Three Category One finals and an exciting trio of semi-finals in the Brighton Belle, were the pick of last week’s greyhound racing action. Elsewhere, there was widespread relief after new traps were successfully installed at Towcester. Paul Blake reviews last week’s action and looks ahead to what’s on the cards for this week.
Coonough Crow came through a bumpy race at Sunderland to outstay the field in the 640m Arena Racing Company Grand Prix for Mark Wallis on Friday evening. Wallis was delighted, tweeting, “Well done Crow!, hopefully the first of many cat 1 winners for the new MWD Partnership.”
At Oxford on Saturday night, Havana Lover took advantage of Trap Six to win the Bet365 Hunt Cup. Trainer Elizabeth McNair had a strong hand in the final, claiming all of the first three places. This was the black and white bitch’s third straight win over the 650m at Oxford as she scooped the £10,000 Cat1 prize for connections.
Richard Rees landed his second Cat One of the year, on Sunday afternoon, with Drive On Lad hanging on gamely to win the KAB Maiden Derby Final at Towcester. With 8/1 outsider Hopes Woofwoof and favourite Crossfield Cora breathing down the fawn railers neck for the entire 500m trip, Drive On Lad showed plenty of pace and power to win by a shoulder.
Down at Hove, the Brighton Belle semi-finals saw Lively Lauren win from a difficult trap draw in the first race. She navigated her way cleverly through the field to win ahead of Betsys Bullet and highly fancied Gatling Gun. Lively Lauren claims the red jacket for the final, which should be ideal – according to the Racing Post’s Dave Clark.
In the second semi-final, No Rush saw off last season’s winner Whats Up Eva in the fastest of the semis. Havana Bale Out missed out on another Cat1 final berth by half-a-length and could consider herself very unlucky to have come up against such a strong field at this stage of the competition.
In the third and final semi, My Girl Mia had things all her own way as she claimed the rail early to lead from start to finish ahead of Newinn Touch, who avoided trouble to finish second. The newcomer has a tough draw in Trap 5 for the final.
New traps were installed at Towcester overnight on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s RPGTV meeting, which went without a hitch. In an interview with the Greyhound Star, promoter Kevin Boothby explained just how much of an ordeal the trap problems at Oxford and Towcester had been. “It has been a nightmare. Literally, it has kept me awake at nights and caused so much stress. In hindsight, we should never have bought the new traps.”
The new traps were built by the track themselves in their own workshop. Another set is currently under construction and will replace the sprint boxes at Towcester ‘in about three weeks’.
Swift Stetson took the first race out of the newly replaced traps on Tuesday for Kim Gooding. Gooding’s brindled was quickly away and always led ahead of John Mullins’ black dog, Kethro in the A2.
Around the grades
The steal of the week must be by Exve Blaze, who lunged past Moss Row Maid to win an A10 at Romford on Saturday morning. ‘The Maid’ was already pinning the rosette to her collar after seeing off To Tone Jack, when Blaze came from nowhere to make up an unbelievable amount of ground in the last five strides to win.
There were five winners on the 12 race card for Jim Daly at Suffolk Downs on Monday morning with Peerless Percy recording the quickest time of the meeting with a lively 24.03 in an A2 race. Over at Monmore, Winterfield Faye caught the eye in the 5:37 (A8) over 480m. Christopher Jones’ black bitch showed her class in this company to weave her way through the field after a slow start. Her recorded time of 29.08 is her best yet over four bends at Monmore.
Five winners on the Romford card, saw Paul Young extend his lead at the summit of the trainers’ standings. A lightning start by Young’s Zazzeras Henry set him up well to record the fastest time of the day, and a personal best, in the 15:11 A2 encounter.
There was a handy quadruple for Ricky Overton at Doncaster on a strong Monday evening card. However, Tommy’s Jasper was the star of the show for Debbie Calvert, recording a 6 length victory in 28.23secs, slashing almost half a second off his personal best around the 450m circuit, in the meantime.
Frank Gray recorded a ‘Makeit’ treble on the twelve-race-card with wins in the fifth, eleventh and twelfth races. Gray’s dogs have been in fine form recently at the Northamptonshire track, particularly over the sprint distance.
Wednesday’s racing saw a quadruple for Carl Gardiner at Hove and a treble for Belinda Green on the same afternoon card.
On the cards
There are two Category One finals to look forward to this weekend, amid five competitive finals.
First up on Saturday, Hove hosts the Cat1 Brighton Belle final at 20:38. Last years winner, Whats Up Eva has the chance to be the first greyhound to retain the title since its inauguration in 1975. That would be some achievement and Richard Rees’ black is not without hope having recorded the joint fastest split time and the second fastest finishing time in the competition so far. Only Carol Weatherall’s wide-running blue, No Rush, has run quicker.
Next, Perry Barr hosts the Arena Racing Company Laurels Final at 20:52. Despite having all sorts of problems in running, Coolavanny Shado showed his class to finish third and book his place in the final. The Ladbrokes Winter Derby winner has bagged the blue box for Saturday’s Laurels and has his two main threats on either side of him. Hawkfield Ozark won his semi-final impressively in 28.09 and has a great chance from the red box. Goldies Perryman has made winning a habit of late. Paul Foster’s Oct’19 dog has been in the frame in all of his last four races. Having reached the final of the Birmingham Cup in September 2022, and the semis of the Olympic in December, it could be time for the pup of Droopys Sydney to win his first Cat1.
Among the other races to look forward to are the Coral Sprint Trophy Final (Hove), the Seasons Scaffolding Puppy Cup Final (Hove), and the ARC Stayers Stake Final (Perry Barr). Crayford also hosts two finals on Saturday. The morning meeting features The Ladbrokes.com April Stayers Trophy – Final and the April Maiden Trophy Final for the same sponsor.