Former Boggabri greyhound trainer Andrew Bell and his team at Cedar Lodge Kennels enjoyed another successful season throughout the memorable year that was 2020.

Despite the greyhound industry being forced to battle the issues introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent NSW social distancing restrictions, Bell and his team oversaw more dogs race than ever in a calendar year.

He had 1443 starts in 2020 and finished the year with 178 winners, 193 second-placed finishes and 229 third-placed finishes.

His 2020 win rate of 12.2 per cent was a new personal best and bettered his career average of 10.9 per cent.

His 2020 place rate of 41.4 per cent was also a new personal best, and was well above his career average of 38.1 per cent.

Bell also claimed a fifth premiership last year when he won the 2020 Richmond Greyhound Racing Club trainer premiership for a third consecutive season to go with his Goulburn (2018) and Nowra (2019) trainer premierships.

In 2020 he made history when he became the first trainer to have 100 wins in a calendar year at a NSW track, which he achieved at Richmond in early December.

He then finished the year with 107 wins from 849 starts at that track.

The former Boggabri trainer told The Courier that 2020, despite its challenges, was his best year in the sport yet.

“It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come in three years, it’s hard to explain, and this year was the best yet,” Bell said.

“We concentrated a lot on Richmond this year and we raced a lot there.

“They opened up another meeting there on a Sunday so we raced at Richmond three days a week.

“To win the trainer premiership again there was great and to get the 100 winners there was just amazing.

“It’s a bit different because we have got a lot of dogs and Richmond race three times a week so we have a lot more starters, but at the same time it’s still a massive achievement that we are proud of.

“All tracks included, not just Richmond, we got to our goal of 100 winners in August or September, somewhere around there, which made me think there was a possibility we might even get 150 winners.

“By the end of the year we had 178. It really snowballed and we had such a good run. For three months towards the end of the year, every time we’d put 10 dogs in we’d come away with three winners.

“There was barely a meeting we went to where we didn’t get a winner, and we raced nearly every day, it was a terrific run.

“Just before Christmas we had a few injuries with our better dogs, which meant the lower class dogs had to lift their game for us which they did.

“When your good dogs are winning that’s one thing, but when your slower dogs are going good too it means you’re doing something right.”

Bell said that his success has created new opportunities for the Cedar Lodge Kennels team.

“It’s really hard down here in Sydney when you’re a new trainer,” Bell said.

“People don’t know you and so don’t trust you with their good dogs, so I had to start off down here with all the lower class dogs.

“I had to prove my worth with those dogs and because I’ve done that, people started trusting me and giving me better dogs.

“I’m at the stage where those lower class dogs don’t come here any more, my kennels are full of good dogs at the moment which has only sort of happened the past three or four months.

“That made the end of the year a lot better after we started getting an influx of really good dogs.

“I’ve raised the bar which means we should be able to do what we did last year easily this year, I’m expecting big things this year.

“Then down the track my goal is to ultimately win the trainer premiership at Wentworth Park.”

Bell, like many others in 2020, was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that the changes introduced as a result of the pandemic presented a major challenge for the Cedar Lodge Kennels team.

“At the start of the year it was actually a bit daunting for us,” Bell said.

“With the COVID situation we had to stay in our own areas to race, and around the Richmond area is where a lot of the really good trainers are.

“There was no Wentworth Park and we could only race at Richmond and Dapto and had to race the city class dogs at our local track against the best trainers in NSW.

“We did it a bit tough there the first couple of months, it started late February and went through to April.

“It was really tough winning a race and when I looked at our goal of 100 winners for the year I thought we wouldn’t get it this year.

“Restrictions eased though which allowed us to go to different tracks again and that opened things up more and it wasn’t so compact where we were.

“We ended up taking off from there.”

Cedar Lodge Kennels ended the year on a high with its 178th winner after Hola Adios jumped from box eight in the 10th and final race of the year at Dapto on New Year’s Eve.

The two-year-old bitch jumped from box eight and led the 297-metre race almost from start to finish before winning by a length.

“I don’t tell many people this, but it brought tears to my eyes,” Bell said.

“We had such a good year and to end it like that was simply amazing.

“Some of our helpers and owners were there cheering on too which made it that little bit more special.”

Bell, alongside his wife Debbie and their family who make up the Cedar Lodge Kennels team, moved to Werombi from Boggabri in December 2017, searching for success in the sport.

In 2018 they set a goal of 52 winners, one for each week of the year, and they finished with 111.

Last year the goal was 100 which they well and truly smashed, and now Bell has labelled 179 winners – one more than last year – as the goal for 2021 as well as both the Richmond and Dapto trainer premierships.

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