Jonathan Hobbs: Ice On Fire's return gets juices flowing

Jonathan Hobbs debates who will be named July's Greyhound of the Month

Jonathan Hobbs discuses the welcome return of Ice On Fire and begins to look forward with optimism - read his latest column here.

Good news has been sparse in tough times, but Monday’s return to the track of the Greyhound of the Year and longtime Derby favourite Ice On Fire really put the spring in the step of greyhound fans - especially once Jimmy Fenwick’s star had come through the 255m workout.

News of his reappearance filtered through Monday afternoon as a late, high-profile addition to trials before racing - and the Dave Spraggon-owned star will have another short sprint trial on Monday before a card featuring another batch of Star Sports & Arc Derby Trial Stakes live on RPGTV.

Incidentally, well done to Mark Pierrepoint, who was on hand after Ice On Fire’s trial to interview Jimmy Fenwick and post his comments on Twitter shortly afterwards. Mark works for Notts trainer Peter Harnden, but also reports for the Greyhound Star for whom his ‘Derby Diary’ is keeping everyone up to speed.

With tracks only now beginning to open their gates to patrons, with owners given preference generally, keeping everyone informed via social media of trials, racecards, upcoming big-race fixtures and other dates for the diary has certainly seen some tracks impress more than others, but generally the service has been decent.

Josh Sealey at Swindon is very much the eye-catcher, however. His work for Swindon has been top-notch and those looking forward to keeping tabs with the upcoming Produce Stakes at the Blunsdon venue are in good hands. Nottingham are also on point when it comes to the countdown to the Greyhound Derby - again!

Lockdown forced a rescheduling of the Classic and we have the somewhat unique situation of the Irish Derby preceding the English version - and sadly we know the situation remains fluid in terms of those Irish-based stars who could be heading for the east Midlands for prep trials in four weeks or so.

The advice remains to be cautious in terms of ante-post betting, although fancy prices are always difficult to ignore when you have been impressed!

So, those on Pestana for the BoyleSports Irish Derby even before his Champion Stakes win must be sitting comfortably after his astonishing track-record performance last week. Owen McKenna’s dog lines up in the third round on Saturday as favourite for the Derby, although there is still plenty of work to do for all.

Monmore is the weekend’s venue of choice for UK greyhound fans with a fantastic double-header of GBGB Category One events given the Ladbrokes Gold Cup Final shares centre-stage with the Ladbrokes Summer Stayers Classic Final - two huge finals and two major meetings on Super Saturday on RPGTV.

Shelbourne joins Monmore for a high-class night on the channel, with every single race in the Irish Greyhound Derby from hereon in now shown on RPGTV which, given crowds are now no longer allowed in to Irish tracks, is perfect timing given the forced-to-stay-at-home audience can now keep abreast of all the action.

Towcester continues to work on a host of various projects and news of these should follow shortly.

In the meantime the Northamptonshire venue joins the open-race party again on Sunday afternoon with the final of the BGBF British Bred Sprint Final, live on SIS. Liz McNair has a strong hand with four finalists.

It continues a good week for British breeding with Doncaster hosting the BGBF British Bred Oaks Final, which went to the Chris Akers-trained Fearsome Encore.

British Greyhound Breeders Forum (BGBF) chair Liz Mort reports a whole series of competitions across different tracks lined up for the rest of 2020, many of which have been rescheduled due to lockdown.

Check out the GBGB Calendar or BGBF website for details.

Well done to Sunderland for their novel graded competition which concluded on Wednesday with victory for the Paul Miller-trained All Gone.

Titled the NSL Supports Durham and District Retired Greyhounds, the event was backed by local owner Kevin Lloyd’s Netting Services Limited, and saw six level-start heats from A1 to A6 with the winners of each competing in a handicap final. A great idea which raised money for retired greyhounds in the process.

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