BILLERICAY TOWN football fans can’t wait to see their favourites back in action. However, a top hurdling greyhound, sporting the New Lodge clubs name and colours could well be back in action a whole lot sooner.
Billericay Blue is owned by Nick Hutt, part of the consortium overseeing the club, and former Town, West Ham United and Republic of Ireland youth goalkeeper, Billy McMahon, who now plays an active coaching role with the clubs’ successful colts section.
But how did a partnership forged in non-league football go on to flourish trackside?
“We hit it off right from the start,” Billy told Yellow Sport.
“Nick was managing my nephews’ junior team. I’d go along a watch and I suppose being an ex-footballer, naturally offered my input. He invited me to assist with the training and the topic of football led to other avenues, including the greyhounds. I asked Nick if he wanted to get involved after I was offered a decent dog – we’ve never looked back since, and own four dogs between us. I rate Billericay Blue as the best hurdler in the country.
Nick admitted despite always having an interest, his initial understanding of the sport was somewhat limited: “I’d always watched the dogs racing.
“Growing up in south-west London I’d go to Wimbledon. My inlaws go to Romford – they love it over there. The interest had always been there, but I didn’t really have the knowledge to get involved. Then I met Billy, who literally knew everything.
“We kennel the dogs here at South Ockendon with Jim Reynolds, who is a well-respected trainer. As you can see, the dogs are in fantastic condition and are extremely well looked after.”
Billy insisted that Billericay Blue is dressed for success, adding: “He was initially trained by Kevin Hutton at Monmore. We sent him to Ireland, just to freshen him up and school him. My partner is Jim’s daughter, so it made sense to train him here – he hasn’t looked back and has won over every distance, sprint, four-bend, six-bends and now hurdles.
“He has been a revelation which has been great for me and Nick, especially as he was our first dog together. Greyhound racing was cleared to restart on June 1, so hopefully, we will see him back in action really soon.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sports. However, Jim explained how the right environment had helped keep the dogs in prime condition and ready to return to the track once restrictions are lifted.
“At the kennel, we have the facility to gallop the dogs and they stay in large paddocks. The routine at the kennel has been the same for the duration of the lockdown. We’ve kept them physically and mentally stimulated which is important.
“We’ve been trialling at Crayford for the past two weeks, which meant we were ready to start racing when June 1 came around. Billericay Blue has a sprint trial over the standard distance and recorded 23.50 which is a very good run for his first time back. He has also had a hurdle trial so is qualified to start racing and we hope to see him on the card by the end of the week.”
Having offered an insight behind the scenes, Jim urged enthusiasts to visit their local track: I would encourage anyone who hasn’t been to greyhound racing before to give it a try,” he added.
“It’s a strange one because the Friday and Saturday evening racing at both Romford and Crayford is absolutely jam-packed. The attendances are really good. But midweek is a quiet time. People are coming but we need to reach out to a wider audience so that people can see just how good it is and how well the dogs are looked after.”