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Lakenheath handler Mark Wallis on winning the Essex Vase and Blue Riband Category One races in one memorable weekend





Mark Wallis got the defence of his Greyhound Trainer of the Year title off to a flying start with two Category One race wins at the weekend.

The Lakenheath handler retained the Greyhound Board of Great Britain’s top trainer crown at the end of 2022, which moved him on to a record-extending 13 titles.

And Wallis and his team at Imperial Kennels enjoyed more success last week, with Aayamza Magic winning the Coral Essex Vase on Friday, before Hopes Paddington landed the Stadium Bookmakers Blue Riband at Towcester on Sunday.

Emily Wallis, daughter of Mark Wallis, with Coral Essex Vase winner Aayamza Magic Picture: Steve Nash Photography
Emily Wallis, daughter of Mark Wallis, with Coral Essex Vase winner Aayamza Magic Picture: Steve Nash Photography

The pair of victories moved Imperial Kennels on to 91 Category One race wins, while Wallis has also opened up a lead of 123 points at the top of the 2023 Trainer of the Year early standings.

“It’s a fantastic start to the year,” he said. “It’s the sixth time we’ve won the Essex Vase over the years.

“It was an exciting race and Aayamza Magic had to come from quite a bit off the pace.

“He hasn’t got the greatest early pace, but his middle pace more than anything is devastating.

“With two bends to go he made his way through and it was a very good field. He beat the defending champion Coolavanny Aunty by just over a length.

“Our other one in the final, Minnie Bullet, was third, so we had first and third in the Essex Vase which was good.”

Hopes Paddington won the Blue Riband in Towcester on Sunday Picture: Steve Nash
Hopes Paddington won the Blue Riband in Towcester on Sunday Picture: Steve Nash

A record sixth Essex Vase victory at Romford on Friday took Imperial Kennels into the 90s for their haul of Category One wins, and two days later Hopes Paddington, last year’s East Anglian Derby winner, capped off a memorable weekend by winning the £10,000 top prize in the Blue Riband.

“The Blue Riband is a big four-bend competition that kicks the year off,” Wallis said. “We won it last year with Ivy Hill Skyhigh.

“This year we had Hopes Paddington and Antigua Bigun in the final and people were saying what a classy line up it was.

“Hopes Paddington had a poor draw as well from trap four, but showed a lovely bit of pace and he was away.

“Our other dog, Antigua Bigun, then came out of the pack and has won over further distances, but he was never going to catch Hopes Paddington and finished a very creditable second.

“We had first and third on Friday and first and second Sunday. It was a fantastic result for the kennel.

“Winning these Category Ones is what we’re all trying to achieve, but they’re not easy to win. It has given us a good start to the year.”