Eleven-time Greyhound Trainer of the Year Mark Wallis picks out his top five victories
Lakenheath-based Imperial Kennels has recorded 75 Category 1 victories down the years.
More than 60 of those have been achieved under the watch of Mark Wallis, who took over from his mother-in-law Linda Jones in 2005.
Picking out his top five winners has been a tall order for Wallis, but he has done so by putting his biggest victories alongside those that carry some sentimental value.
The 11-time Trainer of the Year said: “Every winner has got that little story that makes it special; they all mean something and it is difficult to split them.
“Category 1s are the first thing you think about at the start of each year. We want to win at least one and thankfully we have been able to do that for many years – long may it continue!”
5. Billys Bullet (Coral Regency 2016)
“He was already a good dog when he came to us, and was without a doubt the best stayer in the country in 2015.
“He was 10 lengths clear in the semi-final of the Regency that year when he shattered his leg.
“That was devastating, but we live in a fantastic era now and an unbelievable vet called Daniel Docherty not only repaired it, he rebuilt the hock.
“10 months later he was back but looked a shadow of his former self. He has always been a proper lazy dog, so the only way to get him back fit was on the race track.
“I am sure a lot of people wondered why we had brought him back, but we stuck with him and slowly but surely he got better. They say to stay away from a track where you have bad luck, but the owners and myself were both keen to go for the Regency again.
“He was a 9/2 shot in the final and didn’t have a great draw, but he was magnificent. He smashed out, was in front early and led from there.
“It was a real joyous occasion and a proper back-from-the-brink story.”
4. Domino Storm (ECC Timber Oaks 2015)
“We won the Oaks for the first ever time the year before with Cashen Maureen, but she had only just come to us before she won.
“With Domino Storm, she had been with us a long time. She was graded at Yarmouth and from there she won some Open races.
“She just got better and better, was prolific everywhere and set some track records at Sheffield and Towcester.
“There was so many good bitches about at this time, but she took everything apart, including by winning the Oaks.
“She came from humble beginnings but is in the top five greyhounds we have had come through the kennel.”
3 Adageo Bob (Mitch Millward Essex Vase 2015)
“A great race dog owned by great people. Dick Barfoot, who sadly died last year, and his wife Ann have been fantastic supporters of our kennel and to win this at their home track Romford meant a lot.
“He quickly won a Category 1 at Nottingham after coming to us, and he is one of the best dogs Romford has ever seen. But for nearly three years he could not win a big one there.
“He even broke 35 seconds 17 times there, but he was second the first time in a final and then when he was the 1/5 favourite, we got delayed in traffic and couldn’t make the race in time.
“This was one last attempt in 2015 because he was a veteran. He had won plenty, so it was not like he hadn’t achieved anything, but it would have been a travesty for him not to win big at Romford.
“There was some real class in the final – probably the hardest of the finals he ran in – but he was just magnificent.
“I paraded the dog and watching it back you can see the emotion on my face – it meant so much.
2 Blonde Snapper (William Derby 2012)
“He had a brilliant puppy career and was the 8/1 favourite to win The Derby ahead of it getting under way in 2011.
“There are six or seven runs before you get to the final, and four qualify in the early rounds, but in his first run he didn’t get out and couldn’t quite make up the ground.
“It was demoralising and then just after we licked our wounds to go again, he suffered a broken wrist. That should have been the end but we persevered and got him back.
“He went on to win the Golden Sprint at Romford, but no dog had ever followed that up by winning The Derby – he was still 80/1 for The Derby!
“But he did brilliantly and although we had to treat him with a lot of ice, he made it through and seemed to thrive on racing in quick succession.
“In the final itself he suffered a massive bump that could have knocked him off his feet, but he rode it like he’d never been injured. I have never seen a dog recover like that.
"It was a great race and he deserved to win it. It was nice on a personal level to answer those that were saying our first Derby win was a fluke – we got that a lot.”
1. Kinda Ready (Derby 2009)
“When I was assistant to Linda before taking over in 2005, we had a couple of Derby final runners and they ran with great credit.
“He was a massive price, but we felt Kinda Ready could go that one step further.
“I have seen that race back so many times and he wins it on merit, picking up the favourite on the line.
“You couldn’t be sure at the time if he had got there or not, but thinking about the roar from the crowd after the result was announced, it is the sort of thing that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
“The place was packed and the euphoria of having a first Derby winner can never be matched; it will always be the greatest achievement.”
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More by this authorLiam Apicella