Barnfield On Air, acclaimed as the pinnacle greyhound of his generation, is a name etched in the annals of greyhound racing history. He achieved many unsurpassed triumphs, marked stellar track records, and secured victories in major contests. Comparable to the renowned Westmead Hawk, he transcended the boundaries of the sport through pervasive mainstream media coverage, earning admiration from fans and media outlets alike. Barnfield On Air’s remarkable legacy remains an emblem of unmatched prowess in greyhound racing.
Early Life and Career
Despite its eventual stardom, Barnfield On Air’s initial foray into the world of greyhound racing was teeming with challenges. Expectations for this greyhound were indeed high, but before achieving universal acclaim, Barnfield On Air had the formidable task of proving the validity of the surging hype surrounding him. Born in February 2005, the extraordinary canine was birthed from the union of Pacific Mile and Always On Air, both notable contributors to his innate talents.
While the saying “class always shows” might sound clichéd, Barnfield On Air validated this wisdom through his performance. His prowess and class came to light in ways that cemented his place in greyhound racing history.
Debut and Reputation in Ireland
The greyhound, originally named On Air Always, strutted onto the racing stage with a reputation rivaled only by the legendary Ballyregan Bob. Following his high-profile acquisition, On Air Always showcased his exceptional talents with swift victories at Irish tracks – Thurles, Newbridge, and Harold’s Cross.
High-profile Irish performances included:
- Thurles: Fast win
- Newbridge: Fast win
- Harold’s Cross: Fast win
On Air Always’ performance earned him entry into the 2006 Irish Puppy Derby Final held at Dublin. Despite a promising start, he experienced a troubled run in the final race, denying him victory. This speed bump did not deter him but served as a crucial stepping stone towards greater achievements in his future career.
Transition to England
Following his performance in Ireland, the greyhound found a new home at the Essex kennels of trainer Sam Poots. This transition marked the beginning of his journey as Barnfield On Air.
Ownership Group: ‘Barnfield Trio’
- Sam Poots
- Darryl Bear
- Mark Hodgson
- Steve Murphy
Sam Poots not only trained Barnfield On Air, but was also part of the ownership quartet known as the ‘Barnfield Trio’. Other members of this group were Darryl Bear, Mark Hodgson, and Steve Murphy, who together aimed to steer Barnfield On Air towards unprecedented strides in his career.
United Kingdom Performance
Barnfield On Air’s transition to the United Kingdom was marked by an initial defeat but quickly followed by victories. His initial races were mixed with wins and losses. But soon, he would command attention as a formidable contender in the 2007 Greyhound Derby at Wimbledon.
First Consecutive UK appearances:
- Coventry – Defeated on debut
- Brandon – Secured victory
- 2007 Greyhound Derby, Wimbledon – Participated after demonstrating prominent trials
The greyhound impressively won the first round of the 2007 Greyhound Derby and led home the Monmore Puppy Derby winner, Blonde Dino. However, the tracks of Wimbledon didn’t suit Barnfield On Air, and a slow start caused him a significant setback in the second round.
Barnfield On Air’s performance post-Wimbledon was noteworthy. He ran a scintillating race at Hove, clocking 29.32sec, showing the racing community what was yet to come. A small setback at Wimbledon during the Derby final night didn’t diminish his spirit. He made an exceptional comeback during the Sussex Cup at Hove, where Barnfield On Air truly shined.
Sussex Cup Performances
- 1st heat: Victory
- Semi-final: Victory
- Final: Swift victory with a new track record time of 29.20sec
Barnfield On Air continued to demonstrate stellar racing prowess. He responded to an interrupted preparation by setting a track record of 28.15sec at Walthamstow over a 475m stretch.
Notable among his performances were two additional track records during the heats (27.32sec) and semi-finals (27.20sec) of the Laurels at Belle Vue. In contrast, he finished second in the final.
At Coventry, he secured the Blue Square 480 Cup Final (also known as Coventry Derby), setting a new best time for the 480m stretch.
Barnfield On Air took the spotlight not only in the trade press but also in the wider media. The Daily Mirror termed him a ‘wonderdog,’ while the Observer drew comparisons with Mick the Miller, dubbing him a ‘national treasure’.
- Named GBGB Standard Distance Dog of the Year (2007)
Despite his commendable track achievements, he lost to St Leger Champion Spiridon Louis for the title of Greyhound of the Year. Both greyhounds emerged as champions in their right.
Towards the End of Career
In 2008, a bid for the triple crown fell at the first hurdle when Barnfield was eliminated from the Scottish Derby at the semi-final stage. He did, however, receive acclaim for his performance at Wimbledon. His hope to make a successful Wimbledon campaign was buoyed by some eye-catching trials.
Barnfield On Air’s career was gradually nearing its end when, in 2009, he was retired due to fertility issues. However, after a seven-month break, he made a comeback with an eye on another Derby campaign.
Retirement and Legacy
The notable career of Barnfield On Air closed after an unfortunate recurring wrist injury struck the greyhound during a senior’s race at Wimbledon. The incident at Plough Lane triggered the decision to retire him from racing. Despite the abrupt ending of his career, Barnfield On Air had a distinguished legacy as a multiple track record-breaker and exemplary racer, victorious in 27 races.
- Coral Sussex Cup
- Betfred Select Stakes
- Blue Square 480
His exceptional performances on the tracks amassed him £53,110 solely in win prize money.
Leading sports writer Richard Birch, notably acknowledging Barnfield On Air’s contribution in his Greyhound Greats column, recalls the charismatic canine’s unwavering dominance on the UK’s various tracks from July to November 2007. He compared the dog to athletic giants such as Usain Bolt and Dayjur, lauding the consistent front-running performances that became a symbol of Barnfield On Air’s prowess.
Track Records achieved:
- Belle Vue (twice)
Despite his absence from the Derby winners’ circle, Birch deemed that Barnfield On Air’s undeniable display of supreme racing capabilities cemented his place as a Greyhound Great.
Barnfield On Air, nicknamed ‘Jack’ or ‘The Boss’, spent his retirement at the Peaceful Kennels in Essex. Here, caretakers Olivia and Beth Noble took great care of him. The stallion lived life to the fullest and was nearing his twelfth birthday when an unfortunate leg injury occurred.
The complications that followed from this injury led to the difficult but humane decision of his caretakers to end his suffering. Barnfield On Air passed away on January 26, 2017. The greyhound’s notable performances on the track and his indomitable spirit continue to inspire greyhound racing to this day.