Mark Wallis extends Greyhound Trainer of the Year record by clinching title for a 12th time
Mark Wallis and his team at Imperial Kennels have been celebrating regaining the Greyhound Trainer of the Year title after an impressive 2021 campaign.
The Lakenheath handler has been the sport’s dominant force since winning the prize for the first time in 2005. Between then and 2019 he topped the standings on an unprecedented 11 occasions, including a run of eight in a row.
However, Wallis’ former assistant Patrick Janssens wrestled it away during a memorable 2020 campaign for the Belgian trainer – one that was like no other due to the impact of Covid-19.
Yet, Wallis bounced back in style at the first time of asking, taking his overall tally to 12 with an impressive of haul of six Category 1 victories helping to rack up 1,346 points – more than 400 clear of Janssens in second.
“The pandemic last year was tough – we had about three months without any racing,” said Wallis.
“It affected trainers in different ways and it was a pretty poor year for the sport. But results-wise it was not too bad for us, it’s just a depleted programme didn’t help and the points reflect that.
“We still had plenty to be pleased with, including having the Greyhound of the Year.
“But the aim was always to bounce back and we did it. It’s been a really positive year – six Category 1 winners and a lot getting to Category 1 finals.
“That is why the points tally is so big this year, we had plenty getting to the finals of big races.
“We’re very proud of the achievement and there is no doubt the results give you a real buzz.”
With plenty to choose from, it was tough for Wallis to nail down one particular moment that stood out during the last 12 months.
Ultimately, though, it was an evening in late July down at Hove that will live longest in the memory as both the Coral Regency and Coral Sussex Cup went Wallis’ way within a matter of minutes thanks to Aayamza Royale and Drumcrow Brent respectively.
“Winning any Category 1 race is memorable. We’re not far off 90 now as a kennel and every one has got its own little story I could talk about that means a lot,” he said.
“The six we had this time are no different, but that summer night at Hove was fantastic. There was a good crowd in as well which helped the occasion.
“The Sussex Cup was fantastic for the owners Michelle Connolly and Mike Davis and then to see what Aayamza Royale did was amazing.
“She had dropped down in trip and then came from last to first to set up the double for us on the night.
“She’s a real special greyhound, she was Greyhound of the Year in 2020 and is still in training for next year when she’ll be looking to win a third TV Trophy, which has never been done before.”
The focus now is on the 2022 campaign – and hopefully for Wallis a 13th Trainer of the Year crown.
That is the main aim, although there is one race in particular that would provide the icing on the cake.
“I always see it as starting with a blank piece of paper. Everyone is on zero points,” he added.
“You have to take it competition by competition, month by month and then see where that takes you.
“Do I feel like we’ve got a strong enough team to retain it? I do, but there are two or three other trainers that have some very good dogs and it’s not going to be easy.
“And of course there is The Derby. Every trainer that has ever leaded up a greyhound wants to win The Derby.
“It’s the pinnacle of the year and we’ve been lucky to have won it twice, but to win it three times would be a major achievement.”