GBGB Awards Trainer of the Year 2019 – Mark Wallis
MARK WALLIS rewrote the record books once again in 2019 and says he will “hugely honoured” to collect the Ladbrokes Trainer of the Year trophy at the GBGB Awards at the Royal Lancaster London on Sunday, January 26.
It will be the eighth successive year the boss of Imperial Kennels has won the coveted Trainer of the Year title – and the 11th in all – which sees him now well ahead of nearest rivals Linda Mullins (7), John McGee (5) and Charlie Lister (4).
“It’s great to win it again, of course, but credit must go to the family and the staff,” says Mark. “Remember Linda (Jones, mother-in-law) was Trainer of the Year twice in 2001 and 2002, so Imperial Kennels has been right at the top for a good few years now!
“As ever it’s the greyhounds who’ve been the stars so, in turn, there’s a huge thank-you needed to the owners who have supported us over the years – and continue to do so. They’re a vital part of what we do – and part of a winning team here.”
Given the non-stop nature of greyhound racing, the Lakenheath, Suffolk-based set-up have been straight into the open-race schedule for 2020 – with a six-strong team heading to the Coral Coronation Cup heats at Romford last week.
“It’s a great way to start the year,” he adds. “It means there’s no respite, but that’s the way it is and we’ve made sure the staff had time off over the Christmas and New Year period where possible – and no-one minds hitting Romford on a Friday night anyway!
“The traffic can be a problem – we’ve had our issues in the past, remember Adageo Bob! – but the cards there on Fridays are generally top-class and the Coronation Cup followed by the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket at Crayford is a great big-race double for our staying types.”
Mark Wallis scored 221 open-race successes in 2019 for a tally of 1,120 points as he finished ahead of his former assistant Patrick Janssens (991) and Liz McNair (912), the top three ahead of Angela Harrison (699), Kevin Hutton (656) and Seamus Cahill (621).
“We had a great battle with Patrick for much of the year. His dogs ran brilliantly and Patrick is an outstanding trainer, as they all are. Liz and Rab (McNair) had a great year too, all the more special given they bred and reared those winners. That’s a special feeling.
“We look forward to competing in the Trainers’ Championship Meeting for the top six trainers when it’s scheduled and I’m sure all those trainers will be giving it their best shot again this year – I know we will, and we’re building a decent team of dogs now.
“Last year we saw a real transition with the likes of Bruisers Bullet and Bombers Bullet being retired, then at the back-end of this year we have also seen Brinkleys Poet and Brigadier Bullet retired and, of course, Aayamza Breeze – a Dorando Marathon and Regency champion.
“She was a real flag-bearer of the kennel and we hope will be a great addition to the breeding paddocks. She finished second in the Boxing Day Marathon at Crayford to a top marathon performer in Micks Little Gem and that was no disgrace.
“But we’ve got plenty to look forward to. Ayamza Express is a super bitch and winner of the Champion Stakes already and hopefully we’ll have Antigua Fire back soon – he really deserved to be in the nominations for the GBGB Awards incidentally. He had a great year.
“I’m also very excited about Antigua Breeze. He ran well in the Trafalgar Cup and was picked out by the Racing Post as one to follow in 2020. He’ll have a few trials and then we’ll look to build up his campaign with the Derby in mind.
“It’s an earlier Derby this year so, like all trainers, it’s about mapping out a plan for the Derby dogs – but this year we’re able to keep everyone informed of our racing plans via our new podcast which we intend to produce weekly.
“It’s important to embrace social media for all businesses these days, so it’s an extension of that – but really all credit here goes to my daughter Emily. She tells me what to do, asks the questions, and tells me what buttons to press! She’s doing a great job.”
*For further details and ticket information contact the GBGB on 020 7822 0902 or email email@example.com.