A professional greyhound trainer of over 50 years has one eye on landing Kent’s most prestigious competition, which starts at Central Park Stadium in Sittingbourne on Sunday.
Tony Collett first worked with greyhounds in 1972 but remains as enthusiastic for his lifetime passion as ever, 51 years after his first day in the sport.
The 68-year-old employs seven staff at his kennels in Harvel who are responsible for the around-the-clock care of 66 greyhounds – four of which have been entered in the 2023 Premier Greyhound Racing Kent Derby.
The competition is one of four Category One fixtures – the highest grade of UK greyhound racing – to be held at Central Park this year with £20,000 on offer to the winner.
Tony is represented by Lostrigg Paddy, Lostrigg Joel, Miami Patrol and Lostrigg Ajay in Round One where the top three greyhounds from six qualifying heats will advance to the following weekend’s semi-finals.
He described this year’s Kent Derby as one of the most competitive competitions of the year and accepted his quartet must be on their a-game to progress.
“We’ve got some superb greyhounds and fantastic owners entered,” said Tony. “But this is the best Kent Derby I’ve seen for many years.
“Lostrigg Paddy likely has the best chance of progressing. He’s a strong wide runner who has been unfortunate in previous competitions and is progressing nicely. But he’s been drawn with some seriously talented dogs, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
“Lostrigg Joel will need to show his early pace and Miami Patrol and Lostrigg Ajay have tough draws to overcome too.
“It’s a great event to be involved in and being less than half-an-hour from our base makes us more determined to reach the Grand Final.”
Tony’s finest hour in the sport came in 2009 when Lenson Joker was crowned Greyhound of the Year at the annual Greyhound Board of Great Britain awards in London.
Fourteen years on – and 12 years after he could’ve taken retirement - Tony’s enthusiasm continues to burn while his wife Cheryl continues to work full-time for the Greyhound Trust.
He added: “I’m fortunate I get a day off every week because I have a fantastic team of staff to support me.
“But even when you’re committing six days a week to your job, you have to enjoy it. We’re so fortunate to work every day with these magnificent animals who adore what they do and make wonderful pets in retirement.”
Round One of the 2023 Premier Greyhound Racing Kent Derby starts at 3.44pm on Sunday, October 15, with the first of 12 races on the afternoon due off at 2.04pm. Adult tickets are available from £8 while U18s can watch for £1.
Heat One: Tintreach Bono, Romeo Top Gun, Asbo Lenny, King Ezra, Hurry Up Jordan, Eire Buckle.
Heat Two: Kanturk Mills, Romeo Command, Newinn Syd, Bet Shop Boy, Wasted Monday, Lostrigg Paddy.
Heat Three: Lostrigg Joel, Droopys Prymtime, Alan Alal Alan, Storys Hybrid, Kings Combs, Churchfield Syd.
Heat Four: Ballymac John, Colliogold, Edwards, Bluejig Baron, Borna Hero, Havana Lover.
Heat Five: Clona Uriel, Storys Cashout, Slick Sabo, FromPostToPillar, Miami Patrol, Turkish Lira.
Heat Six: Sudden Spike, Lostrigg Ajay, Droopys Clue, Watch The Limo, Alberts Legacy, Twist of Cain.