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What a fantastic start to the year as Antigua Rum landed the Coral Coronation Cup at Romford with a brilliant last to first victory. It was built up during the week as being an absolute classic and as good a final at Romford that many had seen in years and it didn’t disappoint in front of an excellent crowd at the Essex venue which is firmly establishing itself as a place to be on a Friday night. There was four different leaders in the 575m contest but the one that mattered was the one that crossed the finishing line first and that was Antigua Rum for owners Amanda and Nic Jeal. We felt only his best exit would suffice with every runner in the race capable of dipping well inside the magical 35.00 barrier but Antigua Rum fluffed his lines when slightly coming up with the traps and as they rounded the first two turns found himself plum last though not too far off the pace. 20/1 chance Our Lucky Fool led up but was joined and passed by the Essex Vase winner Droopys Aoife who was then quickly challenged by both Sparta Master and the well backed Roman Empire. In behind Antigua Rum worked himself into fourth place and despite limited space cleverly moved to the outside off the fourth bend and as Roman Empire's run was blocked he quickly moved on to the shoulders of Sparta Master who had now briefly took it up as they approached the last turn. A devastating turn of pace from Antigua Rum saw him pass the stunningly fast Sparta Master and he quickly put the race to bed to the delight of many of his supporters who had backed Antigua Rum at fancy prices in the ante post market (recommended on our website @ 16/1) and he crossed the line 1 3/4 lengths to the good and considering the nature of the race clocking a decent 35.07.
After speaking to the Corals/Ladbrokes chief Ian Smyth before the meeting got under way he explained the extraordinary decision to add £5,000 to the winner's prize making it as valuable as a Category 1 final though its status as a Category 2 remained this year. He vowed to up the Coronation Cup to a group 1 event from 2021 to form a triple crown of events over 575m that involves the Champion Stakes, Essex Vase and now the Coronation Cup with added bonusses on any Greyhound that can win two or even all three of these fantastic titles. He even said the prompting by my views on our website over the last couple of weeks partly made a difference so I’m quite proud that so many industry leaders a) read our weekly newsletters and b) some actually agree with what I write!. In these days with plenty of negativity in our sport it’s so nice to see a positive good news story and we were delighted we could take advantage of such grand gestures. Amanda and Nic Jeal are like many owners who would commit fully to our sport even further knowing that they are appreciated and Corals/Ladbrokes stadia under Ian Smyth are leading the way forward for them.
The great start to the year was something I really wanted as we chase a 12th Trainer of the Year title and we have seen plenty of winners on the open race circuit in the first three weeks of the year. It's essential we keep up the pressure and I think we are way more forward with our kennel strength than I can remember for a while, with the likes of Antigua Rum stepping up from a good dog to a competition winning dog bodes well for the year. After compiling our magnificent yearly review I must admit to pulling the title out the bag after some disappointing months in 2019 and I would much rather be in front from the off as we are now. It’s now all systems go for the next two big events, we are looking to put a small team together for the Coral Winter Derby at Hove that gets underway a week Saturday and our team will be headed by the prolific duo of Coolavanny Messi and Antigua Romeo. Both have mopped up good class one off races over the last 3 or 4 months but now need to crack it when it matters in big events, the new 500m trip is on their maximum range but both have terrific early pace to compensate.
A week later the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket starts and I’m looking at taking a large team to Crayford over the next couple of weeks to see if they can make the 36 starters. Our 2020 Golden Jacket runner up and Kent St Leger winner Antigua Fire begins his 2020 campaign with a trial Stake this week and he has impressed with a couple of spins at Monmore after a short rest in December, he may need a run or two to be fully tuned up but without doubt is our leading contender for outright honours. Both our Champion Stakes winner Aayamza Express and our Coronation Cup winner Antigua Rum will have trials at the Kent track this Saturday and maybe a race the following week to see if they are suited by the track and trip while our St Leger 3rd and in form Avastorm returns to see if she can handle the track, she never looked entirely at home last year when tried but a few months on and she’s improved out of sight so is worth another attempt. Passing Stranger has clocked some useful sub 47.00 times over Romford’s 750m both in defeat and winning and he possesses top early pace for a stayer and could be another big player if handling the track and one of our lesser lights last year Glassmoss Sis looks like she has improved considerably after having her first season but has yet to step back into open class. Other possibilities include Antigua Vows, No Can Boogie, Longacres Mikey and Antigua Sky who all will have at least one look at the track before the entries close. I think in the next two weeks there could be some interesting and very warm 714m Maiden Stayer events! Looking at the current ante post betting this year's Golden Jacket could be the highest class competition I’ve ever seen and promises to be a joy to watch and take part in. Now then Ian, about that prize money (£17,500 to the winner), its been the same for a long time, what chance of an overall increase in the near future??? Well if you don’t ask you don’t get!!
Talking of the Awards, this Sunday we get our glad rags on as we go down to the fantastic Royal Lancaster hotel in London for the GBGB annual bash. Despite some people involved in the sport who love to criticise this event, most who likely have never attended one, it's one of the best nights of the year where we celebrate the achievements of our magnificent Greyhounds and some deserving achievements by those who help make it so brilliant. It's a chance to meet and discuss the achievements and look forward to 2020 and a great night to dress up and let your hair down. We only have Bumblebee Bullet up for the Marathon Greyhound of the Year award and yes that is slightly disappointing but we will thoroughly enjoy the night and I will be humbled receiving the prestigious Trainer of the Year award, for an incredible 11th time, on behalf of my team at Imperial Kennels. The Greyhound of the Year title looks a mere formality for Ice On Fire and I couldn’t be more pleased for our good friends Jimmy and Melanie Fenwick and will enjoy a drink or two with them. Look out next week as well if you are there as you're likely to get a microphone in your face as my daughter Emily is going to produce an Awards special podcast for next week which hopefully will be good fun.
We had three winners from five runners at Hove on Thursday but unfortunately the Hove Ladies final went astray as Antigua Sands got everything wrong when finishing down the field but we had good wins for Antigua Lad in the heats of the 515m Maiden heats in a moderate 30.54 but he will improve. Longacres Mikey took a 695m Maiden coming from last to first to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 42.83 and Antigua Romeo battled to an excellent win in 29.36 over 500m.
The highlight on Friday was obviously Antigua Rum’s Coronation Cup victory and the supporting card saw just one more winner when Tiffield Maximus took a 575m in good style by 7 lengths in an excellent 35.30. We had three runners in the Friday Night 500 Standard Final but that was reduced to two when Kicking King had to be withdrawn when he succumbed to kennel sickness which is floating around at the moment. Tiffield Blueboy almost made the bend in front but was shoved out the way by the well drawn Bubbly Buster who took advantage of his draw in trap 1 to beat Tiffield Blueboy in the final with an unlucky Have A Brandy back in 4th. Both Alien Sea and Aayamza Express were beaten favourites when second in 575m races.
Just four runners at Monmore this week but the on fire Coolavanny Messi made sure we didn’t come home empty handed, blasting to a 4.27 sectional he beat a good field over 480m by a length in a very good 28.54 (-40).
On Tuesday morning BallyfinnJade, Towstar Winston and Longacres Lily were all second but we had two nice winners at night with Garryglass Royal taking an A7 in good style in 28.19 and Towstar Zelda winning well in an A3 in a very good 27.86.
On Thursday Busters Bullet bounced back to his best winning an A5 by over 8 lengths in a flying 27.62 while there was a good win for Playbook in another A5 in a fine 28.07. Coasthopper Vic made it a good morning taking an A7 in 28.45.
On Saturday Towstar Zelda completed a good week taking her second win, this time in a decent S1 leading all the way to score by 1/2 lengths in 33.73. The improving Energize Bingo made it three wins from four races when defying a double upgrade to take an A6 by a neck in 28.33.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN RACING - ANTIGUA RUM
GRADED - GARRYGLASS ROYAL
WHAT'S ON NEXT WEEK
A few runners at Hove on Thursday with the forthcoming Winter Derby coming up and Antigua Lad goes in the Hove Maiden 515m Final.
Probably a quieter than normal card on Friday at Romford but we should have a few runners and on Saturday we will take a team to Crayford in preparation for the Golden Jacket and Peter Bussey competitions which start early in February.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
A cracking start to 2020 as we produced another excellent competition win in the shape of Antigua Rum when he landed the Coral Coronation Cup at Romford on Friday, recommended here at 16/1 I didn’t put anyone off at the semi final stage when he drifted out to 25/1, happy days!
Not too much happening competition wise this week and I haven’t seen any draws for open races this week so we will leave staking any bets until next week.
ADVISED LAST WEEK
ANTIGUA RUM - 1 pt ew ante post 16/1 - Coral Coronation Cup - Romford - WON 16/1 (20 pts profit)