Not crafty but shrewd enough to know when the journey is worth making; Harry Crapper made a big impression with Bansha Mo at Wimbledon on Racing Post Juvenile night. Jonathan Hobbs finds him eyeing the Derby with his new star.
HARRY CRAPPER is anything but crafty. Experienced? Yes. Successful? Yes. Shrewd? Most probably. But crafty? Absolutely not.
So when that word was used to explain the reason why he made a 350-mile round-trip from his Renishaw base, a few miles outside Sheffield, to Wimbledon with just one greyhound for a race supporting the recent Racing Post Juvenile Championship at Wimbledon, the mild-mannered Yorkshireman took offence - in the nicest possible way.
"Crafty implies something underhand or devious, and that's not me," he says bristling somewhat - which is not easy for a gentleman to do. "I'm an honest greyhound trainer, who still enjoys what I do even after 50 years, and just happen to have a nice bitch in the kennel." Mild manners and modesty are two of Crapper's traits, as is the fact that he is a terrific and very successful greyhound trainer.
The bitch, of course, is Bansha Mo. Owned by Mark Machin and Derek Booth, and formerly known as Memories Tune, the January 2010 daughter of Scarty Lad and Glory Days first hit the headlines when winning the Ryan Holmes Puppy Cup at Crapper's home track at the backend of last year.
And after bolting home in the bitches' race on Juvenile night, she is very much a williamhill.com Derby contender as she improved her UK career race record to six wins from seven starts - "and that might have been seven had she not run off first time at Nottingham in the heats [Caffreys Standard Trophy]. She won the final," says Crapper.
It was those statistics, and Bansha Mo's clear ability, that prompted the handler, 68 next month, to take the rare trouble to travel south from South Yorkshire, and thus give the impression that he was being, ahem, crafty.
But Crapper knows a good greyhound as trainer of a Scottish Derby winner (On Spec, 1983), a St Leger winner (Frisby Folly, 2001) and two English Derby seconds (On Spec, 1983, to I'm Slippy; Frisby Full, 1999, to Chart King). Harry has history.
Indeed, Bansha Mo follows a long line of star racers to have passed through his hands - greyhounds such as the above, plus Jebb Rambler, Sunspec Jess and the Frisbys - Flashing, Folly, Fassan, Figo and Fontenblu - the latter sharing a kennel with Bansha Mo now.
Throw in the fact that he was a kennelhand with legendary Sheffield trainers Jim Hookway and Ted Brennan during the time of historymaking brothers Tric Trac, Spectre II and Forward King, and you get the picture.
It is that history in the sport which engaged Nick Savva when the pair met at Wimbledon last month. "I've got Nick's fantastic book, and there's a picture of Jim with Spectre II," says Crapper.
"He and Tric Trac were first and second in the 1966 Derby at White City while I was working with Jim. Then when I moved to Ted's, we had their brother Forward King, who won the 1967 St Leger. They were an extraordinary bunch - in fact Spectre II won the TV Trophy before he finished second in the Derby! We also had the mother at the Sheffield kennels, Supreme Witch, and I think Nick was quite surprised to learn that."
Like most at Wimbledon that night, Savva will have been impressed by the balance, speed and power of Bansha Mo who, with luck, could be a bitch to give her male rivals something to think about in the Derby, a rare thing.
Silverview Perky emerged as a member of the fairer sex with Derby potential after her brilliant success in the Oaks when still a puppy, and Bansha Mo will join her at Wimbledon.
Topically, Crapper has Milldean Panther to thank for discovering her, as he explains: "I'd heard about this wonder puppy called Milldean Panther, and thought I'd take a look at him on the internet.
"He was racing at Thurles and, in this particular race, I saw this bitch beaten a long way, some 13 lengths, but she took my eye. She was staying on quite nicely, I thought. So I recommended to Mark [Machin] that he made enquiries, but at that stage Ned Fogarty, who was training her, said he was keeping her. She had a couple of more races and I followed her. Mark went in again and this time Ned accepted.
after start "I gave her time to settle in, and then gave her a race at Doncaster. I do think that's a fantastic track for young dogs, any dog really, but youngsters particularly, and she won nicely. She then went to Sheffield, and won heat and final of the Ryan Holmes, and the going at Sheffield then was very soft - over a second and a half slow for the heats. It shows how strong she is, which is why I'm pretty sure she'll stay further in time."
HIS kennel is smaller than it once was. That is a combination of age and economics, having lost long-time assistant Warwick Pinder to a job outside the industry as Pinder struggled to stack up the numbers to fulfill his ambition of taking over (see right).
"My wife Berice suggested I take things easier, and I suppose after a lifetime in the game, that made sense," reasons Crapper. "And Sheffield have been brilliant with me, they allow me to provide a few dogs on the graded strength, and it works well."
Sheffield have given the handler the respect his achievements and longevity deserve, as they did late last year with another of their favourite sons, Jon Carter, who celebrated 50 years in the sport with a gala dinner - Harry and Berice were guests that night and sat next to Charlie Lister and Pat Cartledge. Like 'Mr Sheffield', Crapper goes back a long way with Owlerton.
Born in 1944, just a half a mile from the stadium, he was one of five children, and perhaps naturally for that part of the world, the son of a Sheffield steelworker and a mum "who did many jobs to make ends meet". He went to grammar school - the only one of his friends accepted to do so - but counted the days to leave. "I didn't enjoy it," he recalls.
"Grammar schools were different then. There were real class issues, and I was a working-class boy who didn't fit in. I couldn't wait to leave at 15, but didn't know what to do with myself. Then one of our neighbours, who worked at the kennels at Sheffield - they were based at the track then - suggested I go along. A few days later I started work with Ted Brennan." That was 1959.
Crapper's future wife worked at the other Sheffield greyhound track, Darnall, so greyhounds have been much part of their lives for many years. "Berice has been a great help and support over the years, as was Warwick, and they're a major part of the success I've had, with our owners taking great credit too, particularly Roy and Chris Brookes. We have part-time help now in Margaret, but it's a small team working with a small number of greyhounds."
Crapper has one son, who works as a draughtsman, and two grandchildren, 13 and 11, who love spending time with nan and grandad, plus of course the dogs.
"We went out as a family last week for Berice's birthday. We had a nice meal, a nice evening, and came home and watched Bansha Mo winning at Wimbledon again. It was the perfect night!" he smiles.
Bansha Mo is Derby-bound after a tremendous start to her career Harry Crapper has been associated with Owlerton since 1959