THE Cearnsport 2021 Springbok Final kick-starts a fantastic few weeks for hurdles fans, owners and trainers, given the novice hurdlers’ championship is followed next month by the RPGTV Grand National – starting on April 25.
Very much part of hurdling’s triple crown of jumps competitions – with the Champion Hurdle to come – Central Park has long been established as the home of hurdling and the Cearnsport 2021 Springbok Final is the latest in a long line of top-class contests here.
Restricted to those who have not won a hurdles race before September 1, 2020, the Springbok paves the way for the major jumps contests for all-comers to come.
Dating back to White City, London, in 1937, the Springbok has been the launchpad for a host of future hurdling superstars and the roll of honour includes several who went on to grab Grand National glory later in their careers.
In recent years these have included Seamus Cahill’s Ballymac Manix (2016) and Mark Wallis’s Cornamaddy Jumbo (2014) while Bert Meadows’ Arfur Daley (1993) and Philip Rees’s Lemon Chip (1989) were two others to achieve the notable double.
Cornamaddy Jumbo is the only greyhound who have won the triple crown of major hurdles events – he won the Springbok, Champion Hurdle and Grand National in 2015 – and that will be the target for the owners and trainers of this year’s Springbok finalists.
Ricky Holloway (Meenagh Maverick) and Seamus Cahill (Gartcloss Jaxx) have a number of Springbok titles between them, while Jim Reynolds (Ballymac Lucifer, Four Fifty Max) is also a previous winner having struck with Deep Sensation at Wimbledon in 2003.
Cahill leads the way in recent years with four victories. The Kent-based handler has won with Druids Mickey Jo (2005), Hotdog Jack (2008), Royal Honcho (2010) and Ballymac Manix (2016), while Holloway numbers wins as a trainer with Westmead Meteor (2013), Lenson Wilson (2018) and Burgess Brandy (2019) and has also won the competition as an owner.
However, the winningmost Springbok trainer is the late Philip Rees. Father of Hove handler Richard, Rees numbered no less than six Springbok successes from Super Hunter (1978) through to Colorado Joker (1996). A real greyhound dynasty, Rees’s father Phil snr also won the Springbok twice.
David Mullins (Woodcocks Aero, Droopys Rex) has yet to win the Springbok but has fielded finalists before plus has on his CV victories in both the Grand National and Champion Hurdle. Like Jim Reynolds, he has two chances in this year’s decider.
Roger Cearns, whose family built Wimbledon Stadium where the Springbok was moved to after White City closed, says the battle for the famous trophy looks another tight one this year.
He said: “Obviously the betting suggests Ricky’s Meenagh Maverick is the one to beat – and that might well be the case. But this is a race for novice hurdlers, so jumping is important and you always need that luck in running in hurdles races.
“We’re once again delighted to host the Cearnsport Springbok here at Central Park. Everyone knows we are passionate about our hurdlers and hurdles racing and races like the Springbok and Grand National have a very rich history in this great sport.
“It’s that tradition we are trying to preserve, so I was delighted to announce recently that RPGTV have stepped into sponsor the Grand National which begins here later this month. Sponsors are extremely important for us to maintain these great events.
“As for the Springbok, it’s a race with as rich a history as any in greyhound racing, dating back to White City in the 1930s. It also has a magnificent trophy to match!
“We first staged the Springbok in 2017, taking the race over when Wimbledon closed, and it’s the perfect way for novice hurdlers to progress in this code of greyhound racing, which I’ve always been a real supporter of.
“We love hurdles racing here and thankfully so do our trainers! They are encouraged to have hurdlers and we have graded races here to support that – perhaps other tracks should take note. Ourselves and Crayford pretty much lead the way.
“I wish connections of all this year’s finalists the best of luck and hope to see them represented back here later this month in the RPGTV Grand National.”
Lines up as favourite to continue trainer and part-owner Ricky Holloway’s great record in the event given Springbok wins for Westmead Meteor (2013), Lenson Wilson (2018) and Burgess Brandy (2019) as a trainer and with Rossa Ranger (2001) and Kaysers Hill (2006) as an owner. An Irish Cesarewitch finalist on the flat over 600yds, that stamina and strong-running style has seen the local hope storm into the final unbeaten. His wins at Central Park and Crayford during a short UK career follow victories at Mullingar, Shelbourne Park and Drumbo Park in Ireland. Part-owner Simon Trubshaw has already enjoyed success over the sticks with the likes of Roxholme Biscuit (Grand National) and Nomansland Flyer (Chief Ramsbottom Hurdle, Kent County Hurdle).
This former top-grade and open-race winner on the flat at former tracks Shawfield and Pelaw Grange arrived at Seamus Cahill’s Kent kennels with the Springbok very much the plan. Last week’s semi-final was just his fourth hurdles start so he is very much a novice in this year’s novice hurdlers’ championship. Still improving, he is nevertheless again set to go off at double-figure odds, although has a top man in his corner with former champion trainer Cahill boasting four Springbok victories with Druids Mickey Jo (2005), Hotdog Jack (2008), Royal Honcho (2010) and Ballymac Manix (2016) among a host of big-race successes including the Derby. Another Cahill hurdling star Droopys Trawler also reached the final of the Springbok two years ago.
The first of two finalists from Crayford trainer Jim Reynolds’ kennel, Ballymac Lucifer produced a storming run in the semi-finals when leading up and running Droopys Rex close. The youngest finalist with just a handful of races on the flat, he ran in the prestigious BarOne Racing Irish Sprint Cup at Dundalk in which kennelmate Ballymac Micko eventually finished second. Well-bred, Ballymac Lucifer’s dam Droopys Casey came from the same litter as ‘supermum’ Droopys Danneel so is related to a host of champions including Dorotas Wildcat, Dorotas Woo Hoo and Forest Natalee. Reynolds himself is a Grand National and Springbok-winning handler – Deep Sensation winning this event at Wimbledon back in 2003. His Billericay Blue also made the final of this competition last year.
Like Jim Reynolds, David Mullins is doubly handled in this year’s Cearnsport 2021 Springbok final and Woodcocks Aero would be considered a ‘second string’ but is improving. Boasting pace at both ends, he landed a 20-1 surprise in the heats and will look to cut loose from a midfield pitch here. A Waterford winner before starting his UK career at Nottingham where he was top grade, Woodcocks Aero then switched to Newcastle before joining Mullins for a hurdles campaign. Looking to land the Romford handler a first Springbok title, Mullins is nevertheless a Grand National-winning trainer and has enjoyed great success recently at Central Park with both Shrewd Call (Silver Salver) and Tenpin (Young Guns) both scoring notable triumphs at the track.
A second Cearnsport 2021 Springbok finalist for Crayford trainer Jim Reynolds, Four Fifty Max has set the pace in both heat and semi-final before tiring late on and being caught – hence his name perhaps?! However another early advantage is possible for the improving two-year-old and he did score a 480m maiden victory on the last at Central Park in September. Travelled over to Cork for the heats of the Irish Grand National, he finished third to qualify for the final but was withdrawn. Back in the UK for a Springbok campaign, Four Fifty Max and kennelmate Ballymac Lucifer help continue a fine run for Reynolds-trained hurdlers recently given Toughest Test and Billericay Blue have both reached major jumps finals for a kennel which won the Grand National with Four Handed in 2004 – a year after their Springbok triumph with Deep Sensation.
The second of the David Mullins finalists is, like Meenagh Maverick, unbeaten in the event. Droopys Rex also boasts three Springbok trial stakes victories over C&D so lines up looking to land a sixth straight success at Central Park. An experienced sort and regular winner on the flat at previous track Nottingham, he joined Mullins for hurdles schooling and a Springbok campaign in mind, although also raced on the flat at Romford, winning twice, and reaching A1. A superb jumper, victory for either Droopys Rex or Woodcocks Aero could, after a number of finalists, complete the set of major jumps triumphs for Mullins after success in both the Grand National (Pottos Storm) and Champion Hurdle (Stradeen Ouzo). Droopys Rex aims to hit his rivals for six on the outside.