Monday, 31 May 2010

Greyhound Derby 2010 - Bandicoot clinches the trophy in one of the closest renewals in years

Well it was quite a weekend. I left my flat in Edinburgh at 4am on Saturday morning, made my way to the airport and battled my way through airport security with all the hopes and aspirations that when I returned I would have a bulging wallet. Like the streets of London, my weekend was going to be paved with gold, as I was travelling down to clean up at the William Hill Greyhound Derby 2010. Granted, 5 out of the previous 6 years had resulted in a loss at the event, as I started the ponder the finals past. My first attendance resulted in a near miss that would have netted me over £2400, as Blonde Mac lead all the way only to be picked up by the iconic Westmead Hawk on the run in. Next up was even closer, as Mineola Farloe cannoned out only to be picked up in the final stride by the aforementioned great to deny me once again. Yet I disregarded these painful memories and boarded my BA flight, racing post in hand, rest assured that an exciting day was in front of me and thankful that those wonderful BA staff at Gatwick decided to turn up at work for the day. Arriving at Wimbledon after my annual struggle with the London Underground - us northerners struggle with the concept - the day of the event always follows the same pattern. Go online and place my bets on the card, making sure I snap up the value in the morning, check in to the hotel, then we head down to a local boozer to have a couple of eye openers before heading down to the stadium. It all started well, as we visited a "Hawaii" theme pub within walking distance of the track, ordered a couple of Pilsners and were pleased to see that the landlady was giving away free shots of some mysterious spirit to all and sundry. Free booze? The first result of the day.
Then at the track, thanks to the new pre-booking system introduced for the final this year, there was no queue to battle through as we made our way to the new bar to get the Stella in before the opening spring race of the night. Fair play to Wimbers, if there's one thing that is a success at the new far side grandstand its the fact that it is much much easier to get served at the bar. Gone are the days of queuing up in a mad rush between races for a bevvy, and even in the run up to the final, there was no issue getting the amber nectar in a timely and efficient manner. We walked out into the track and the dogs were on parade, and looked up to see good old Matt Chapman preparing to do the MC duties for the evening. To be fair to ABC, he did a fine job through the evening and a highlight was surely him interview with Big Mac, as they squabbled like a couple of school kids arguing over the last packet of space invaders. Then the action started on the track, Greenwell Plough was in the portfolio in the first at 5/1 and it made a good start only to finish 3rd behind favourite Jimmy Lollie at the snapper. A minor set back I thought, and hastily returned to the bar for a top up of the good stuff. Whilst sipping away whilst waiting patiently for the next, I heard a familiar voice behind me, and turned around to see trainer Carly Phillpot in conversation with a couple of friends, one of which was Racing Post smoothie Richard Birch. At this juncture I would just like to point out just how attractive Carly is in the flesh. TV really doesn't seem to do her the justice that she deserves, and is certainly easier on the eye than your average greyhound trainer. Good work Mr and Mrs Phillpot, good work. Anyway, back to the action and it soon became apparent that the wallet wasn't going to return to Edinburgh rammed full of notes, as Boolavogue, Westmead Scolari and Droopys Bellettti all ran their races but failed to hit the front at the wire. It was all simmering nicely to lead up to my selection of the final itself, the Hungarian Hotpot Lyreen Mover and my bet on the night Krug Ninety Five. We made our way over to the first bend, where there is ample room to get a cracking view of the track, and find ourselves well housed for the latter races. I nipped back to the bar(there's a them developing here) and whilst waiting to be served I got a text from my mate to say he was stood next to gambling guru and owner of the mighty Gold Cup winning horse Denman in the crowd. And true enough, as I made my way back, there he was standing with his mates, enjoying the action and no doubt having significantly more returns on the wagers than me! Now people have preconceptions about people that have the wealth of people like Harry - that they might have a cockyness, an arrogance, that normal punters aspiring to reach his level may detest. But this could not be further than the truth and we spend a fair bit of time speaking to the guy about punting. I obviously had drunk a few pints by this point in the evening, but he was a really approachable guy. I tried to avoid the questions that he must get asked countless times a day - "what's your best bet mate?" and "how much have you got on this then" and proceeded to talk to him about the final, Denman and his ridiculously old mobile phone! Surely this guy could afford a top of the range smart phone rather than the brick he was hauling around Plough Lane!
Then the final itself arrived and it was all down to this result - I was going back to Edinburgh either a man of glorious wealth or a man of great poverty. The atmosphere, although not quite as potent as the near side track, was still fantastic and the derby roar - encouraged by MC Chappers was still a sight to behold. The nerves were kicking in as the flag was waved, and I thought to myself - its payback time. Years of second places, and shocking starts were all going to be finally put to bed, this was going to be a phoenix like recovery. Lyreen Mover made a fantastic start, as Bandicoot Tipoki stepped out to hammer into Krug Ninety Five on the run up. Favourite Toomaline Jack made a decent start to track the Hungarian hot pot to the first bend. Bandicoot Tipoki surely had to much to do, and my mate who was sitting on an ante post ticket on it looked like being consigned to the each way money already won by getting it to the final. As the runners got to the second then third bend, Lyreen started to flag as the other runners began to close rapidly, and as they went around the final bend, it was anyone's race to win. Then something remarkable happened. As Lyreen Mover battled on valiantly, Bandicoot Tipoki ran on as there were 4 in line with yards to go, and nicked it at the wire from Lyreen Mover and then the running on Krug Ninety Five. Unbelievable. My runners second and third by the narrowest of margins, losing out to a dog that looked beaten at the first bend. I dare to say it was almost a Westmead Hawk style of performance. Yet again, I was destined for the poor house at this year's final and it was so agonisingly close to all turning around I could taste it.
So I returned up to Edinburgh, wallet empty dreaming about what might have been. But upon reflection it was another great night, and the final itself produced a finish that will live long in the memory of anyone who was there. And that's what its all about, like any great show piece final it produced moments that will be remembered for many years to come. And I'm already looking forward to next year, another great race, and hopefully a few winners along the way. By my reckoning I'm due a 6 figure sum after my recent run of flops...

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