finals from tonight’s quarters at Wimbledon.

“I’m delighted he’s survived this far and I’m hoping that I’m learning about him all the time,” said Fretwell. “I’ve changed his diet in the hope it might help him stay on better and I’ve also cut down on his work, I was walking him two miles in the morning and the same in the evening and also putting him on the jogging machine.”

The Snap ought to be as fit as a flea with such a tough regime but, like the diet, the walking and the ‘jogging’ has been addressed by the trainer. “I was giving him too much work and the acid test will come tonight, the dog gets lots of love and attention and if he traps out there’s a good chance he’ll qualify – I don’t think he’ll come last!” 

Dolores and Charlie are as one, “it’s too far away”

THE longer run to the new pick-up point at Wimbledon is detrimental to the runners, so say two trainers - and there are others - with Charlie Lister and Dolores Ruth in particular stating that the extra 15 metres or so to the drop was an unnecessary move.

“Wimbledon said in so many words that the move was for the benefit of the diners in the corporate boxes, fearing that an accident might happen right in front of them at the old pick-up,” said Lister, “but as far I could see when I was there last Saturday the boxes were practically empty!”

As for the physical affect on the dogs Lister said that “it’s obvious if they are running further than they really need to they are bound to come off that bit more tired. Why they moved the pick-up, and let’s forget about the diners, is beyond me. It was a daft move, and so was the GBGB ruling that electrolytes can no longer be given to greyhounds at the track.”

CRITICISM of the Wimbledon management to extend the pick-up point at Plough Lane continues to gather momentum and the latest trainer to take a swipe at what he calls a “pointless and ridiculous” thing to do is up and coming handler, Dean Childs.

“As as far as I’m concerned it’s utter madness,” says Childs, “the Wimbledon management are subjecting greyhounds to run not so much over the Derby trip of 480 metres but more like 680 metres but didn’t anyone tell them these are not staying dogs?

“I speak from experience at Wimbledon last week when I had seven dogs running in the Derby and all came off very tired. True, this was partly due to the heavy going but the unnecessary long run to the ‘new’ pick up had a lot to do with it.

“A greyhound doesn’t know where the winning line is so he will run just as fast after the line as he would in the race itself but, as middle distance dogs, they don’t have much left in the staying department and this absurd long run to the pick up is detrimental to the dogs and their welfare.”

Childs’ views on the matter are shared by leading trainers Dolores Ruth, Charlie Lister OBE and Nick Savva, all of whom have publicly slammed the distance to the new drop. Miss Ruth said here a month ago that the extra distance the dogs are now asked to travel “tears the guts out of a greyhound.”

Childs, whose kennels are at Ockendon near Upminster in Essex, is saddened by the fact that, to the best of his knowledge, no trainer was ever consulted by Wimbledon over the contentious re-siting of the pick up.

“It’s a disgrace, after all us trainers are the ones who know our dogs and can easily spot if they have over-exerted themselves and this is happening at Wimbledon,” Childs continued. “Trainers are the ones who should be listened to instead of having this foisted upon us as a fait accompli! It’s all wrong and all so unnecessary.

“Did Wimbledon, I wonder, consider the possibility of the risk of injury to the dogs by running them further than really they are capable of running? After all we are talking middle distance dogs here, not Scurlogue Champs!

“I dread to think how exhausted the dogs will be when we get to the stage of three Derby runs in a week to the extended pick up, especially if the going is heavy again. It will particularly affect the short runners who gasp for air over 480 metres! It’s all wrong.”

On a happy note, Childs has six of his original seven Derby entries still standing their ground at Wimbledon. Whether they will be able to stand if the ground comes up heavy again this weekend remains to be seen!

“They should stop the hare as soon as they can after the line, in fact the sooner the better. Running to the new pick up runs all kinds of risks, injury, exhaustion and a greyhound is more liable to play or fight if the hare is whipped away and the dogs are left with virtually nothing to chase.”

IT’S that time of year again, the time when owners and trainers are praying for a dream come true but a time also when those dreams are about to be shattered for all but one set of connections.

Yes, the William Hill Derby is with us once again and gets under way at Wimbledon tonight (11 heats this evening and the remaining 11 tomorrow) and if the true connoisseurs of the racing greyhound want to sate their appetite then they wouldn’t want to be too far away from Plough Lane over the next 48 hours.

The real racing addicts would have us believe that the quality of entry is one of the highest in recent years and we wouldn’t argue with that, there are some 20 or so dogs in their whose records pass the closest inspection but also some lesser lights who, as past Derbys have proven, are likely to come up with vastly improved performances, leaving way behind the form they had previously shown.

Two out of Derby...

SCOTTISH Derby winner Barefoot Allstar will not be accompanied to Wimbledon by his Paul Hennessy-trained kennelmate, Barefoot Machine, who was due to run in Saturday’s second and concluding batch of first round heats but was withdrawn lame today. Allstar runs on Friday.

Also withdrawn today was Head Iton Hayesy, down to run in heat six on Friday but who was taken out of the event this afternoon. The Steve Race-trained dog is also lame.