The 2019 Ladbrokes Golden Jacket
Review Written by Jamie Norris
One of the most eagerly anticipated competitions in the greyhound calendar got underway on Saturday evening 9th February, and it did not disappoint. In an evening that had pretty much everything the only thing that was missing was a new track record.
In front of a capacity crowd, the Golden Jacket may have taken centre stage but there was plenty of interest in the 'undercard'. With the annual Peter Bussey Memorial heats set to get underway on Saturday morning 16th February, there were three Invitation races to support the main event. The tone for the evening was set as early as race two when Raymonds Return, trained by Nick Carter, picked up his RPGTV Crayford dog of the year award for 2018. Celebrating success in the sport is appreciated from everyone, especially the trainers and owners. Dave Taylor, owner of Raymonds Return, said he "Would like to thank everyone for being able to put the award on" and was "Overwhelmed that it could happen on Golden Jacket night".
Further success followed in the very next race, the Ladbrokes Invitation Sprint. On the 5th January 2019, Gislebertus who is trained by Belinda Green, was introduced to Crayford for the first time. Whilst only managing to get third place on that occasion, Bert as he is known, hasn't looked back since. For four consecutive weeks after, he went on to win all of his open races and each time extending his winning margin. Having a four timer is an achievement in itself, looking for five was going to be a heart in mouth moment. In previous races Gislebertus was quick away at the start and didn't appear to show any signs of being beaten making winning look easy, however, when Bert missed his break he had work to do to keep his current unbeaten streak going. Showing fantastic pace up to the first bend and with a little bump he worked his way from third to first in no time at all. The 4-7 odds on favourite had backers and supporters alike shouting with joy from the packed terraces holding on for a very memorable fifth consecutive win.
The evening was already off to an amazing start and by the time the Golden Jacket heats begun, expectations of a thrilling competition were about to be met. Heat one was a tight affair with any of the six runners in with a chance of qualifying for the semi finals the following week. Millroad Susie and Headford Maurice started as 5-2 joint race favourites but its was Gabriel (SP 6-1), trained by Michelle Brown of Henlow, who landed the spoils. At the start she found some trouble on the run to the first bend having a bumped run up before slotting in behind eventual second place Swift Tarquin who led for majority of the race. Gabriel kept on the heels of Tarquin throughout, being crowded at the the sixth bend then going on to take over the lead at the penultimate seventh bend. By the time she crossed the winning line she had extended the lead to a great four and a quarter lengths in a time of 45.94 seconds. All that was left was to see who would gain the all important final qualifying spot. Less then a length separated three greyhounds and by a quarter of a length Headford Maurice completed the trio of qualifiers from heat one.
Heat two included Cibulkova who has been running in great form as of late. Her first look round the track was back in November 2018 and the odds then of 14-1 outsider were a correct prediction as she finished fifth in a five runner field. Her odds were then lengthened to 16-1 when returning to Crayford on 19th January 2019, yet again only managing fifth. However, exactly a week later and back to her starting odds of her first race , Cibulkova upset the predictions and went on to win in a time of 45.90. Back to the present day and the second heat, her race SP of 3-1 showed how much improvement she has gained recently. With good early pace she was always in contention of qualifying finishing the race in second place in a time of 46.19 being beaten by an impressive performance from Courts Ad Georgy, trained by Spencer Mavrias of Harlow. Georgy was even quicker out the traps then Cibulkova leading the race from start to finish in a winning time of 45.89. The qualifiers were completed by Swift Danielle as the front three were clear of the rest of the field by nearly four lengths.
The final heat before a short interval, heat three, included two Crayford runners of Glenbeg Val and Rylane Dash, SP's of 33-1 and 14-1 respectively. Also in the six runner field was 2018 Golden Jacket winner Shotgun Bullet, trained by Derek Knight of Coral owned track Hove. Bullet comes into this years competition as one of the favourites and showed his class and form that took him to the title last year leading from start to finish posting the quickest first lap, 23.33 seconds, and winning time, 45.53 seconds, of the night. He also won the heat in the biggest winning margin of the night in seven and a half lengths. Previously mentioned Glenbeg Val put in a valiant effort as outsider of the field as she went round in second place all the way booking her spot in next weeks semi finals. Finishing less then half a length behind Val, Sheldan completed the three qualifiers from heat three.
The heats then took a short break for the Ladbrokes Invitation 540 and resumed for the most anticipated race of the evening. Heat four had been dubbed by many as a race that could have been the final itself which included Ante-Post favourite and second favourite, Brigadier Bullet and Stardom respectively. Also in the lineup was the 2017 TV Trophy winner Goldies Hotspur. It had taken forty-two runnings of the competition before the 'curse of the Ante-Post' was broken in 2016 by Patchys Kerry, and it struck again as Brigadier Bullet finished outside the qualifying places finishing the heat in forth place, two and three quarter lengths behind Goldies Hotspur. It was Stardom who caught the eye in the star studded heat. Setting a first lap time of 23.38 seconds, just over half a length more then that set in heat three by Shotgun Bullet, she worked her way through the field with little trouble. Taking the lead with half a lap to go from Affleck Bolt, it looked a certain result, but with Bolt coming back at again at the leader on the home straight, Stardom held on to win by three quarters of a length, 0.01 seconds slower then Shotgun Bullet in a time of 45.54 seconds. The trio of Stardom, Affleck Bolt and Goldies Hotspur were the next three into the hat for the semi finals draw.
Next up in the penultimate heat of this years contest was probably one of the most dramatic moments at this stage. The lineup included an Irish trained greyhound, Boylesportstwink who was looking to repeat the success for owner Mr Boyle who won the competition in 2017 with Boylesports Star. Unfortunately it wasn't to be after being crowded at the start and again at the third, fifth and seventh bends, could only manage a fifth placed finish. Heat five saw the return of victorious 2018 TV Trophy winner (held at Crayford), Savana Winner. Sowdon Jay for Crayford trainer Julie Luckhurst set the pace leading majority of the race up to the seventh bend but it was Winner who caught the eye, for more ways then one. Being at the back of the field for the majority, Savana Winner showed her marathon ability, powering through the field towards the end of the race taking the lead on the home straight as the crowds cheered on the even money race favourite. However, a few lengths before the line she appeared to turn her head in running at Droopys Essie who was on her inside and was subsequently marked 'awkward near line' meaning the result stood, avoiding disqualification. Racing manager Danny Rayment said "She got in front on the run in then glanced inside at Droopys Essie, it's a concern, but there was no contact. If it was a graded race I would mark the runner awkward, so if i'm being consistent then I'd have to do the same in an open race."
In another dramatic moment, the final heat provided the closest finish of the night with a photo finish being called to determine the result. Three lengths separated five greyhounds with the front three only being separated by one length. Crayford once again had two runners in the field with very contrasting results. After the jubilation of Gislebertus winning earlier in the evening, Belinda Green's greyhound Cleaning Doctor looked outclassed after taking an early lead in the race. Finding trouble in the middle stages of the race as the rest of the field closed in on the early advantage, Cleaning Doctor could't regather momentum and finished in last position. In contrast, trainer Dean Childs had a moment to remember as his greyhound Droopys Edge, 6-4 race favourite, ran strongly all the way up to the finish line. It looked as though Towcester Story who led after the third bend, would hold on for victory, only for Edge to pass him on the line by a distance of only a neck (0.03 seconds). Piper Arthur made up the final trio to make it through to the semi finals. After missing his break at the start and being crowded at the first bend, being forced to run wide, Arthur ran on strongly to gain third place and the final spot in the semi finals.
The draw took place immediately after the final heat as the 2019 Ladbrokes Golden Jacket Semi Finals draw is as follows;
Semi Final 1
1. Droopys Essie
2. Snowdon Jay
3. Goldies Hotspur
4. Affleck Bolt
5. Shotgun Bullet
6. Swift Danielle
Semi Final 2
3. Courts Ad Georgy
5. Headford Maurice
6. Glenbeg Val
Semi Final 3
1. Swift Tarquin
3. Droopys Edge
4. Savana Winner
5. Towcester Story
6. Piper Arthur
Semi finals will be held Saturday morning 16th February and the first two in each will qualify for the final on Saturday morning 23rd February.
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