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Back to News » Blanchard captures 2019 Wheeling kennel championship
Monday, January 13, 2020

When the Blanchards were booked at Wheeling Island in July 2017, trainer James E. Blanchard was confident the kennel would be competitive.

He was right.

After posting nearly 300 wins in just a half season of racing their first year, Blanchard battled the Lester Raines Kennel down to the wire in 2018 before coming up two wins short of the kennel championship. In 2019, the Blanchard Kennel took command a couple months in and never looked back in capturing their first kennel crown at Wheeling Island.

The Blanchard Kennel amassed 575 victories in 2019, just off their 581 total the year before. Defending kennel champion Lester Raines took runner up honors with 507 wins, while Jacobs Racing finished third with 497.

For Blanchard, their goal every year is to shoot for the top spot.

“It’s a great feeling to win the kennel championship after being so close the year before … we worked hard for it which makes it special, a big accomplishment. To be top kennel, you need to have a lot of talented greyhounds and be lucky,” Blanchard said. “Wheeling is a forgotten gem. We aren’t booked at Southland, but we treat this place as our Southland. That’s another reason why we’ve been successful in Wheeling.”

The Blanchard family also has two bookings at Orange Park in Florida – the Jim Blanchard Kennel and the Double J Kennel – which they use as a stepping-stone to Wheeling.

“We break in most of our pups at Orange Park before picking the ones we feel will be a good fit for Wheeling. We like to give them 20 to 25 starts so they can learn how to race and get experience,” Blanchard said. “The hard work put in by my father Jim, trainers Mark Blair and Chris Maynard as well as their employees at Orange Park is a big factor in keeping us competitive at Wheeling.”

Next in line behind Blanchard (575), Lester Raines (507) and Jacobs Racing (497) in the final 2019 standings were Patriot/Taplin (494), Brad Boeckenstedt (451), Charter (442), Xtrem Hess Racing (429), Steve Sarras (417), Abrahamson (416), Rangel (415), Wayne Ward (394), Imark (346) and A Ray (341).

The Blanchard Kennel had nine greyhounds reach double figures in wins, including three in the racetrack’s top five – L’s Griz (25), High Wire Willy (19) and L’s Luv It (18).

“L’s Griz is the best greyhound I’ve ever raced … he can do it all – go to the front or come from behind. L’s Luv It has been so consistent and can race from any hole which is a big advantage at Wheeling,” Blanchard said. “High Wire Willy has been a diamond in the rough. He came in from Ebro and turned into one of the track’s top 330-yard sprinters.”

Other double-digit winners for the Blanchard Kennel were Arkans Scrappy (13), Vicki Of Ruckus and For The Birds (12 each), GR’s Breeze (11), Disco Mania and JW Concepcion (10 each). Three greyhounds had nine victories each – LNT Batman, LNT Iron Man and Priscilla Barnes.

Blanchard credited his Wheeling crew – wife Sarah Blanchard, Sheri Comer and Gina Hall – for playing a key role in the kennel’s success in 2019 as well as the owners of greyhounds leased to the kennel to race.

“They’ve all been a part of our success and we couldn’t do it without them,” Blanchard said. “They are a big part of our team.”

As for 2020, Blanchard expects a competitive fight for the top spot in the kennel standings.

“A lot of our top greyhounds are getting a little older, so we need to rebuild our kennel,” Blanchard said. “Hopefully we have a good group of pups come in this year. It’ll be a battle again, but I love the competition.”

Handling the greyhounds is a passion for Blanchard, too.

“I’ve been around greyhounds my whole life. It’s what I want to do,” Blanchard said. “Each day I wake up and can’t wait to get to the kennel. How many young kids want to grow up and be a greyhound trainer? Not many, but I did.”

While Blanchard garnered the most wins in 2019, Patriot/Taplin had the most seconds (556). Blanchard was tops in thirds (544) and fourths (524).

Blanchard and Jacobs Racing were the leaders in win percentage with 14 percent followed by Lester Raines, Brad Boeckenstedt and Charter with 13 percent.

Jacobs Racing led all kennels with a 42 percent trifecta mark. Blanchard and Lester Raines were next with 40 percent.

Topping the charts in starts was Blanchard (4,075) followed by Patriot/Taplin (4,020) and Abrahamson (3,672).

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.