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After the shocks helpful if Ash opens Leger account
THE williamhill.com St Leger has been an intriguing competition this year even if it has hardly gone according to plan – only Blue Bee of the six finalists was in the top 10 in the ante-post betting at the start of the 687m Wimbledon competition.
There have been various tales of woe with a few high-profile withdrawals, most notably impressive first round winners Barefoot Machine and Droopys Greg, and plenty of hard luck stories with the end result is a final next Tuesday which refreshingly features a few training names not often seen in Category One deciders.
The semis were quite a success for Swindon with the Wiltshire track providing both winners in the shape of Matt Dartnall’s Blue Bee and Kevin Hutton’s Penskey Rain, but the final already looks a real headscratcher and it is not stretching the bounds of imagination to say that is possible to make a case for all six.
That said, having nailed my colours to the Capoley Ash mast after his excellent round one effort behind then ante-post favourite Blonde Fletch, I am happy enough to stick with Barrie Draper’s dog even though he is the only finalist yet to win in the event.
He is clearly the strongest runner remaining and, with Aero Majestic and Curragh Kewell once again capable of having a speed battle up front, the race could set up perfectly for an off-the-pacer like him, although I will admit to being particularly happy that my investment has an each-way safety net!
The Draper kennel, of course, is on a high just now after Eden Star destroyed his rivals in the Romford Puppy Cup final, actually clocking a faster calculatedtime on a slow track in the decider than he had when demolishing the track record given livelier underfoot conditions in the semis a week earlier.
After a fallow few years, the Romford competition has produced undoubted superstars as winners in the past two runnings with Eden Star following in the footsteps of Rayvin Giovanni 12 months earlier.
Sadly, Seamus Cahill’s dog did not get the chance to prove his brilliance having sustained career-ending injuries in his very next outing after the Romford final, but Eden Star will hopefully be far better blessed in that regard and his next engagement is awaited with great anticipation.
It would be great to think that, down the line, a clash with Irish phenomenon Milldean Panther was a possibility and there have been suggestions of a best of three series taking in one meeting at a ‘home’ venue for each, say Sheffield and Shelbourne, and one on natural territory perhaps over Dundalk’s touch two-bend course.
I’m not a huge fan of match races, but such a prospect is mouthwatering although, realistically, connections of both greyhounds are going to be far more focussed on the major events in 2012 than such distractions so it is surely a case of not holding our breath.
Harlow made its Sky Sports debut last week and the meeting was not without incident with the first televised race void when the hare failed, and another the subject of a stewards’ inquiry after the door to one of the traps opened.
That race was allowed to stand which I thought was a debatable call, but overall there was credit for Harlow which certainly created a buzz and had done well to attract a number of high-profile jockeys for what was a benefit meeting for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund.
Big-race sponsor Frank Taylor afterwards promised to double the prizemoney for the feature event and make it a Category One competition if the Sky cameras return in 2012; that probably depends entirely on whether Yarmouth is in a position to offer the East Anglian Derby for coverage having been unable to do so this year.
Looking ahead, the battle for the Trainers’ Championship continues apace with Mark Wallis possibly having a joker in the pack by being the only of the leading protagonists to be represented in the Nottingham Produce Stakes – he has fastest heat winner Jazz Apollo.
The majority of handlers aiming for a top six finish are represented at Newcastle’s All England Cup Festival starting on Saturday with the track’s second year of bringing the All England Cup and Northern Puppy Derby together clearly having worked far better than first time round.
See Steve Nash's action picture from Wimbledon
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