30th September 2020
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It feels like it’s been an awful long time since I said ‘that was a fabulous weekend’ but we can certainly utter those words this week. It’s been a strange year, to say the least, with the pandemic and our luck hasn’t been out a touch since we returned from lockdown so much so that we faced the possibility that we may, for the first time in over 20 years, not land a Category 1 title in a calendar year and also we were slipping down the Trainer of the Year standings but that was turned on its head starting on Friday with a brilliant last gasp victory for the exciting Aayamza Royale in the Coral Cesarewitch over the stamina sapping 925m at Romford. We followed that with a superb 11 timer on the open race circuit at three different tracks on Sunday all of which has turned our season round in some style, and this couldn’t have come at a better time as the delayed Greyhound Derby, this year restricted to 96 entries, kicks off on Friday at Nottingham where we have five entries.
The final of the Cesarewitch at Romford on Friday looked a classic on paper and maybe only the absence of Antigua Fire (lame) would have made it one of the best marathon races in memory but it still promised to be a thriller. Aayamza Royale was a 4/1 chance all week but on the night was heavily backed into 15/8. As the lids rose and they approached the first bend it was Micks Little Gem who had poached the early lead and she is a bitch that stays all day, she burnt off both the challenges of Three Ems and Affirmed and looked set for victory with less than 300m to go. For 50 odd seconds of the race we were silent as our Aayamza Royale was at the back and trying to find a way to make a challenge and suddenly with two bends to go she absolutely took off passing all but the leader on the outside. Had she left it too late to catch Micks Little Gem? of course not, a last power packed thrust saw her collar the leader right on the line to grab the glory for the Aayamza Boys Syndicate and take the trophy and the £8,000 spoils. An amazing effort from a lightly raced bitch who has superstar status written all over her, her next target will be the Dorando Marathon at Nottingham later this month and long term the TV Trophy at Hove in December.
Sunday’s racing started at Towcester in the afternoon and there were plenty of non runners as the heavily represented Frank Gray’s kennel’s runners were all withdrawn with kennel sickness, that alone is a worry at this time of year but hopefully we can have an uninterrupted few weeks. Aayamza Lexie has started her career well and took the opening 4 dog 480m Maiden final by 4 lengths in a good 29.68 and in the next race Ivy Hill Skyhigh won well in a 500m Standard in the fastest of the day 29.46. In the Sprint final our three runners had to play second fiddle to the useful Pull The Trigger then Tiffield Blueboy was most impressive landing a sprint in a fast 15.88. The lightly raced Agincourt Xena made it 6 wins from 9 races when landing the Standard Final from kennelmate Drumcrow Brent by 1/2 length in an excellent 29.53 and we had another 1-2 when Testing beat Antigua Boy by 1 1/2 lengths in 29.80 and to cap a great afternoon Hopes Bullet won well in a fine 29.50.
At Henlow in the evening a good quality Maiden Derby kicked off at Henlow and Antigua Jet was most impressive in his heat winning by over 5 lengths in a fastest of the round 27.38. Our only other entry Hardy Rebel has just started to find his form and also won well beating the odds on favourite All About Taylor by 3/4 length in a fine 27.54. The night started well with in form Glassmoss Queen landing a 692m open in 42.94 and to finish a good night at Henlow Muxton Teddy fairly took off to land a 428m contest in a flying 25.42.
A rare visit to Central Park also gave us another open race winner as Antigua Bruiser took his heat of the Brinkleys Poet At Stud Young Guns leading at the first bend to win by over 4 lengths in a calculated 29.18. If he is to land the final for the sponsors Nic and Amanda Jeal next Sunday he will have to beat the recent Romford Puppy Cup winner Tenpin who won well in his heat in 28.87 but our young pup is improving all the time and looks to have a bright future.
So the big question is can we win a third Greyhound Derby?? After famous victories in 2009 with Kinda Ready and Blonde Snapper in 2012 at Wimbledon we again send a decent team of five to try and capture the sports biggest priz. TNottingham is again the venue this year but of course we have been majorly delayed because of the pandemic and entries have been restricted to 96, this certainly means the runners will have to be spot on from the off to progress to the final 48 but despite all the worlds problems the industry very much looks forward to this years classic. Here is our summary of the heats and our runners
Heat 5 - ANTIGUA ROMEO (80/1) - Amanda Jeal
Last year's quarter finalist when only lightly raced he improved throughout the year and ended up being a serial and fast open race winner and broke the track record for the 500m at Hove, started the year off in great style finishing 3rd in a high class Winter Derby at Hove and was favourite to land the Steel City Cup but a toe injury meant he had to be withdrawn and then further problems occurred as he damaged a monkey muscle in a trial when we resumed back from lockdown. It has been a real rush to get him fit to take his chance and we have used the Romford Guys & Dolls as preparation but after stumbling out the traps he was eliminated in the semi finals. A blistering 29.58 trial at Nottingham on Monday and a reseeding to the rails tells us he could have a serious chance of going all the way. He faces a tough heat with plenty of early pace but if he can qualify he represents our kennels best chance of landing the Derby.
Heat 6 - ANTIGUA BOY (125/1) - Amanda Jeal ....SOBER EXPRESS (50/1) - Ray Shorter & Ray Hatton
Antigua Boy - never really progressed in Ireland after an eye catching win at Shelbourne in a flying 28.21 beating the high class Ballymac Cooper last September and has just had 3 races for us but yet to win. He has ability for sure and ran well in a trial stake two weeks ago when second to Newinn Liz but needs to step up if he is to make waves in the event overall. From a brilliant litter and certainly open to improvement and just the type of dog we have done well with in the past, has good early and at 125/1 is well worth a small interest.
Sober Express - arrived just before lockdown after going undefeated in a stake at Kilkenny and trialled in at Towcester and ran well to win a couple of decent graded events before being aimed at the Champion Stakes at Romford where he was knocked out at the semi final stage. He maybe not quite suited to Romford at the moment but a big galloping track like Nottingham should be more up his street and trialled reasonably well last Wednesday to make the 96. He has terrific middle pace and the bookies are taking no chances around the 50/1 mark, interesting and certainly capable of going deep.
A tricky heat for both with loads of pace all around and a couple of ones that have trialled fast. Antigua Boy is well drawn in trap 1 but Sober Express has a tough draw from trap 4, no reason why both can’t qualify but will need to ride their luck a bit especially around the first two bends.
Heat 9 - HOPES BULLET (80/1) Bruiser-Jeal syndicate
Arrived recently after two scintillating wins at Tralee when called Rondeau and snapped up by the newly formed Bruiser-Jeal syndicate. A good effort in a trial stake two weeks ago and then had a confidence boosting victory in a Maiden at Towcester on Sunday. He possesses tremendous early pace and stays the trip well and would be open to loads of more improvement. I won’t lie I winced when I saw the draw, trap 3 with two rivals inside who will be moving more middle and a tight railer on his outside means that if we are to progress further a bullet break is required and plenty of luck, if he does he has the scope to be a serous player overall.
Heat 10 - HOPES DOGGY (33/1) - Amanda Jeal
A fast Dundalk winner when called Surprise Me Now there’s not too much of him at around 31 kilos he has been brought recently for a crack at this years Derby and certainly opened a few eyes with a 29.56 trial on a big Derby trial session last Wednesday and followed it up with a fine 29.67 trial on Monday. He has tremendous early and without doubt a dog that could go all the way, faces on paper a tough heat with 2019 Irish Derby winner Lennon Bocko in attendance and a few other decent sorts but they all will have to go some to beat our future star. I love Antigua Romeo as an older type but I also think this new fella could be the type to win our third Derby, now where’s that bit of luck we all require!
So there’s my rundown and I hope this time next week we are summarising the draw for the last 48 with all five of our runners still in there, fingers crossed and let the fun begin.
We also have two major comps starting on Saturday as our push to finish the season as strong as we can continues, sadly we have no Antigua Fire to defend his Kent St Leger crown at Crayford that starts this week but hopefully Avastorm, Passing Stranger & Glassmoss Sis can at least try to make the final, the Gold Collar also starts and we look to try and do well with Aayamza Lexie and Testing who both scored well at Towcester on Sunday.
Also starting tonight at Harlow is the Category 2 British Bred Scurry event over 415m where we have high hopes of trying to beat some tough Liz McNair rivals with Saffrons Xpress and Deans Hail Mary. Saffrons Xpress was unluckily knocked over in the British Bred Sprint final at Towcester last month but should be well suited to the short four bend trip here.
We have covered most of the open racing above except to say about Romford last Friday It was brilliant success for Aayamza Royale in the Cesarewitch final but just before in the Guys & Dolls final we saw a messy race where our Jesses Sister was unfortunately one of four runners that hit the deck at the first bend, thankfully she seems ok and should return soon. In the heats of the 575m Stayers event Alien Sea qualified when second in his heat with the in form Tiffield Maximus winning really well in a very good 35.16.
HENLOW & TOWCESTER REVIEW
On Tuesday evening Glassmoss Queen won well in an S2 in 33.85, on Wednesday in an extra meeting at Henlow Energize Bundy took an A11 in 28.94. Hardy Rebel at last got his head in front winning well in an A3 in a good 27.79, Ripley Guru also won well in an A9 in 28.42 and Ballyfinn Jade completed a good day winning in 28.55.
There was an extra meeting at Towcester on Friday morning where we had a handful of runners with Tiffield Beauty winning an A5 on debut in a good 30.14
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
OPEN RACING - AAYAMZA ROYALE
WHAT’S ON NEXT WEEK
The open race calendar is at full throttle and we have plenty of action not least with the much awaited Greyhound Derby starting on Friday/Saturday at Nottingham. We have a minor 575m final at Romford on Friday with a few other runners and on Saturday as well as the Derby we also have the Kent St Leger and Gold Collar starting at Crayford.
On Sunday the Maiden Derby semi finals are at Henlow and we will have runners at Central Park with the final of the Brinkleys Piet At Stud Young Guns final being the feature.
WEBSITE RECOMMENDED BETS
It’s really all about the Derby this week and in my summary of our runners above you probably can guess where my bets are going. Antigua Romeo represents terrific value at 80/1 and fits the bill as a second season dog who has some real class. Hopes Doggy looks a real talent and as fast as anything around, the value might have gone as he’s now 33/1 but we must still put him up as he has a serious chance of going all the way. Antigua Boy is an outsider who could yet surprise if he gets his act together and is well drawn in his heat so at 125/1 is worth putting in our portfolio. I think both Hopes Bulletand& Sober Express are fast digs and worthy entries but both face tough draws in their heats.
ANTIGUA ROMEO - 2.5 pts each way ante post 80/1 - Greyhound Derby - Nottingham - starts Friday
HOPES DOGGY - 2.5 pts each way ante post 33/1 - Greyhound Derby - Nottingham- starts Friday
ANTIGUA BOY - 1 pt each way ante post 125/1 - Greyhound Derby - Nottingham - starts Friday