No racing Saturday 22 January
The track is frozen like concrete in places and, despite relatively milder temperatures, it resolutely refuses to thaw out.
We hope to return to racing on Saturday 29 January.
15 January 2022
I remember a night five or six years ago when I was the sole member of the public in attendance at a meeting at The Valley. I put on a £2 bet and the bookmaker, the late Trevor Green, (admittedly, tongue-in-cheek) immediately adjusted all the odds, complaining that such a weight of money had completely distorted the market.
We were lucky that Welsh Government Covid-19 restrictions were reduced before this week’s meeting as yet another large – and boisterous – crowd would have been far in excess of the previous legal maximum attendance. Punters had to queue to get their money on and both bookmakers had to repeatedly shorten the favourites to odds-on to protect themselves.
Road Warrior predictably won the top heat but, not for the first time, Sandstorm remained a challenger to the run-in.
Grand Slam was always a useful middle grader at The Valley but disappeared across the border when lockdown put the track into hibernation for more than five months. She put on a fair impression of her younger self on her reappearance after an absence of more than a year as she led the supporting heat from pillar to post.
Night Warrior was impressive in the top sprint while Le Rondel Fusee – turned over when an odds-on favourite a week ago – redeemed himself at even shorter odds in the supporting sprint.
But two of the most notable performances came from very young pups who made their racing debuts only a week ago. Carys held off the favourite, Flora, in the opener while Vicky, who slept at the boxes, raced through the entire field before the crown of the bend for an eye-catching victory.
The Valley set to become GBGB-licensed track
Dave Barclay, the owner and promoter of Harlow Greyhound Stadium in Essex, has completed a deal to buy The Valley with the intention of running Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) licensed racing at the track.
The Valley is currently an independent ‘flapping’ track licensed by the local authority where amateur trainers run their own greyhounds. The track is being leased back to the former owner, Malcolm Tams, to continue to operate as a flapping track while the stadium is upgraded to meet GBGB licensed standards. 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.
The proposed takeover was announced in August and took only three months to finalise. “I fell in love with it the minute I drove in,” Dave Barclay told the Racing Post. “I told Malcolm that I’d definitely buy it. We shook hands on a deal pretty quickly.”
Two years ago, bookmakers Star Sports went public over their intention to buy The Valley. That deal ultimately foundered because Star Sports could not strike a deal with either of the main media rights companies, ARC or SIS, who pay greyhound tracks for the right to broadcast their races live, not only into high street betting shops, but online around the world.
Since then, 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, is facing a shortage of races that they will be able to broadcast. Dave Barclay believes that The Valley will be well-placed to plug the gap.
“This is a medium-term project and I’m probably looking at 2023 before we are ready to race under rules. Eventually, I’d like to think we could race up to four times a week and I’d be looking to get those meetings on SIS.”
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.”
A switch to an outside hare would require the whole track to be moved nearer to the River Rhymney in order to accommodate the hare rail and mechanism. It is likely that the track would also be extended northwards to give room for more rounded bends than The Valley’s current sharp corners.
“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. “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. I’ll be getting the views of local people and listening to all parties.”
It is believed that Dave Barclay has been in discussions with Malcolm Tams about how any current amateur trainers at The Valley who would like to race at the track under GBGB rules in the future could be supported to do so.
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.
8 January 2022
Persuasion always looked like a capable dog when he first appeared at The Valley last winter. He was certainly too good to leave lying on a sofa during lockdown, so he was sent to Henlow where he motored through the grades to A3 (which would be A1 at most other tracks in the country). He was brought back in time for last year’s Welsh Greyhound Derby and led the eventual winner, Road Warrior, until the last few strides of his semi-final. He then led the final until being bumped out of it at the bend. With a fair share of luck, he looked on his way to becoming the top dog at the track. In the event, the only luck he got was bad luck. He had two nasty bouts of illness, then tore a muscle in a 100-yard dash and finally, after a seven-week layoff, tore a different muscle on his reappearance. It began to look like his career may be going up in smoke as he attempted a comeback in the top sprint, drawn inside The Valley’s top-rated 310-yard dog, Night Warrior. ‘Dylan’, as he’s known, responded with a start every bit as quick as Night Warrior and then simply burned his rival off on the run to the bend. He can go faster but, considering that he had raced a grand total of 510 yards in the previous three months, his win was about as impressive as connections could have possibly hoped for.
Jaiden’s Boy looked like he could be a challenger over two bends after a couple of notable wins in small fields last summer but, time and again, he found trouble when space was more limited and never repeated that sort of form over the rest of the year. Unsurprisingly, he was an outsider in the supporting sprint, but he flew up outside 2021 Derby finalist, Rose Brown, moved off to take Le Rondel Fusee’s ground and galloped away to his fastest time for seven months.
Kelly’s Eye justified favouritism in the top heat but she had to charge home in her fastest time since the start of November to catch Smoky Brown who showed a welcome return to sharpness.
But all these tales of redemption were as nothing compared with the performance of Valley Edward in the opener. He completely disgraced himself in a trial at Towcester last October and his previous thirteen starts at The Valley had produced a grand total of zero wins, during which time he had never come close to breaking 30.00 seconds. But he bolted out a length ahead of Tommy Brown and, while Tommy wilted once they reached the third bend, Edward stretched out to victory fully forty spots quicker than he had ever managed before. (Recordings of some of the evening’s top races are available in the Videos section of this website).
New Year’s Day 2022
It was another damp, dank, unfestive winter’s afternoon…and another day when every available table was completely sold out. The steady stream of small children spilling outside for endless chasing games were a testament to how many family groups had taken advantage of the early start time. Considering that greyhound racing is a sport that is supposed to be in a downward spiral, The Valley does a surprisingly good impression of going from strength-to-strength.
The main threat to the track’s growing popularity seems to be the scarcity of affordable new greyhounds. It was good to see a couple of newbies make their debuts, with In A Rush looking promising in the last, but the rest of the card was filled by familiar faces – none more so than Sandstorm. He first came over from Ireland in August 2020 and, after several frankly awful sprint performances, turned into a completely different animal when he came out of the 515-yard boxes as he bolted away to a couple of sub-29.00 second wins. But lockdown didn’t treat him well. When racing returned, his starting kick seemed to have completely gone and he struggled to keep under 30.00 seconds, let alone break 29.00. His form suddenly took a turn for the better on Boxing Day when he led Welsh Greyhound Derby champion Road Warrior until the home straight and he marked his first race of 2022 by producing his best sectional for fourteen months and stretching to an easy win in the top heat.
Pandy Lad is still a youngster but he has gained a peculiar amount of experience of being bumped at the first bend. He had ten four-bend races in 2021 and found trouble at the first turn in nine of them. He celebrated the New Year in familiar fashion by bouncing off Valley Edward as they cornered but, this time, he ran on strongly and led from halfway for only his third win in five months.
Another turn-up looked on the cards in the top sprint as usually-clumsy starter Le Rondel Fusee flew up more than a length ahead of the chasing pack. The experienced Little Warrior than showed the young pup a trick or two as she tap-tackled him and sped past to victory while ‘Ron’ stumbled back to last.
Neither of them would have got near Candy Brown who grabbed only her second victory since last July as she surprisingly held off her more illustrious kennelmate, Derby finalist Rose Brown, in the supporting sprint.
To complete an afternoon of surprises, Harry’s Gold showed a burst of hitherto hidden early pace to win for only the second time since mid-June. (Recordings of some of the day’s top races are available in the Videos section of this website).