Allen Gift

CLAUDE GARDINER created one of the most special chapters in Coral Brighton & Hove Stadium’s 96-year history when giving the Sussex track its first Greyhound Derby success at Wimbledon in 2002.

Allen Gift, a June ’99 brindled dog, was fourth to Nice Vocation in A3 grade over 515 metres at Hove on September 6, 2001, and he reached the final of the £2,500 Jem Racing Super Paws (450 metres) at Poole in his first season.

ALLEN GIFT: Claude Gardiner's ace rewrote the history books when giving Hove a first Greyhound Derby title at Wimbledon in 2002.

There was a tremendous buzz within the grandstand at Hove that night, as racegoers swarmed around monitors around the stadium to cheer on each of the track’s three finalists – Crack Him Out (trap one), Blue Gooner (trap four) and Allen Gift (trap six).

The elation of the narrow triumph for Allen Gift – he scored by three-parts of a length from Seamus Cahill’s Call Me Baby – revived memories of the halcyon days of Ballyregan Bob and the 2001 BGRB Racecourse of the Year immediately began preparations for a glorious homecoming of their latest headline-maker.

Of the vanquished, Crack Him Out (third), in particular, and Blue Gooner (fourth) ran their hearts out for Brian Clemenson and it was poignant that the handler was the first to congratulate Claude Gardiner, his great pal and former head man, in the excited aftermath of the race.

Owner Ian Brenchley, a BT engineer, is a quiet, unassuming and likeable man who would cherish this special win for the rest of his days.

Quoted at 200-1 in the ante-post betting on the eve of the 2002 Greyhound Derby Allen Gift, who cost his owner a mere £5,000, ended a run of a dozen successive defeats to take the title.

A thoroughly down-to-earth individual with a wonderful sense of humour, the 51-year-old Gardiner had experienced the ups and downs of the sport working alongside Terry Duggan, David Vowles, Brian Clemenson and Bill Masters.

So, a ghost was finally laid to rest. It was a huge price that another 74 years would elapse before the Sussex flag would again be waving gaily in the steaming hot cauldron of an arena that plays host to the sport’s blue riband on Greyhound Derby final night.