Newinn Syd probably came into the 2023 PGR Eclipse as ‘a dog with potential who hadn’t delivered at the highest level’. He went unbeaten through the Nottingham Cat 1 event without ever having been led, let alone beaten. He clocked the quickest time throughout including a 29.51 on a 10 slow (in other words, ‘slow’) track in the final. There was also a 29.25 semi final. That assessment has since been updated.
The Bet365 Puppy Oaks reaches the semi final stage next Sunday and Fabulous Terra will go into it having landed the fastest first round heat in 29.26. That is 4:4 for the David Mullins trained, Dave Firmager bred black who is a sister to Puppy Cup Romeo brothers Crusade and Cypher. But was Terra’s run, making allowances for her age, a better run than Romeo Romeo Topgun’s 28.89? Or what of Tory Bellatrix’s fourth fastest 712 of the year in 43.12? Decisions, decisions.
The unofficial first round of the similarly sponsored Challenge Cup got underway at Oxford on Friday night with five of the eight ‘trialstake’ winners going to favourites. Having successfully demonstrated her staying credentials with a flying 37.67 run at Monmore a fortnight ago, New Destiny could not have been more impressive when clocking the FON, 39.60 (-30) for the 650 metres.
For those with a little more stamina, the George Curtis/Ballyregan Bob Memorial is a fabulous test on the marathon side of six bends. On Saturday, June Harvey’s Ower Smasher kept his unbeaten record from his fourth attempt at the 740 metre trip, and he did it coming from last place!
Romford continue to throw big wads of cash at opens though a combination of winter Friday night traffic and competition competition hasn’t really elevated the standard. But when a real big hitter turns up. . .you know, a 1-8 chance. . . .you can just enjoy the performance for its own sake. Track record holder Hollow Man made it 11 in a row with an unchallenged five and a half length win in 35.09. Roll on Hove!
On the subject of winning sequences, Laughil Jess managed a dozen before attempting the Oaks. Saturday’s 2-7f victory maintained her unbeaten run over Crayford’s 540m. Interestingly, even though Saturday’s run was 8 spots slower than her PB in the Gold Collar Final (33.46/33.54), a first bend bump had actually cost her 18 spots on her sectional (12.61/12.79)
Dave Lee seems to love the Performance of the Week feature with three of his dogs regularly featuring. If we were compiling a list of ‘most appearances in 2023’ the lady in the paragraph above would definitely head it. Though kennelmate Bluejig Baron would also make the top five. His first selection came on his initial visit to Harlow in August when he won in 26.43. He returned on Wednesday and clocked the fastest 415m of the last two and a half years, 25.81.
Unfortunately, a frozen track cost this week’s feature Thursday afternoon fixture at Suffolk Downs. With nothing really standing out at the other meetings, we’ve gone for A3 winner Catunda Wendy on the basis that it takes her to the position of leading graded winner of the year with 13 victories.
Monmore battled the weather without losing a meeting, though going allowances mounted up as the week wore on. But that should take nothing away from Ivy Hill George’s 28.62 (N) run on Tuesday. Alan Jenkins’ pup has featured in four consecutive photo finish for three wins and a second. Largest winning or losing margin, a neck.
The exposed Central Park circuit remains more vulnerable to frost than most. But the waterlogging has been well and truly tackled. On Wednesday, Hellofavelentine saw off an A1 field in 29.65. The week’s other top heat went to Lostrigg Paddy in 29.91 (with defending POW Coonough Boss back in fourth). But quicker than either was Dave Puddy’s eight length A2 winner Shani El Bolsa in 29.56. Yes, really! 29.56 Central Park in December.
Henlow raced later the same night but following a full day of rain. All things considered, a going allowance of -50 seems more than reasonable for a four and a half length 28.01 open race winning run from Ballyard Shawnie. Jason Bloomfield’s ex-MWD runner has won his last three in Lower Stondon having clocked a comparable 27.57 (N) a fortnight ago.
On the same night, 130 miles further north, Kinsley’s circuit was in pristine condition with 27.60 being broken in three different races. Most week’s Ballymac Frisby’s 27.56 (+40) in A3 would have been enough to be the selection. But then Dairyhills Best (27.55) beating a field littered with ‘Performers’ in the week’s sole, A2. Both though, are overlooked in favour of Tiermana Lucky’s A3 success. It wasn’t just her 27.52 winning time, but the fact that she will be the youngest runner featured this week.
Technically speaking Tullycanna Sound is entitled to land the Sheffield POW following a near eight length 28.70 win in A1 on Tuesday. But it would be grossly unfair not to mention Nigel Saunders’ old warhorse Maximum Security for a 28.85 open race win on the same night. Not bad for a dog five months off his fifth birthday over a trip around 150 metres short of his optimum.
Glenmalure Flyer continues to dominate proceedings at Valley. He has run at each of the track’s four meetings and is unbeaten in the lot. It was back to four bends this week and another 10 length win. His winning time of 28.94 was set on a weather prepared track rated -40.
Dashing Dude might have been dominated the open race sprints – and this feature – in recent weeks but it was a stayer who shone in Swindon’s Thursday afternoon opens. Angie Kibble’s Ballymac Loca made it four wins in as many local staying outings when justifying her odds in 41.78 (-15). Aggregate winning distances, 24 and a bit lengths.
With the PGR All England Cup on the Newcastle near horizon, the timing couldn’t have been better for defending POW Wraysbury Diva to hit top form. An 8-13 chance in A1, she was never led. That’s a hat-trick for Paul Rutherford’s black!
Ex Newcastle A2 runner Chasing Colbert was the quickest hound at Sunderland last week, albeit his 26.86 (+30) was hand timed. That’s his third win in his last five outings.
When John Lambe unleashes a new hound who has broken 28.70 in his qualifying trials. . . .. February pup Tullymurry Jenga was thrown straight into top heat and emerged a three length winner on debut. A 28.37 run suggests this is one for notebook (with a double underline). Kennelmate Final Blast clocked the fastest time of the week (28.30) on Saturday, but the pup edges it.
Barry Denby’s runners have seamlessly taken to Doncaster in recent weeks, most notably with Ballyhimikin Mel. This week it was the turn of Bellmore Cricket with an impressive 29.45 over the standard. That’s the third fastest run of the year and his fourth win in his last five opens on three different tracks.
Paul Burr’s Swift Indigo made a winning Yarmouth debut in February clocking 28.60 in A6. By April his PB was 28.06. It took another seven months for the Ian Greaves bred black to break 28.00 for the standard. Then on Monday, he set his fastest ever time, and the quickest top heat of the week, 27.71.