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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In the late 1970s, James J. Blanchard trained for the Greenwood Kennel at Wheeling Downs.

Now, his son James E. Blanchard, will be training and operating the newest kennel at Wheeling Island – Blanchard Kennel. The West Virginia Racing Commission recently approved the booking.

The new kennel is expected to be up and racing by mid-July and the younger Blanchard is looking forward to the challenge.

“Years ago we had ambitions to come to Wheeling, but back then it was much more difficult to get a booking,” Blanchard, 29, a lifelong Bonita Springs, FL., resident said last week. “I am thankful and excited for the opportunity. We are fully committed to having a successful kennel at Wheeling.”

Blanchard arrived in Wheeling from Florida last weekend with between 60 and 70 active greyhounds – 37 from Flagler and the rest from Orange Park, both in Florida. If all goes according to plan, the trainer will start officially schooling on Thursday, July 6, and have greyhounds draw in for the Wednesday matinee, July 12, card.

“I’ll be schooling between 15 and 20 greyhounds on July 6 and hopefully I get a feel how they take to the track,” Blanchard said. “It takes a different style of greyhound to run Wheeling, so we may be switching some greyhounds in and out.”

The Blanchard family also has a booking at Orange Park – holding the top spot in the kennel standings.

“I think the Orange Park track is similar to Wheeling – speed and rail – but the homestretch may be a little longer,” Blanchard said. “We have been breeding a lot more ourselves lately, so we’ll break most of the pups in at Orange Park before sending them to Wheeling.”

Leased greyhounds will be racing out of the Blanchard Kennel too, some with familiar prefixes – TMC’s, MRL, Arkans and Braska.

Blanchard expects some rough spots early on, but feels the kennel will hold its own quickly. It will be a young kennel.

“We’ll probably struggle at first, but I am confident we will be competitive in a short time,” Blanchard said. “I’m not saying we will be first, but we won’t be last.”

Blanchard feels his biggest challenge may be the cold weather.

“I’m sure there will be adjustments I have to make, possibly tweaking the food in the winter months,” Blanchard said. “It will take some time getting used to Wheeling.”

Among the group of greyhounds coming to Wheeling are several Grade A racers from the two Florida tracks:

Flagler: Arkans SL Joyce, MRL Kung Fu, Dusterofmuffins, LN Hop Daddy and LN Bryce Petty

Orange Park: LN Michaels, Watch Me, Pullanallnighter, BL Warlock, Aintgunnawasteit, Got It Good and TMC’s Sugablosum.

I was introduced to greyhound racing by a friend in the late 1970s at Wheeling Downs and fell in love with the sport and the athletes immediately. Throughout the years, I have developed a deep passion for racing. In the mid 1990s, I started writing a weekly greyhound column and shortly thereafter became a writer for The Greyhound Review.

I have enjoyed watching and writing about these wonderful competitors, including All-Americans DD's Nelson, Kiowa Sweet Trey, Gene's Champion, WW Apple Jax, Greys Royalcrown, Nimby TP Jan, Hi Noon Hero, Gable Sour Cream, KB's Ruckus and Cry Case.