Jonathan Hobbs on greyhound racing latest, potential Derby venues, greyhound welfare and more

Jonathan Hobbs on greyhound welfare

Living in a Covid-restricted and affected world as we do, it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that we’re already thinking about the Greyhound Derby 2021 - having just finished the last one!

The golfing world has done exactly that with the Masters concluding on Sunday last and the next one scheduled for April, just five months from now.

And Tuesday's announcement from the GBGB concerning expressions of interest in staging the world’s greatest greyhound race - no apology for my patriotism here! - means thoughts now turn to the next running.

For the record, Deerjet Sydney won the Star Sports & Arc 2020 Greyhound Derby on October 31 and the 2021 edition is slated for May/June next year, just six months away.

So will the Derby be staged at Nottingham for a third year running after their successful handling of the Classic these past two years?

Or might recently reopened Towcester complete an incredible return to the fray by staging the Derby it hosted, again successfully, in 2017 or 2018?

Will Sheffield and Central Park throw their hats into the ring? Both have before - indeed Central Park was the only alternative at one stage to Nottingham two years ago.

Could the LadbrokesCoral tracks - ostensibly Hove or Monmore - be runners given the resources of parent company GVC and a strong link with SIS?

Or could another Arc track - say Newcastle or Perry Barr - be catapulted into contention to, presumably, replace Nottingham should that be desired or required?

Quite simply, all are possibilities - some more likely than others, admittedly - but nevertheless the opportunity is there.

The GBGB has asked for expressions of interest from tracks looking to become the sixth venue to stage the Classic - the fifth should Nottingham or Towcester once again make the frame.

These submissions should land at GBGB Towers by Monday week (November 30). A more detailed bid should then follow, after which an industry panel will assess the situation with a decision made before the end of the year.

As ever, sponsorship partnerships and guarantees will be crucial to that decision process. Interesting times ahead, for sure.

Racing-wise, times are extremely interesting.

This week has already witnessed the semi-finals of the BGBF British Breeders Stakes at Nottingham, while Thursday at Perry Barr sees the semi-finals of the RPGTV St Leger and M Lambe Construction Birmingham Cup.

Romford kicks off the Coral Essex Vase on Friday, while on Sunday it’s the semi-finals of the Ladbrokes Kent Derby at Central Park.

The respective favourites for these events are all top-class performers eyeing not just major prizes but potentially Greyhound of the Year recognition.

There are still plenty of events and competitions on the GBB Calendar but certainly the connections of both Tenpin and Roxholme Kristof, to mention just two, will be well aware of what another Category One success could mean to their credentials.

Virtual progress

Lockdown has clearly given certain tracks the time to expand their website experience - freshening things up.

The streaming of trials has been a superb development and the social media ante has been upped by the likes of Swindon, who should be extremely grateful to the work and creative skills of Josh Sealey - and with the Property192 Oaks on the horizon, no doubt Josh will satisfy the demands of his and the track’s followers. And some!

The LadbrokesCoral venues have also been busy, revamping their websites, so the likes of Crayford, Hove, Monmore and Romford are also worth a virtual visit.

Other tracks are in the process of relaunching their pages and clearly the idea is to make the experience more inclusive to keep fans of the sport engaged and encourage owners - so important when the doors are finally opened again.

Social media spotlight

In the meantime, social media continues to be the court where so many of the sport’s issues are discussed and debated - with arguments regularly spilling over to RPGTV. There’s never a dull moment - and neither should there be.

Complacency and apathy should always be railed against - the sport needs to keep on pushing forwards, but also has to fight its corner when others are trying to destroy it.

The likes of David Mitchell and Kim Sanzone - supported by many others - have led a fightback to those on social media looking to discredit the sport and can now call on the GBGB’s injury data and welfare record to rubbish outlandish claims. We are an open book.

A recent tabloid retraction shows what can be achieved, although ensuring such material never sees the light of day has to be aim. Be careful who you speak to.

The dogs come first

Connected to the above, but in a hugely positive way, was the fantastic work which took place at Perry Barr last week following an injury to Regency champion Zascandil.

Racing in a heat of the RPGTV St Leger, the Kevin Boon-trained runner had to be carried from the track after breaking a foreleg and was made comfortable by the vet at the track before an operation the following day.

What might be missed, however, was that Arc greyhound operations director Rachel Corden, at the meeting earlier, had driven back to the Birmingham venue to assess the situation and then take Zascandil to another vet in Lincolnshire.

Corden and Boon then exchanged texts in the early hours of the morning once Zascandil had settled - and the King’s Lynn-based trainer was full of praise for the track, its management and the track’s owners Arc for their assistance in a tough situation.

Under the stadium scheme all costs and vets’ bills will be covered, which is again something that can be lost in the unfortunate circumstances of an injury.

Amid all the negativity and arguments, here was a story which showed once again that, while opinions may differ (and some!), greyhound people are very much united when it comes to the common concern, which are the greyhounds themselves.

Ice looks a diamond

So to our new dogs to follow section - not so much eyecatchers for punting purposes (although can be!), but two names we should expect to win plenty of races moving forward. And when it comes to Bockos Belly and Ice Of Diamonds, that should certainly apply.

The Patrick Janssens-trained Bockos Belly produced a startling run on debut at Central Park on Sunday when his calculated time dipped under the track record, while Ice Of Diamonds was always bred to special.

A half-brother of Ice On Fire, the now-retired Greyhound of the Year, Ice Of Diamonds impressed again in a puppy race at Nottingham on Monday. Not many greyhounds have run the third bend at Nottingham better than him. Superb.

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