Doreen Walsh

DOREEN WALSH, who had enjoyed a sixty-six year association with greyhound racing and is Hove’s longest-serving trainer, sent out her final runners at the track in December, 2018, owing to ill-health and the replacement at her Albourne range was long-term assistant Stuart Maplesden.

“I have known Doreen since I was a kid when she trained greyhounds for my parents,” said Hove racing manager Jeff Piper. “She may not be a household name outside of the Hove training ranks, but her ability to train greyhounds is right up there with the very best and she perhaps hasn’t always received the recognition she deserves,”

Walsh, who began a long career in greyhound racing when joining Hove handler Reg Birch in 1952, eventually linked up as head girl to George Curtis in 1967 and she became the first woman trainer in the history of the stadium when taking over a position vacated by the retiring Fred Lugg on New Year’s Day, 1975.

“I, for one, will miss our colourful conversation on the telephone and I’m sure she will be readily on hand to pass on her lifelong knowledge to Stuart [Maplesden] should he require it,” added Piper.

The first greyhound to appear for Walsh on a Hove racecard was Mighty Mac over 500m and her other five runners, alongside fellow Hove trainers George Curtis, Arthur Hancock and Gunner Smith at the eight-race fixture, were Shanta Champion, Rossinrubble (won), Deneholme Champ, Deneholme Dainty and Hascombe Queen (won).

Walsh made a particularly bright early start to her career through the exploits of Sparks Story (Sussex Cup finalist), Rathmale Lucky (played a key role in Hove’s victorious 1976 National Inter-Track Championship campaign) and Rossinrubble (former Hove 725m track record holder).

DOREEN WALSH (centre): She became the first woman in the history of the stadium when taking over a position vacated by the retiring Fred Lugg on New Year's Day, 1975.

Walsh’s Ballyfrean Sam was the undisputed track champion over timber during a golden era at Hove in 1976 and Black Bob, who achieved a rare feat of winning three hurdles races within the space of a week in the late-1970s, proved too good for track record holder Amazing Brian, Bellini and Deneholme Valour in the final of the 1978 National Hurdle at Hove.

Other high-profile greyhounds to keep Walsh in the spotlight in the early days of her flourishing training career were Tinas Tiny Tots (1977 Sussex Cup finalist), Charisma King (1979 Sussex Cup finalist and winner of the FA Childs Memorial Trophy at Portsmouth), Bengal Tiger (1979 Sussex Cup finalist), Fealeside Sam (Hackney 932m track record holder) and The Pinnacle (1986 Grand Prix finalist).

25-1 Fluffylugs, a full-brother to outstanding stayer Jingling Star, served up one of the biggest upsets in the history of the competition since it become an all-aged stayers’ feature in 1966 when beating a representative line-up that also included Fair Reward, Laugh Lines, Seagulls and Corboy Champion in the 1981 Regency final over 740m at Hove.

Merry Maestro, co-owned by John and Eileen Warwick, completed a six-timer when landing the 1982 Cosmic Orbit Young Puppies Trophy (515m) at Hove, while Lisroe Exile gave her a second success in the event when having Oriental Darkie and Sambuca in arrears three years later.

Although a win in the Brighton Belle on home soil eluded her, Walsh fielded no fewer than five finalists in the bitches’ annual in the shape of Wickham Rosset (1976), Salina Bay (1981), Cygnet Ring (1983), Flagmount Red (1987) and Trans Cheetah (1992).

In recent years, she was particularly thrilled with the news that Cabela Holly, who eventually competed in top grade after beginning her career as a 14-1 outsider in lowly A11 company, topped the achievements of thousands of graders at 25 GBGB-licensed tracks to collect the 2013 Graded Greyhound of the Year accolade.

“Doreen was a very accomplished old school trainer, she came up through the ranks from a kennelhand and has given fantastic service to Hove,” said fellow handler Derek Knight. “I can only ever remember her having one holiday in all the time I’ve been at Albourne, and she loved and lived for the dogs - it was a 24/7 routine for her.”

Walsh, who enjoyed a 66-year association at Hove, received a standing ovation when the recipient of a Special Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BGOA gala in April, 2018.

George Curtis, the legendary trainer of Ballyregan Bob, once said: “Doreen was possibly the most dedicated person I've ever known – it’s meeting people like her that make me realise, when I look back, how lucky I’ve been to be involved in this sport.”

Written by Patrick Kelly