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George Curtis Trafalgar Cup at Monmore - an appreciation of a legendary trainer

LEGENDARY trainer George Curtis is honoured at Monmore on Thursday with the Trafalgar Cup named after the man who trained arguably the sport’s most famous greyhound - world record-breaker Ballyregan Bob.


Curtis, who shortly turns 94, remains one of greyhound racing’s best-known names and the decision to name the prestigious puppy competition after the Brighton & Hove trainer was not a hard one, according to race sponsor Kevin Perisi.


Perisi said: “This year I’m both humbled and proud to be able to associate an iconic greyhound racing competition - The Trafalgar Cup - with a icon of the sport of greyhound racing in the form of Gentleman George Curtis.


“George is famed for achievements with many quality hounds like Yankee Express and the incomparable Ballyregan Bob, but more importantly perhaps it’s the fond regard he’s held in by those within the game.


“Apart from being a great trainer, George always conducted himself in an ultra-professional manner and, despite his success, remains a humble man, gracious in victory and defeat alike. I’m honoured to be able to offer him further recognition for his services to the sport.


“The Trafalgar Cup remains the oldest standing competition for puppies in the GBGB Calendar, and I wish George continued good health in his retirement. Monomer have been a great help in putting the event together again and Thursday promises to be a special night.”


Curtis still lives in the Sussex home he shared with his late wife Lil for many years and, according to trainer and friend Derek Knight, is still telling the stories of the halcyon days, although age has meant he is unlikely to register fully with events at the Wolverhampton venue this week.


“He looks after himself, cooks and potters around,” said Knight. “He doesn't get too many people visit these days but his neighbours look out for him, and Maria [Ansbro] and Brenda [Gardiner] are there once or twice a week. They hear the same stories over again, but that’s great.


“You have to remember he’s at a ripe age now. He’ll not really understand what’s happening on Thursday but it’s fantastic that greyhound people are acknowledging what George Curtis means to them, and that’s special. It’s a fantastic gesture by Kevin and his pals.


“George doesn’t have Sky or RPGTV, but we’ll get him to watch the race in some way. One of his old owners Bert Cusack is often passing by and he keeps in touch with what’s going on, and will keep George informed as such. It might not register, but we understand that now.


“George has always resisted going into a home, he remains very independent, quite stubborn in so many ways, but his home is very much a shrine to the life he and his late wife Lil had. He still has Christmas cards they sent each other up, as well as pictures of the pair of them.”


Asked how Curtis might see modern day greyhound racing, Knight said the major difference could be how trainers handle injuries and ensure their runners are fit. “They didn't have gallops then, which is one thing, but also any niggles or injuries would be diagnosed by George himself.


“They’d leave dogs on the bed for two months if need be, and there wouldn’t be trips to the physio. George would do the general husbandry himself. His hands would do what was required, it was certainly a different era, and he was very much a hands-on trainer, who still helped out here at the kennels well into his 80s. It was always great having him around.”


Curtis was champion trainer on three occasions - 1983, 1984 and 1986. That last year was the year the great Ballyregan Bob set a new world record of 32 consecutive wins, his record-breaking success coming at his home track, Brighton & Hove Stadium, in a race broadcast live on BBC’s Nine O’Clock News.


The Gentleman George Curtis Trafalgar Cup takes place at Monmore on Thursday and supports the Category One double-header of the Ladbrokes Gold Cup and Ladbrokes Summer Stayers, with all the finals broadcast live as part of the Sky Sports programme that night.