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Big crowds mean getting there early to bag a seat
THE greyhound year is in full swing now and there was much to look forward as I made my weekly trip south last Thursday. The following few days did not disappoint.
First up it was off to the central London studios of Racing Post Greyhound TV where, in addition to the usual fare from Henlow and Hove, there was the small matter of making the draw for the Racing Post Juvenile, a task carried by RP greyhound editor Paul Brown to the general satisfaction of most of the connections I would have thought.
I made a detour to Newbury on Friday for the rescheduled Betfair Super Saturday card which attracted a bumper turnout – not the last time I would encounter such a phenomenon over the following 36 hours or so.
It was impossible not to be blown away by the ridiculous ease of Sprinter Sacre’s success and,if less so by Long Run’s more workmanlike victory, trainer Nicky Henderson must be counting down the days the Cheltenham. Back in the year when your correspondent frequented Wembley on a regular basis, Henderson was an occasional visitor with links to the Terry Dartnall kennel as I recall – I’m sure Tel set him on his way!
Following Newbury, it was a quick dash to Wimbledon for pre-meeting trials with Dolores Ruth taking the wraps off her williamhill.com Derby squad comprising Razldazls Bugatti, Jayfkay and Rioga, while Juvenile invitee Go Go Sonic was going round for Paul Sallis.
The Ruth team all went well, and so did Go Go Sonic if you take into account that he took about half a second longer to come out of traps than the Irish raiders. It was no surprise to hear that he would be back for another refresher this week.
Saturday was always going to be the pièce de résistance of my visit with all roads, or rails in my case, leading to Crayford first up for the Ladbrokes Golden Jacket final.
I’d agonised over what to tip, initially favouring Farley Zach before ultimately deciding that Lottes Girl was just too much of a hazard for him and opting instead for Blackrose Monach after eye-catching runs in defeat in both heat and semi.
When Eric Cantillon’s dog turned in a great pitch behind Blue Bee, I’ll admit to thinking it was all over but he just could not get past the gritty leader who dug really deep to land the £15,000 prize for trainer Matt Dartnall and owners Andrew Reesand Brian Bradshaw. Hmm, Dartnall? Henderson? Is there a theme developing?
Farley Zach, who did struggle for a run from the draw after not helping himself by missing the break, ran an absolute blinder in third, but is threatening to be remembered as a nearly dog.
With Wimbledon’s williamhill.com Springbok meeting on the horizon in the evening, I gratefully accepted the offer of a lift to Lingfield where I enjoyed, perhaps endured given the fairly dreadful weather, a few all-weather races, but still greyhounds were to the fore as, on placing a bet with Hills on the rails, I was informed that one of their team that day wasinvolved in Droopys Lorenzo, running in the Arc heats at Swindon two days later [said dog was set to fare far better than the horse I backed it has to be said!].
Anyway, it was on to Wimbledon for the Springbok and, thankfully, my party arrived just in time to claim what seemed the last few seats in the stand. More than an hour before racing, the place was packed and it just got busier and busier.
This looks an excellent Springbok withsome superb heat winners, but in Westmead Melanie I reckon we could have an all-time great. Almost 15 years ago, I just happened to be at a Walthamstow trials session for one of El Tenor’s early, possibly first, hurdles spins and I can safely say that I have not been more impressed by a novice from that day to last Saturday’s opening Springbok heat.
Just about everything that could have gone wrong for Westmead Melanie did, but Nick Savva’s bitch took it all in her stride, jumped superbly and won with any amount in hand. Yes, such as Any Questions and Crofter went significantly quicker from the front, but both had been blown away by Westmead Melanie in a trial stakes a week earlier, while Cabra Legend still has the whiff of a novice about him.
By the way, during the Wimbledon meeting, there was anecdotal evidence that it wasn’t just Plough Lane which was packing them in as Newcastle general manager Ian Walton called desperate for the RPGTV studio number to let them know that a huge crowd might make it difficult to keep to schedule, while Hove trainer John Gammon reported that son Steve had called from Crayford to say there was no post-Golden Jacket hangover and that it was rammed out as well. Let’s ride this wave and stop talking the game down.
Having returned north, I watched the Ladbrokes Mobile Arc heats from Swindon off-course and, despite Slick Santiago’s track record, it still looks nigh on impossible to fathom. If pushed, Longwood Days ran a blinder in defeat behind Droopys Lorenzo, has a decent make-up in a hot heat and could be over-priced at 16s.
Finally to Wednesday and a day spent by the phone hoping against hope that all went well at Wimbledon’s trials session. Having been involved with putting the RP Juvenile field together, secretly I can’t believe how good next Tuesday’s race is and you just want them all to get there.
It appears that conditions at Wimbledon were not ideal, but we seem to have come through in one piece and it’s full steam ahead.
Tuesday’s whole card, featuring the Juvenile and Springbok, could be one of the best Sky Sports programmes ever, and with Razldazl Jayfkay having issued a timely 28.28sec reminder of his abilities on Wednesday, just how good is the williamhill.com Derby going to be? Nine weeks and counting till the start.
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