Jonathan Hobbs on the greyhound racing news including the 2020 Greyhound of the Year Awards

Jonathan Hobbs brings you his latest column

This time next week the GBGB will be preparing to announce the nominations for the 2020 Greyhound of the Year Awards.

Despite a challenging and difficult year, which included a spring lockdown break, greyhound racing still managed to complete a vast majority of its major events and competitions and some fantastic performances lit up the track - whether in front of crowds when permitted or behind closed doors in these Covid times.

And due to that fact, a virtual awards ceremony takes place in London on Sunday, February 14, when the winners will be announced.

Those winners are tough to call.

Some categories have a clear-cut winner potentially, others look an either/or, and a few have a real spread of chances - and they include the race to succeed the brilliant Ice On Fire as Greyhound of the Year. It really does look an open year.

Unfortunately such a competitive set of awards would have made for a fantastic celebration in non-Covid times, but credit to the GBGB and the awards sponsors who could have easily glossed over this year. Great efforts are being made to ensure the experience for connections is a positive one.

Opinions will no doubt be divided which is always part of the build-up, so to refresh the memory a list of major winners last year are detailed below.

2020 GBGB Roll of Honour

  • Coronation Cup (Romford, 575m) Antigua Rum
  • Winter Derby (Hove, 500m) Volcanic Reef
  • Golden Jacket (Crayford, 714m) Skilful Sandie
  • Peter Bussey Memorial (Crayford, 540m) Goldies Symnsy
  • Juvenile (Sheffield, 500m) Ice On Fire
  • Puppy Trophy (Sunderland 450m) Calzaghe Mint
  • Springbok (Central Park, 480mH) Burgess Doc
  • Golden Sprint (Romford, 400m) Goldies Hoddle
  • Midland Puppy Derby (Monmore, 480m) Newinn Jacko
  • Steel City Cup (Sheffield, 500m) Headford Ranger
  • Silver Salver (Central Park, 265m) Shrewd Call
  • All England Cup (Newcastle, 480m) Bower Luke
  • Sussex Cup (Hove, 515m) Bockos Doomie
  • Regency (Hove, 695m) Zascandil
  • Champion Hurdle (Central Park, 480mH) Swift Loki
  • Gold Cup (Monmore, 480m) Gonzo
  • Summer Stayers (Monmore, 630m) Kingsbrook Glyn
  • East Anglian Derby (Yarmouth, 462m) Kilara Lion
  • Champion Stakes (Romford, 575m) Desperado Dan
  • Puppy Cup (Romford, 400m) Tenpin
  • Produce Stakes (Swindon, 476m) Queen Jessiej
  • Guy and Dolls (Romford, 400m) Melodys Secret
  • Cesarewitch (Romford, 925m) Aayamza Royale
  • Three Steps to Victory (Sheffield, 660m) Roxholme Kristof
  • Maiden Derby (Henlow, 460m) Roxholme Olaf
  • Kent St Leger (Crayford, 714m) Droopys Bird
  • Gold Collar (Crayford, 540m) Desperado Dan
  • Young Guns (Sheffield, 480m) Blackstone Milo
  • Young Guns (Central Park, 480m) Tenpin
  • The Derby (Nottingham, 500m) Deerjet Sydney
  • Derby Plate (Nottingham, 500m) Doolin Duke
  • Puppy Trophy (Nottingham, 500m) Ballydoyle Razor
  • Stayers Trophy (Nottingham, 680m) Blue Tick George
  • Dorando Marathon (Nottingham, 905m) Affirmed
  • Grand National (Central Park, 480mH) Roxholme Biscuit
  • British Breeders Stakes (Nottingham 500m) Queen Dolly
  • St Leger (Perry Barr, 710m) Smallmead
  • Birmingham Cup (Perry Barr, 480m) Droopys Carat
  • Kent Derby (Central Park, 480m) Kilara Lion
  • Essex Vase (Romford, 575m) Kilmessan Puma
  • The English Oaks (Swindon, 476m) Ballymac Trend
  • British Bred Derby (Sheffield, 500m) Elderberry Sky
  • English Puppy Derby (Towcester, 500m) Surprising
  • Greyhound Olympic (Hove, 515m) Newinn Jacko
  • TV Trophy (Romford, 945m) Aayamza Royale
  • Brighton Belle (Hove, 515m) Droopys Aoife
  • National Sprint (Nottingham, 305m) Loggies Lito
  • Puppy Trophy (Sunderland 450m) Calzaghe Mint
  • British Bred Maidens (Romford, 400m) Go Pat Go
  • British Bred Oaks (Doncaster, 483m) Fearsome Encore
  • British Bred Sprint (Towcester, 260m) King Drake
  • British Bred Northern Maiden Standard (Newcastle, 480m) Acomb Jenny
  • British Bred Scurry (Harlow, 415m) Queen Lilly
  • Kent National Hurdle (Crayford, 540m) Roxholme Biscuit
  • BGBF St Leger (Central Park, 642m) Zaha

Greyhound Derby dates confirmed

It's third time lucky for the 2021 Greyhound Derby with Saturday, July 10, the new date for the final of the world’s greatest greyhound race.

Concerns that a sizeable crowd might still not be able to attend ruled out a May slot, with a summer Derby preferred by hosts Towcester. An original July 17 clashed with the British Grand Prix at nearby Silverstone, so the Derby has been brought forward a week.

The clash was flagged up on social media and, while the track pointed to its intention to avoid a clash with major race dates in Ireland, a closer-to-home situation forced a sensible switch given the problems trainers will have encountered getting to the track.

One source said: “The British Grand Prix dominates the area for two days across July 17/18. There are always major road closures and, while some motor racing fans will have enjoyed a night at the dogs on the Saturday night, would the dogs have got there?

“Towcester have substantial kennelling onsite for some of their attached trainers, so I’d imagine they’ll stage a meeting on July 17 to try and attract the Silverstone crowd a week later, but all focus will now be on making the Derby as successful as possible.”

Ben Keith and his Star Sports company are once again joint-sponsors of the £175,000-to-the-winner Classic with a major brewery understood to have been lined up to share the load. “This will probably be announced closer to the event,” added the source.

Blue Riband back at Towcester

Talking of Towcester, great to see the Blue Riband back as part of the GBGB Calendar - so well done promoter Kevin Boothby.

The Blue Riband was a staple of Wembley’s greyhound calendar back in the day before moving to Hall Green and then to Henlow, under Boothby’s auspices - and now returns after a three-year absence.

The Towcester Blue Riband starts on Saturday, January 23, with the three-round GBGB Category One event concluding with a £7,500-to-the-winner final on Saturday, February 6.

Before then, Romford stages the first GBGB Category One of the year with the Coral Essex Vase.

The semi-finals take place on Friday with the £10,000 final a week later. Romford favourites Desperado Dan (Patrick Janssens), Sparta Master (Sharon Thompson) and Smallmead (John Mullins) are still in the mix, along with Antigua Rum (Mark Wallis), who won the Coronation Cup this time last year.

Oaks finalist Newinn Liz and Droopys Aoife give Ernie Gaskin a strong hand heading into the last-18 stage.

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