A Birmingham-based greyhound trainer whose licence was only formalised in September is on the cusp of landing one of the sport’s most prestigious and historic prizes this weekend.
Kate Harrison’s Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB) trainer licence was accepted on September 25 following an end to her 23-year stint with Stuart Buckland who she worked for as a kennel hand.
Just 33 days into her new role, Kate is preparing to run kennel star Different Speed in the final of the Category Two Arena Racing Company Scurry Gold Cup. The competition dates back to 1928 with this year’s final at Perry Barr Stadium on Saturday night offering £6,000 to the winner.
Different Speed has outperformed his odds on two occasions to reach the final, and Kate is hoping for another big performance when her two-year-old goes paw-to-paw with fellow finalists Crossfield Larry, Quarteira, Headford Sonny, Laughil Flash and Bluejig Ophelia.
She said: “He hasn’t been the quickest away from the traps in his two qualifying runs, so I don’t believe we’ve seen the best of him yet.
“If he puts his trapping paws on, he stands a chance of winning – and I’d like to think there’s more to come from him now he’s had two runs at the track and is more familiar with the configuration.”
Saturday will mark the first time the 44-year-old has reached a major final under her own name after first engaging with the sport at the turn of the millennium.
She’s now responsible for 40 greyhounds at her kennels in Shenstone and is supported by a team of staff who assist with racing, walking, feeding, cleaning and care responsibilities.
Ahead of the big race, Kate revealed her lifetime passion for greyhound racing was sparked by complete chance.
“An advert appeared in my local newspaper from someone who required support at a local kennel,” said Kate. “I had no idea the kennel was for racing greyhounds until I turned up for the interview.
“I was offered the job and here we are over 20 years later. The only thing I love more than the job itself is the dogs.
“I love to watch them run, improve and develop their own characters before we let them go to enjoy retirement. It’s not a typical job and the hours are hard, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Headlining Saturday’s card is the £20,000 Premier Greyhound Racing Oaks final, which will follow the 91st running of the Scurry Gold Cup.
Among the contenders is Jet Stream Angel, trained by English Greyhound Derby winning trainer Kevin Hutton – who is based in Burford, Oxfordshire.
Hutton has featured in the last six Oaks finals and has won the competition three times already with Droopys Danneel (2013), Ravenswood Flo (2018) and Bull Run Byte (2019).
“She (Jet Stream Angel) is a beautifully bred bitch with a lovely temperament,” said Hutton. “But we’ve been drawn in trap four which isn’t ideal as she has three fast-starting greyhounds on her inside.
“A good start from the traps will increase our chances of winning, but she’s been getting better as the competition has developed so we remain hopeful.
“We’ve had a good run in this competition and deliberately kept her fresh for it after she was unlucky in the Empress Stakes in September.”
Tickets for the Premier Greyhound Racing Oaks finals night at Perry Barr Stadium are available from £7 for adults and can be purchased online via the stadium’s website or on the door.
Doors open at 5.30pm with the first race due off at 6.26pm.
Arena Racing Company Scurry Gold Cup Final: Crossfield Larry, Quarteira, Headford Sonny, Laughil Flash, Bluejig Ophelia, Different Speed.
Premier Greyhound Racing Oaks Final: Starshinestunner, Whats Up Eva, Droopys Request, Jet Stream Angel, Droopys Ailsa, No Rush.