HOVE won the inaugural RPGTV Entain Group Track Championship at the Sussex venue on Saturday, making the most of home advantage.

However the result wasn’t decided until the last of 12 legs – won by Monmore’s Southfield Code (Kevin Hutton) – with a second place for Hove’s Slippy Eva in the six-bend contest enough to see Daniel Rankin’s side home.

Hove racing manager Rankin had been confident beforehand his team could beat favourites Romford and five winners on the night secured the overall prize for the Sussex venue over its sister track in Essex.

Hove notched wins for Alma Keppie’s Jaguar Fury (30.07sec, 515m), Claude Gardiner’s Tommys Pluto (16.28, 285m), Norah McEllistrim’s Jezebel Julie (29.68sec, 500m) and Seamus Cahill’s pair of Sharp Darcy (29.28sec, 500m) and Blastoff Mason (16.32sec, 285m).

Romford struck with Paul Young’s Three Ems (45.15sec, 740m), Nathan Hunt’s Florican Trend (42.38sec, 695m), plus Gemma Evans’ pair of Droopys Addition (29.71sec), Newinn Liz (29.24sec, 500m).

Monmore weighed with a double courtesy of Shelbys Memory (Arran Dunn) and Southfield Code (44.51sec, 740m), while Crayford scored with arguably the night’s most impressive winner in Jim Daly’s Blue Tick George (41.36sec, 695m).

Winning racing manager Daniel Rankin had been sweet on the chances of Tommys Pluto and Claude Gardiner’s very much led the way.

“I thought his was the best performance for us,” he said. “I always felt he was our banker and couldn’t believe the price – but it was a great to win a race the other lads fancied their runners a lot, too. Thankfully, Tommys Pluto did the business for Hove.

“Overall the night was great. It was just a pity we didn’t get to host it with a crowd which would have been the icing on the cake – especially with us having a home win!

“I’d like to give special mention to the trainers at Hove who really embraced the night and had their greyhounds in tip-top shape with valuable contributions from all.

“Ian Smyth (Entain’s director of racing) says the plan is for Crayford to host the event next year at Crayford,  then Monmore the following year, then Romford the year after.

“Crayford is a track very different to Hove, so our chances of defending the title will be difficult but, with myself and especially my trainers being so competitive, we’ll be giving it a good go!

“I thought the trainers and kennelhands from all the tracks were brilliant and generated a good atmosphere, cheering on their dogs – and the two biggest roars on the night were when Crayford and Monmore got their first wins on the board!

“There was great sportsmanship throughout the night and it really was enjoyable to be part of it.”

Mark Arkell, Romford’s racing manager, agreed.

He said: “What a great night of racing we had. It was action-packed and I was so proud my team were able to take Hove to the wire.

“We were unlucky in a few races such as Jaxxhappymoments and Bubbly Angel who both trapped out and just got caught at the first bend. Otherwise I think they’d have both run big races.

“Shrewd Call took the outside route on the run-in and, had he railed, would probably have won.

“I thought Florican Trend was outstanding. She really caught my eye at Monmore a couple of weeks back and, while she had an awful draw, made all.

“Gemma Evans had a successful night with two wins from three and gave us some valuable points. Three Ems found the winning line just in time with a late surge.

“Overall it was a great team performance, so thank you to the Romford trainers for giving it a good go – and we’re already discussing next year.

“The banter was top class with the other RMs and trainers – and well done to everyone at Hove and especially Daniel Rankin for organising it all and for being the winning racing manager!

“Thanks to Ian (Smyth) and all at RPGTV for everything they did. Looking forward to doing it all again.”

Monmore racing manager Tony Williamson said: “It was a great night all-round, but especially sweet to end on a winning note with Kevin Hutton winning his final race as a Monmore trainer with Southfield Code.

“That victory came just a couple of races after a great performance from our Shelbys Memory, too.

“The whole Entain Group Track Championship is a great idea and it’s very competitive between the tracks. The idea from Ian Smyth and Daniel Rankin was a great one.

“We as racing managers enjoyed some good banter on the night, especially Mark and Daniel! Hove took advantage of home soil and won well so congratulations to them. We’re all looking forward to next year’s competition.”

Crayford racing manager Danny Rayment added: “It was a very enjoyable evening and I thought our runners ran really well despite us coming away with the wooden spoon.

“Obviously top billing goes to the real star act in our team Blue Tick George who absolutely blew the opposition away with a tremendous display of all-round speed and he wasn’t stopping coming home either –  we were obviously very pleased to see that Deeteedee Merlin had just cramped badly.

“Jim Daly’s other stayers both ran with a lot of credit – Kent St Leger finalist Millbank Marcela slipping clear early before easing slightly at the pick-up allowing the Antigua Billy up her inside before staying on again, and Blue Tick Delia keeping on in determined fashion but just failing to overhaul Slippy Eva for second. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the future.

“Pakistan Star ran a race full of promise after second-bend trouble. Marcus Smith’s bitch is part-owned by Sam Twiston-Davies, is still unexposed and being last with a lap to go stayed on well to snatch third on the line. She’s another one to keep an eye on.

“We could have had an even stronger hand in the staying races had Redzer Renae been fit and Droopys Enya and Rising Coco not been in season.

“Our sprinters never really came away and were always facing an uphill battle against some very fast opposition, while the four-bend dogs were always going to have a difficult task against high-class greyhounds.

“The one 500m race we looked to have an outstanding chance in was the first bitches’ contest and, when Peter Bussey Memorial winner Woodcocks Akia slipped clear for Nick Deas and Droopys Coffee was third up the back-straight, it looked good for some heavy points-scoring. They just couldn’t quite hang on, though, and the local runners pounced close home.

“Dower Dubh for Tommy Batchelor, Chasing Turkey for Dave Lee and Corrin Alfie for Jim Reynolds all ran excellent races and were good points scorers and I’d also like to thank Jason Heath and Gemma Davidson for participating in our team. It must have been confusing for them to know which team to support!

“But it did seem that Jason was very much in the Crayford camp up in the restaurant, as the one thing we certainly won on the night was the noise and atmosphere among our trainers and kennelhands! They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and the loudest cheer of the night undoubtedly came when George was still clear off the last.

“We’ll all be looking forward to next year – hopefully on home soil when we can also make it another great occasion with an excellent evening of top-class racing with a large crowd in attendance providing things keep progress as we hope they will.”

RPGTV Entain Group Track Championship – Final Standings: Hove 83, Romford 76, Monmore 55, Crayford 50.