Claude Gardiner

2002 Greyhound Derby win was a dream come true for Hove greyhound trainer Claude Gardiner!

CLAUDE GARDINER enjoyed considerable success as a trainer during the past few decades - most notably with 2002 Greyhound Derby victor Allen Gift - and he continued to churn out a high percentage of winners at Coral Brighton & Hove Stadium.

“Winning the Greyhound Derby was a dream come true, I was shell-shocked to tell you the truth – it was an absolute wonderful experience,” said Gardiner.

The trainer was born in Kelvedon, Essex,1950 and his career in greyhound racing began as a 14-year-old in 1964 when he helped Tony Bunting with a couple of greyhounds at now-defunct Rayleigh.

CLAUDE GARDINER: The extremely popular handler won many big races during a 21-year training career.

He collected further experience under the tutelage of Terry Duggan, whom he joined in 1969, and later enjoyed spells with Chris Duggan at Romford, prior to linking up with Dave Vowles for a seven-year period before forming a partnership with up-and-coming Brian Clemenson at Hackney.

During a particularly happy association with Terry Duggan, Gardiner played a key role in the emergence of marathon sensation Go Ahead Girl, who chalked up seventeen consecutive wins before losing a high-profile match race with Tell You What over 874 metres at Bristol in 1976.

“Go Ahead Girl was a terrific little bitch, one of the outstanding marathon performers of the 1970s and the track record holder for Hove’s 955 metres,” said Gardiner. “She was a pretty little bitch, very good-natured and all she did was stay.”

In November, 1994, Gardiner transferred to Hove with Brian Clemenson and their partnership coincided with a particularly successful period through the exploits of big-race winners Restless Lass, Hart To Mine, Musical Treat, Clodeen Magic, Million Percent, Crack Off, Rebel Leader, Solid Magic and Micks Best Hero.

However, Gardiner decided to move on six years later to join Bill Masters’ Albourne range as assistant trainer and he took over the kennel to set up on his own account in October, 2001.

“Hove, in my opinion, has the best running track in the country, and I’ve had some fantastic times here,” said Gardiner. “The track ran very well on Coral Winter Derby final night despite foul weather conditions, and the management are innovative and enthusiastic.”

The following year Gardiner created a piece of history for his local track when he steered the totally unfancied Allen Gift, who had failed to score in the preliminary rounds, to victory in the Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon – it was Hove’s first success in the sport’s blue riband since the track opened in 1928.

Allen Gift, owned by BT engineer Ian Brenchley and a 200-1 chance at the outset in the ante-post lists, ended a sequence of twelve consecutive defeats to become the longest-priced winner of the Greyhound Derby since it transferred from White City to Wimbledon in 1985.

“Allen Gift was a reasonably-priced purchase, he was a particularly friendly dog and a really good traveller,” added Gardiner. “He won first time up at seven different tracks, and I had toyed with the idea of putting him over hurdles earlier in the year of his Derby win in 2002 – he would have cleaned up in that division.”

ALLEN GIFT: He provided Claude Gardiner with the biggest training success of his career when landing the 2002 Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon.

Other subsequent important wins for Gardiner came via Spears Tarquynn (Pall Mall), Farloe Mirror (Brighton Belle), Pine Isle (Brighton Belle), Raithby Syrah (Sussex Cup), He Went Whoosh (Regency & Cesarewitch) and Droopys Xavier (Cesarewitch & Ballyregan Bob Memorial).

He Went Whoosh, arguably Gardiner’s most prolific competition greyhound, also reached the finals of the William Hill Grand Prix (640m, Sunderland), William Hill St Leger (687m, Wimbledon) and Prestige Stakes (645m, Hall Green).

The March 07 black dog, only one of two Gardiner Regency finalists during a 21-year period as a trainer at Hove – the other one Droopys Flash was fifth to Billys Bullet in 2016 - prevailed by a short-head from Capel Smiley with Bush Paddy the same distance away in third in a pulsating Sky-televised encounter in 2010.

“He Went Whoosh is undoubtedly one of the most talented greyhounds that I’ve trained, a lovely-natured dog with a fierce determination to win, “ said Gardiner. “He did everything right in the kennel, he had no vices and was a great competition dog.”

Kylegrove Mentor, who started her career in A7 grade at Hove and enjoyed a glorious swansong in a 515m open at Sussex Cup final night in 2010, was the most prolific-scoring greyhound ever trained by Gardiner with a staggering 48 wins from 186 career starts.

Gardiner, whose most successful campaign on the open-race circuit was in 2010 when he went close to securing a top-6 placing in the Trainers’ Championship standings, is an extremely popular character in the greyhound racing fraternity.

Among Gardiner’s principal patrons at Hove included Alf Ashe, Dennis Fiore, Shaun Gresham, the late Malcolm Mackrill, Bruce Li, Barry Croucher, Rod Lynn, Gillian Woodroffe, Ian Andrews, Wayne Hall and Annie Hall.

Claude Gardiner, whose kennels at Albourne were taken over by his grandson Carl, passed away aged 72 in November, 2022, and there was an immediate outpouring of grief within the greyhound community nationwide.

Written by Patrick Kelly