The Ladbrokes Golden Jacket gets under way with the six first round heats on Saturday night.
Thirty-six of the best stayers from around the country will go to traps all hoping to land the £15,000 winner’s prize. Unusually, there are no Irish raiders this year.
Last Saturday night saw five trial stakes races for the event which gave trainers the chance to give their dogs both a chance to run the track and hopefully do a time that would gain entry into the heats this weekend.
The racing manager will be looking to field the strongest 36 greyhounds available so here is my review of the performances from the weekend.
I did a check during the week on the winning times in Jacket finals over the last 21 years. The fastest win time was recorded by Blues Best Taylor in 2001 when the dog recorded a 45.19 seconds for the 714 metres. So that is the benchmark.
I have to start, therefore, with the outstanding time of 45.31 seconds registered by Farley Zach in his trial stakes win on Saturday. Trained by Kim Billingham, at Monmore, he has the experience needed having had 48 career races around no fewer than 11 different tracks. Such knowledge will hold him in good stead.
The only other winner’s time under 46.00 seconds from the remaining four trials races was set by Creamery Quest who managed a 45.79.
This is the fastest time that the dog has recorded at Crayford and would indicate that he will have to find further improvement to reach the last six.
As at the time of writing, the trap draw has not yet been made for this weekend’s heats so it is difficult to try and work out which dogs will go through to the semis stage. However, having looked at the potential starters, I would like to give an early vote of confidence to Express Trend, Blue Bee, Bush Whitney and Farley Zach.
Trend is trained by Liz McNair and comes into the event having won her last three Open races.
Blue Bee I would give an outside chance to and trainer Matt Dartnell will be looking for her to improve round to round. She could be a decent price and would be a good value bet.
Bush Whitney has connections to last year’s winner Bush Paddy in the shape of part owner Wally Downes, who is a coach at West Ham United.