Jonathan Hobbs: The same things in a different greyhound world

Jonathan Hobbs casts his eye over the latest developments in the greyhound world

Things are different this year, we know that.

Lockdown delays meant a rescheduling of the Star Sports & Arc Greyhound Derby so 2020 will unusually see Nottingham follow Shelbourne Park in terms of the Classic season after the Dublin track kicked off the BoyleSports Irish Derby last weekend.

Some 24 first round heats across two nights at Shelbourne - in front of a crowd, it should be added - produced some cracking races and a number of great stories. Catch the sponsor’s Sarah Kinsella via Twitter for all the latest news - including how my charity bet is going. So far, so good, I’d say. Kick on Pestana!

So things are different, but then again very much the same. Pestana’s trainer is Owen McKenna and the McKenna name has handled many an Irish Derby favourite over the years and, of course, a winner or nine! Then, at Nottingham on Monday, Gymstar Elusive won an English Derby trial stakes, part-owned by Mr C. Lister.

Yes, that’s Charlie Lister OBE. Seven times trainer of an English Derby winner, the now-retired Charlie has joined two of his former major owners in Kieran Hickey (Farloe Tango, Fear Zafonic) and Mark Bates (Farloe Verdict) in the May 2018 son of Droopys Jet, who won his second UK start for trainer Chris Akers, Charlie’s former long-term head lad.

So normal service has resumed both sides of the Irish Sea!

Normal service has also arrived at the LadbrokesCoral tracks in terms of major events, albeit as yet without crowds. Discussions remain ongoing on that and October 1 seems to be the date most are working towards. Yarmouth’s gates are open, as will be Swindon’s for the Produce Stakes heats it seems. Again, a positive.

Other tracks have been left frustrated in their attempts to open their doors and the sport itself will need to work hard to renew interest in the game. The same applies to other sports, too, but at least our major events are ongoing and Monmore’s current double-header of the Ladbrokes Gold Cup and Ladbrokes Summer Classic is superb.

Following Hove’s recent Coral Sussex Cup and Coral Regency sharing centre-stage, Monmore is currently staging GBGB Category One events side by side and get set for two more Saturday nights of top-class action at the Wolverhampton venue which, along with Shelbourne, makes for a real betting-fest for greyhound fans.

Bockos Doomie continued his winning ways for Patrick Janssens in the heats of the Gold Cup and remains the kennel flag-bearer, helping Patrick to the top of the GBGB Trainer of the Year standings once again. He’s looking to finally wrestle the title from 11-time champion Mark Wallis and we could be set for another intriguing battle.

Mark has the larger kennel so will always be favourite, but the three-month gap has shortened the open-race year, of course, so you never know.

Fastest in the Gold Cup was the brilliant Queen Jessiej for Liz McNair and the KSS Syndicate and the British-bred is more than a match for the boys and her supporters will be looking for more of the same in the semis. Hiya Boyo continues to look top notch for the Keightleys, too. There’s all to play for.

As for the Summer Classic, it’s another wide-open event with Bubbly Dave emerging as a serious player as he looks to land an emotional win for his owners and trainer.

Named after Paul Young’s longtime physio Dave Collins, who sadly passed away during lockdown, the dog formerly known as Lightsaber Puma in Ireland was purchased for a decent sum by The Champagne Club in memory of Dave - and posted the fastest time on his UK debut in Saturday’s heats. He looks a top stayer.

Grand National delay

Interesting news from Central Park with a delay to the Grand National this year.

However, promoter Roger Cearns is adamant he will stage the jumpers’ Classic this year, with favourite being hosting it alongside the Ladbrokes Kent Derby later this year. It’s hoped the pool of leading hurdlers might have grown by then too.

Towcester has moved its Sunday meetings to the afternoons for the next few weeks, swopping its original evening fixture with sister track Henlow.

Promoter Kevin Boothby wants to improve the lighting at Towcester and work has begun on that ahead of his intended reopening of the track to the public. Late October or early November now looks favourite, but Boothby remains committed to open-race Saturday night galas which might be a game-changer.

Finally, another mention for the upcoming GOSH Charity Golf Day.

To be held at Stapleford Abbotts Golf Club on Wednesday September 16, a team of four can be secured for £200, although pairs will also be allowed. Breakfast and lunch is included and a number of celebrities are due to turn out, with the event being filmed by Steve Katz of Blue Tuna TV.

All money raised will be donated to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. For further information and sponsorship opportunities (£500 per hole) contact John Fox on 07740 454763 or john_p_fox@hotmail.com.

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