After a low-key start to the year - not unusual - things pick up quickly in terms of open-race competitions with the Coral Golden Sprint starting this week at Romford and the BGBF British Breeders Stakes kicking off at Nottingham on Monday.
These are closely followed by trial stakes for the upcoming Arena Racing Company Northern Puppy Derby at Newcastle on Wednesday.
All three events events featured on the GBGB’s extensive list of major competitions published last week - well received and giving owners and trainers a chance to plan campaigns. These campaigns will hopefully coincide with crowds being let into greyhound tracks, along with other sporting arenas, as lockdown restrictions are eased over the coming weeks and months.
Monmore is one of those tracks hoping for a busy year, both on and off the track.
Facilities there are up with the best in the sport and a comprehensive list of major events has been scheduled - and these kicked off last weekend.
The Ladbrokes Puppy Derby and Winter Derby double-header was a tremendous fixture at the Wolverhampton venue with supporting competitions helping to make a top-class card for RPGTV viewers to enjoy on SportyStuff TV.
Victories for Graham Rankin’s Jaguar Macie (Puppy Derby) and Signet Ace (Winter Derby) rightfully grabbed the headlines, but two performances on the supporting card also commanded plenty of attention - the track record-breaking effort of Aayamza Royale over 900m and Bubbly Dave’s six-bend two-run competition success for Paul Young.
Could the pair be set for a match in the TV Trophy?
Certainly Greyhound of the Year Aayamza Royale is heading that way given she aims to successfully defend the title won brilliantly at Hove last year. This year’s TV Trophy takes place at Monmore in May and, as it stands, Mark Wallis’s bitch would be favourite to join a select list of two-time TV Trophy winners.
Midway Skipper, Ericas Equity and, of course, the mighty Scurlogue Champ all have two TV Trophies to their name and Aayamza Royale looked in good order at the weekend - and so, too, did Bubbly Dave.
Now, the TV Trophy might not be on connections’ radar yet with the Ladbrokes Kent St Leger (Crayford, June), Coral Regency (Hove, July) and Ladbrokes Summer Stayers Classic (Monmore, August) more obvious targets, but the TV Trophy could be tempting given how well he finished to win at Monmore over 630m.
The irony here is over the TV Trophy distance.
Monmore has staged the TV Trophy on four occasions - three times over 815m with victories for Lizzies Girl (1975), Scurlogue Champ (1985) and Jennys Wish (1991), and once over 835m in 2012 when the St Leger champion Blonde Reagan, stepping up in trip at the fastest track in the UK, obliged.
However this year’s Ladbrokes TV Trophy will be over 900m.
Now, if you’re Bubbly Dave, that’s perhaps unfortunate, but if you're Aayamza Royale or a more traditional marathon performer that’s great news - and is certainly more in line with the usual TV Trophy distance, even if the move was decided after an issue with the 835m traps saw Monmore switch to 900m at the weekend.
What we do know is that Aayamza Royale has decent enough speed herself as the St Leger third and raced pretty handily throughout on Saturday before powering to the front and it might be that a rematch with Redzer Renae for the Gifkins family could be the clash greyhound fans will be itching for.
However, those owners and trainers of six-bend types looking to step up for a TV Trophy crack at what was traditionally an ‘easy’ eight-bend trip might think again.
Long before then, the British breeding season kicks off with the BGBF British Breeders Stakes live on Sky Sports Racing on Monday.
Like the Northern Puppy Derby, the British Breeders Stakes enjoys a switch in the GBGB Calendar this year with an earlier date but no doubt will again be targeted by the Kings and Queens of Liz McNair and the KSS Syndicate.
The team might have been out of luck in the Winter Derby Final at Monmore but landed both the 2020 British Breeders Stakes and supporting - and inaugural - Midland Sprint Trophy on a great night for the Ashford set-up at Colwick Park in November.
They landed a one-two with littermates Queen Dolly and King Louis in the British Breeders Stakes and, for good measure, won the sprint event with King Drake.
The heats of this year's two-bend competition take place on Monday week.
Hats off to Central Park for a full open-race card this coming Sunday.
The programme is spiced by a number of Springbok trial stakes and the list below shows the latest top ten standings for qualification - the top 36 will make the first round on Sunday, March 21.
However, it’s not just about the novice hurdlers on Sunday, with a clutch of one-off contests for RPGTV/SportyStuff TV viewers to enjoy given the likes of top open racers Loggies Lito, Aayamza Lexie, Punk Rock Mutley, Southfield Code, Blue Tick George, Lenson Whelan and Coolavanny Kyser are all entered up.
Not to be outdone, Swindon’s card the same night on Sky Sports Racing is top notch, too, with seven open races.
The three-way clash between Derby finalist Smurfs Machine, Oaks finalist Newinn Liz and Ladbrokes Puppy Derby finalist Westway Blake looks a particular cracker, as is St Leger champion Smallmead versus Salacres Pippy over six bends.
Latest Cearnsport Springbok standings - Central Park:
Finally, there is a classy list of nominations for the RPGTV/GWA Greyhound of the Month for February.
The four nominations are:
Winner of the Ladbrokes Puppy Derby at Monmore for trainer Graham Rankin and owner Tony Armstrong.
Winner of the TRC Health + Hygiene Blue Riband Final at Towcester for trainer Patrick Janssens and owners Chris Crampton, Harry Crapper, David Priestley and Nigel Thomas.
Punk Rock Mutley
Winner of the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket for trainer Stuart Maplesden and owner Matt Christelow.
Winner of the Ladbrokes Winter Derby at Monmore for trainer Kevin Hutton and owners Mark Gilbert and Hutton himself.
The winner, decided by the GWA membership, will be announced next week.