No racing Saturday 28 January 2023
Last week, ice got the better of us. This week we have been undone by water and dirty water at that. Dwr Cymru Welsh Water need to carry out emergency repair work on the combined sewage overflow that releases pressure on the huge sewer culvert buried under the stadium car parks. It looks like it is going to be a bigger job than they first thought and they have come to the conclusion that they definitely won’t have completed the work by Saturday evening. So, it’s another week off, I’m afraid.
14 January 2023
There certainly couldn’t be any complaints about the level of entertainment on offer. It started from the first race where it looked like there could be an upset as young Ranger led Darkness for three bends before the hugely-experienced bitch blasted clear as they turned for home. Little did we know that would be the most mundane race of the evening.
The top heat saw more blistering early pace from Ice Hot who, again, led Dawn at the bend. He stretched his advantage up the back but, for the second week running, he began to tie up with cramp as they reached the home straight. Seven days ago, he almost ground to a halt as Dawn sped past. This time, he bravely gritted his teeth to hold on for a one-length victory – which wasn’t bad for a dog who, by that stage, basically only had two working legs.
The other rounder was even closer as debutant Ice Tea led up but left the door wide open for Ali G to turn inside him. David’s Summer – who was running an absolute burster – took over as the main challenger as they turned for home and Ali G had to strain every sinew to keep her three-quarters of a length in arrears.
The top sprint saw outsider Breathless crack into a surprise early lead with the track’s top-ranked sprinter, Rhythmic Dancer all over him until he finally managed to break the elastic in the last fifty yards.
Three-quarters of a length covered all three runners in the supporting sprint as, having overtaken early leader Road Warrior, Liverpool had to hold off a late challenge from Puzzle, who looks like he could become a major force if he can sort out his woeful starting.
Fawn Boy paid an immediate dividend following his recent change of kennel by roaring through the field for victory in the last – his first win since August. (Recordings of some of the evening’s top races are available in the Videos section of this website).
GBGB start date announced.
Valley to become licensed track by January 2024.
Dave Barclay – since November 2021, the owner of the Valley Greyhound Stadium – has announced that he has struck a deal that will see the track aiming to become Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) licensed by January 2024. The track will continue to be leased back to the former owner, Malcolm Tams, to operate as an independent track while the stadium is upgraded to meet GBGB licensing standards. (Click here to read more more about development of the stadium’s facilities).
The Valley is currently a ‘flapping’ track, licensed by the local authority, where amateur trainers run their own greyhounds.
“I know that a lot of locals have been looking for some certainty about the future,” said Malcolm Tams. “I hope that the timetable will give people the confidence to invest in greyhounds to keep flapping right up to the end of next year.”
In 2024, licensed racing will see professional trainers running dogs for appearance and prize money that is ultimately funded by high street bookmakers and media rights companies. Two main media rights companies, ARC and SIS, pay greyhound tracks for the right to broadcast their races live, not only into high street betting shops, but online around the world.
Four of the biggest greyhound stadiums that were affiliated to SIS have announced that they will transfer to ARC by 2024 and a fifth SIS-affiliated track, Central Park, will switch to ARC as early as 2023. This means that SIS, which has deals to provide live coverage of UK greyhound racing to many overseas markets, would be facing a shortage of races that they would be able to broadcast. Dave Barclay has confirmed that he has signed a contract with SIS for The Valley to help plug the gap.
“Eventually, I’d like to think we could race up to four times a week,” said Dave Barclay, who is the owner and promoter of the highly-successful GBGB-licensed track at Harlow in Essex.
Richard Brankley, Head of Greyhound Operations for SIS, said, “I’ve been so impressed with Harlow, which is one of the best-managed tracks in the country and, if The Valley is run half as well as that, then it will be a fantastic addition.”
The project will require significant development of The Valley Greyhound Stadium. “We need to build on-site kennels, as there are none at the moment, the racing office will be repositioned and then there is the hare to think about,” said Dave Barclay. “It’s an inside hare at the moment. I did consider leaving it as inside, but it would be the only one in the country and I think it’s sensible to stick with what everyone else uses.”
It is likely that both sets of traps will eventually be brought forward to shorten the run to the first bend, which will mean that the standard four-bend distance will be shorter than the current 515 yards (475 metres). Work may be done to increase the camber on the bends but the track layout is likely to remain, as it is thought that there will be sufficient room to accommodate an outside hare rail without remodelling the circuit.
Dave Barclay has asked Malcolm Tams to manage the planning and development issues and Malcolm is confident that the timetable will enable independent greyhound racing to continue while the building work takes place.
“I put my money into Harlow to run it as a greyhound track and, thankfully, we’ve been very successful in recent years and I’m hoping for more of the same at The Valley,” said Dave Barclay. “I fell in love with it the minute I drove in. I told Malcolm that I’d definitely buy it. We shook hands on a deal pretty quickly.
“It’s been bought in my family name and my son Lee and daughter Kate will be involved in running it. There’s a lot to do.”
The Welsh Government’s Valleys Task Force Initiative has identified Caerphilly/Ystrad Mynach as one of seven strategic hubs across the South Wales Valleys “that will act as a focus for public investment and business growth.”
Caerphilly County Borough Council published its ‘Ystrad Mynach Masterplan’, which identifies the Valley Greyhound Stadium as being key to this strategy.
It notes how the stadium is “ideally located to capitalise on the many visitors to the area and there is opportunity to expand and increase the potential of the site as a tourism destination. Furthermore, there is opportunity for spin-off between this site and potential hotel and restaurant development on adjacent land.”
The Masterplan states that GBGB licensing of the Valley Greyhound Stadium presents an opportunity to create “a vibrant and accessible visitor destination” and to improve Ystrad Mynach’s status as a tourist destination. The plan highlights the prospects for job creation at the stadium with a knock-on effect for Ystrad Mynach town centre of increased footfall, bolstering the night-time economy.
With plans to stage up to four meetings per week, around £2 million per year could go directly into creating local jobs for local people and appearance money for local greyhound trainers to enable them to train and care for local greyhounds.
Dave Barclay has developed a reputation as one of the most progressive and successful promoters in the sport.
A successful building contractor in partnership with his brother, Dean, Dave became a keen punter and greyhound owner at Harlow after the track opened in 1995. In 2005, he bought the track from the original owners, Leaside Leisure, and continued to invest in the site, which now includes a restaurant, function rooms and a social club famous for popular poker and darts tournaments.
Harlow took off as a greyhound venue when Walthamstow closed in 2008. A raft of leading trainers moved to the Roydon Road stadium, including Mark Wallis who won the 2009 Greyhound Derby with Kinda Ready while attached to Harlow.
Crowds grew and, within a few years, Harlow was hosting live televised meetings on Sky Sports. A deal with broadcaster SIS to beam pictures live to betting shops has enabled the expansion of racing to five times a week with the track featuring live on RPGTV twice weekly.
7 January 2023
The weather was eerie. It constantly threatened to pour down all night but there were only a few showers. The temperature felt mild but, as I stretched out to grab my coffee, Mary in the refreshments kiosk remarked that the back of my hand had turned deep purple. Beneath layers of protection, the core temperature felt fine, but the dank air seemed to prey on exposed skin. We should have paid attention.
The top-ranked Ice Hot sprang out of the boxes in the evening’s top heat. The pretender to the crown, Dawn, led the chasing pack, just edging out the new sprint sensation, Sophie, at the bend. The Rock – as mercurial as ever – dozed in the boxes, bolted back into contention, then stumbled off the second bend for no apparent reason. It was all going according to the script. By the time they turned for home, Ice Hot was clear. Then, suddenly, with 50 yards to go, he cramped up as solid as concrete, all heat sucked from his limbs by the misty, sodden air. Dawn and Sophie flew past. Ice Hot barely made it over the finishing line.
Three races later, T-Bone’s early pace caught young Star napping. It was up to Liverpool to give chase but, even with a good start, she can’t match that sort of speed. T-Bone shot past the finishing line, but now his stride was shortening. By the time he reached the pick-up, cramp had left him shambling as if clapped in chains. The invisible vampire in the air had claimed another victim.
It wasn’t all like a Gothic novel. Both cramp casualties trotted off quite happily after a quick rub down from their trainers and many greyhounds seemed to thrive in the cool conditions.
The top sprint, for instance, was a ripper. Le Rondel Fusee cracked out of the tins, but Night Warrior – more than twice Ron’s age – steamed after him, closing with every stride as they neared the bend. There wasn’t a Rizla between them as they turned, but Ron’s young shoulders were broader and he shoved his way through.
The supporting rounder saw a reversal of fortunes for the older generation as the fantastic Storm Alert galloped clear of young Ranger, dipping under 29.00 seconds for only the second time ever as she continued her remarkable career after two – yes, two – interruptions for motherhood.
Elsewhere, Ali G won over four bends for the first time since last July while David’s Ava tasted victory for only the second time in more than a year. The West Cardiff Open Lurcher Stakes rounded off proceedings with success for the striking-looking Thunder (think Blue-Eyed Boy but with mirror-image David Bowie eyes) who roared through the field to claim victory on debut. (Recordings of some of the evening’s top races are available in the Videos section of this website).
1 January 2023
New Year’s Day is meant to be when we wave goodbye to the old and welcome the new. The card for 2023’s first meeting had a bit of an old-versus-new feel about it as well. Two experienced greyhounds, Road Warrior and Darkness, are well past their fourth birthdays and had the combined experience of nearly a hundred races while eleven youngsters on the card could boast only fourteen appearances between them. It was to be an afternoon where youth held sway.
The top heat was all over before they reached the first bend as reigning Welsh Greyhound Derby champion Ice Hot stretched away to his fastest time yet, but some of the other races were thrillers. Bob Brown arrived at The Valley last summer but has won only once since. He battled tenaciously to keep his nose in front in the supporting event until Road Warrior turned on him entering the home straight, which allowed Kelly’s Eye to come over the top of the pair of them for a third win in her last four outings.
Liverpool – competing over four bends for the first time since October 2021 – set a challenging pace in the opener, but anyone who has seen Darkness run before will know that she doesn’t really get going until at least halfway. Predictably, she gobbled up the early leader before they turned for home and was able to showboat her way over the line.
The Rock’s idiosyncratic form (he’s either, rarely, brilliant or, frequently, terrible) continued as he booted round to a sprint time only half-a-dozen other greyhounds have bettered in the last three-and-a-half years – but that shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow the performances of a trio of Hafodyrynys youngsters in the rest of the afternoon’s two-benders.
Sophie showed tremendous early pace to get inside Rhythmic Dancer in the top sprint, then Puzzle, who flopped out of the boxes, zoomed through the field to take the next and Star marked her debut by drawing clear in the last.
When you throw in creditable performances from Ranger, Dutch and Joe plus Pandy Kian’s victory in the pups’ 100-yard dash, it turned out to be a good afternoon for the youngsters – and a signal that a new generation may be on the rise. (Recordings of some of the day’s top races are available in the Videos section of this website).