Top Cat fulfils a lifetime dream for Oxfordshire brothers on greyhound racing’s biggest stage

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Two brothers who gave up careers as shopfitters to become professional greyhound trainers won their first major competition on Saturday at English Greyhound Derby Finals night.

Oxfordshire-based Chris and Phil Hamblin regenerated their shopfitting unit in Mapledurham into a GBGB accredited training facility complete with 20 purpose-built kennels, paddocks, a kitchen, office space and a swimming pool.

Less than two years into their new venture, the pair were in the winners’ enclosure on greyhound racing’s most prestigious night when Savana Top Cat landed the Category Two Greyhound Trader Stakes Final.

The two-year-old was sent off 11/10f and beat Coppice Trophy – trained by Burford-based Kevin Hutton – by four-and-one-quarter lengths despite fluffing the start in 29.46 seconds, an average speed of 37.96mph.

Phil said training a winner on Derby Final night fulfilled a lifelong dream which was facilitated by Oxford Stadium’s extraordinary reopening in April 2022.

“This is what everyone is greyhound racing aspires to achieve,” said Phil. “When it was announced Oxford was going reopen, we had a whirlwind moment where we considered transforming our shopfitting unit into a fully functional kennel.

“Months later we received our accreditation, and now we’re in the winners’ enclosure on Derby Final night – it’s amazing. Kevin (Boothby, owner) trusted us with this greyhound, and he has done us very proud.

“He missed the start but showed tremendous pace to get to the first bend in front and from there he was so strong. He’s a very chilled out greyhound that takes everything in his stride and it’s a pleasure to have him in the kennel.”

The win was made sweeter as Savana Top Cat was purchased by Kevin Boothby – Oxford Stadium Managing Director – in March.

Kevin said Chris and Phil’s story epitomises how Oxford Stadium’s regeneration has captured the imagination of greyhound racing enthusiasts locally and the general public.

“I’m delighted for the Hamblins,” said Kevin. “They gave up their careers to start training greyhounds and their rise to the top has a real feel-good story behind it.

“Like all greyhound trainers, they’re required to work seven days a week and the sport is ultimately not their living but simply a way of life. Savana Top Cat has been sensational for them.

“He’s had six races and won four of them and throughout this competition he’s been seriously impressive. I’m so chuffed for Chris, Phil and their nephew Daniel – they deserve this as much as anyone.”

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