Endless journeys in pursuit of open race winners across the country look set to be reduced for Mark Wallis after adopting a major shift in his priorities.
After enjoying yet another fantastic year on the track — which saw him crowned champion trainer for a sixth time and claim his first-ever Oaks and Golden Jacket titles — the Lakenheath handler is set for a change in direction with establishing himself at greyhound racing’s newest track set to be his major focus.
Since the opening of Towcester back in December, Wallis — who saw his history-making hurdler Cornamaddy Jumbo crowned Greyhound of the Year at the recent Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) awards — has already sent out a steady flow of winners at the Northamptonshire track with his dogs quickly adapting to racing there.
“Since Walthamstow closed we’ve enjoyed huge success on the open race circuit and it is great having open race runners across the country, but it comes as a huge cost to myself and the business,” said Wallis. “At last, Towcester has offered us the opportunity where we are actually earning a living.
“So 2015 is going to be one very much on us concentrating on the business set-up.
“With the likelihood of us supplying between 40 to 50 dogs to run at Towcester, it means we will be a bit more selective with our open race runners elsewhere in the country.”
While his focus may have shifted for the year ahead, the 50-year-old is still hungry to succeed at the sport’s highest level with his kennel still brimming with dogs more than capable of making their marks in the top races.
“Of course I want to be champion trainer again and win the top races and I still believe that we have a fantastic top end of greyhounds which will do well and keep us at the top,” said Wallis. “One of the crucial elements why I think we can still win the trainers’ championship is Towcester has some big competitions planned and of course that will be our home track, which may give us an advantage over the other kennels and keep us ahead of the pack.”
Looking at those established names Wallis believes will keep him to the fore in the sport’s major competitions, he has selected four that merit close consideration for the remainder of 2015.
“Adageo Bob will have a break after finishing second in the Coral Coronation Cup as we want him ready for the Trainers’ Championship meeting,” said Wallis. “He will then be purely laid out for the Champion Stakes at Romford in the summer.
“He has been our leading open race dog for the past two seasons in terms of number of wins and I still have a vision of him winning all three 575-metre titles at Romford.
“Blackstone Marco is a good dog over trips between 480 and 550 metres.
“He had a good year last year and hopefully he will follow a similar path this year.
“He runs particularly well at Henlow as he showed when winning the Henlow Cesarewitch there in December and he will go for a lot of the competitions there.
“Vanrooney is a dog that has been brought in with the big staying races in mind.
“I did think about the Golden Jacket for him, but as he is a big dog I am not sure Crayford would suit him.
“There are plenty of races at Towcester for him and he seems to run well there, but we may also look to take him to the Regency in March.
“Aayamzaone looks like the type of bitch that will win lots of races and we will possibly go for the Golden Sprint with her.
“She looks a class act all round and she would be my open race pick of the year as she will win plenty of races.”
As is the case every year, the greyhound Derby is the one race on the calendar every trainer aspires to win above everything else.
While Wallis — who has won the race with Kinda Ready in 2009 and Blonde Snapper in 2012 — does not have a stand out contender at this stage he has put forward several unexposed dogs that could turn into potential Derby dogs.
“Looking at our Derby dogs for this year Vanfrankie and Roswell De Niro would be my two for the moment while our Derby semi-finalist from last year Aero Nemesis will be back with us soon,” said Wallis. “We also have the hugely exciting Blonde Nipper, who is by our former Derby winner Blonde Snapper and has already won a 5,000 euro competition in Ireland.
“He had a bit of an inconsistent start in Ireland before winning that competition, but he has got really good early pace and that is what you need for the Derby.
“He runs like his father Blonde Snapper did.”
With an influx of new dogs joining his all-conquering kennel Wallis has nominated one expected to pay her way for the foreseeable future and establish herself as a kennel star.
“We have just brought in a new bitch called Garryglass Dixie,” said Wallis. “She has won some races at Kilkenny and produced some very good times.
“A couple of the dogs she has beat have gone on to better things so have those she has been beaten by so the form looks rock solid.
“She is a nice big galloping bitch and will stay the full marathon trips and the TV Trophy will be her big aim.”