Successful trainer hopes for an even better year

BIG HOPES: Four times champion trainer Mark Wallis feels he could be in for another good year on the track.
BIG HOPES: Four times champion trainer Mark Wallis feels he could be in for another good year on the track.

As models of consistency go, there are very few in the world of greyhound racing that can match or even come close to that of Mark Wallis.

Boasting a CV glittered with big race wins, the Lakenheath handler has been no stranger to success for more than a decade, with last year proving to be no exception.

Securing his fourth greyhound trainers’ title, his first since 2009, the Imperial Kennels trainer also landed six Category One winners, including a second Greyhound Derby win with the now-retired Blonde Snapper, who was last month crowned 2012 Greyhound of the Year at the GBGB Awards.

“At the start of 2012 we were not that optimistic about the future as I lost my long-serving assistant Patrick Janssens and we had just been beaten for the second year running in the trainers’ championship,” said Wallis.

“There were a lot of questions being asked about the kennel, but I think that we certainly answered all our critics on the track and re-wrote the history books.

“One of the key things that helped us was having Gary Crathern, my assistant, join an exceptional team of staff.

“All-in-all, it was a tremendous year and certainly my best as a trainer.”

While 2012 will always be one that lives long in the memory of the keen golfer, largely thanks to Blonde Snapper’s magical night at Wimbledon back in May, Wallis has sent out a stark warning to his rivals by claiming this year could be even better.

“Most years you can look at the dogs in the kennel and say there could be six possible Category One winners among them,” he said. “This year I would say we have around a dozen that are potentially Category One winners.

“Although you still need a bit of luck to win the big races I would say this is the most powerful squad of dogs I’ve had at the kennel.”

Heading that list of potential big race winners are two recent purchases from Ireland, which Wallis believes will be more than capable of holding their own at the top level.

“Garryglass Rodge is a very expensive purchase from Ireland and his first big target will be the Monmore Puppy Derby in April before being aimed at the Derby at Wimbledon,” he said. “He looks an exceptional dog.

“Extreme Lad is another who has come over from Ireland.

“He, like Garryglass Rodge, is a very promising dog and will also be aimed at the Monmore Puppy Derby.

“Although both were beaten in their first runs in England on Saturday, they will both have gained valuable experience.”

Success in major hurdle races is one thing that has been thin on the ground for Wallis in recent years, but that could all be about to change thanks to another new addition to the kennel.

“This year we have a good new young hurdler among our ranks in Baran Bugatti,” said Wallis.

“It has been a while since we have had a top-class hurdler, but he looks a very strong hurdler who will score big points for the kennel.

“His only defeat in Ireland was the Irish Grand National and he most certainly will be a strong contender for the Grand National, a race we last won with Lethal Gamble back in 2005.”

While there is excitement about the hopes of the new recruits to the kennel, many of Wallis’ leading lights from last year are either just reaching or still to hit their peak, including the likes of star stayer Blonde Reagan.

Despite last year’s St Leger and TV Trophy winner suffering a shock exit in the opening round of the Category One Ladbrokes Golden Jacket earlier this month, Wallis still forecasts 2013 to be another big year for the Mark Currell-owned dog.

“Although we have some good prospects you have to remember that Blonde Reagan is only two and a half years old and he could go and do it all again this year,” said Wallis.

“He will go in all the major Category One staying races and will be out to defend his St Leger crown.

“You can’t forget Planning, who had a decent back end to the year when stepped up to six bends.

“He could be one to challenge for the main staying races along with Blonde Reagan.

“Airforce Diva did not run Wimbledon well so the Derby won’t be on the agenda for her.

“She will be given a soft introduction back this year. Airforce Diva is likely to step up in trip to six bends and if she stays everyone will have to really watch out for her.”

Possessing a lethal looking staying team, Wallis also has major players over the four bend division among his returning warriors, as he looks to claim his fifth greyhound trainers’ title.

“Glanmire Lad will return in the next few weeks as he picked up an injury during his last win at Romford, but he will be back for the Golden Sprint at Romford,” said Wallis.

“We will consider the Derby for him but I am not sure he will stay that trip, he may be more of a dog to aim for the William Hill Classic over 450m at Sunderland.

“As for prolific Open race winner Lil Risky, he remains in good heart.

“Although he won’t be campaigned as heavy this year, he is another likely to head for the Golden Sprint before trying to defend his Peterborough Derby title in August.

“All-in-all, if everything goes to plan, we should be in for another good year.”