An excellent mornings racing at Crayford for the heats of the inaugural Premier Greyhound Racing event the Golden Jacket.

6 heats packed full of quality and as usual with this competition there were plenty of thrills and spills.

The first heat started things off in spectacular style as my 25/1 RPGTV antepost selection Night Time Danny posted comfortably the fastest time of the round despite being crowded at the first turn. His winning time of 45.22 would have been fast enough to win most Jacket finals and he will take a lot of holding in the competition at a track that clearly plays to his strengths. Marathon star Antigua Lava stayed on late for the runner up spot. Ragtime Storm set the pace in the final last year and she’s still battling on in the semi final draw.

Mark Wallis is no stranger to success in this competition and Blueberry Bullet will be fancied by many to enhance that record. A messy first bend saw most of the field involved in scrimmaging and last years winning trainer Stuart Maplesden saw his Galaxy Jaja Binx hit the front. However Blueberry Bullet was not to be denied and she hit the front up the back straight to win in a slow 46.18 reflecting the troubled nature of the opening bends.

Local success was to come in the shape of Burgess Bruno in the third heat. Julie Luckhurst’ lightly raced blue brindle had impressed in his first two Crayford starts and he sauntered home by almost 11 lengths in a moderate 45.94. To the eye it looked faster than that but appearances can be deceptive. He was my second RPGTV antepost selection at 33/1 before the start of the competition. Another of last years finalists Sweet Leaf was eliminated from the competition in this heat.

Heat 4 saw Gold Collar champion Warzone Tom improved his immaculate Crayford record to 6 from 6 and he clocked easily the fastest sectional in the process (23.09). With his early and middle speed he will be very difficult to lead on the opening lap and few would bet against Liz and Rab McNair’s charge setting the target for the stronger types to chase in the final on February 19th. Anthony and Lee Gifkins local Burgess Hannah stayed on well for second and they will be hoping to go one better after sending out Redzer Renae to fill the runners up slot 12 months ago. Another local Kilshannig Marie was desperately unlucky not to qualify after finding trouble at the final bend.

No doubt the longest journey for the Golden Jacket heats was made by Jimmy Fenwick but his Bellmore Sally will have made the journey home enjoyable after landing heat 5. The time was a very moderate 46.15 but she found more than her share of trouble throughout but still bravely came through to lead at the penultimate turn. Recently departed ex Crayford trainer Jim Daly will be back for the semis next week with Blue Tick Delia while Antigua Getaway also qualified for Mark Wallis who got all of his entries through.

The final heat saw plenty of drama with the field taken along by another local Darren Whitton’s Moaning Sabbath. She reached the finals of the Kent St Leger and Cesarewitch at the track last year when known as Mays Sabbath and trained by Patrick Janssens. She looked susceptible to a finisher though and Piercestown Dove pounced on the final circuit to land her 6th win in a row. If Mark Wallis is no stranger to success in the Golden Jacket then Derek Knight is famous for it! He’s the most successful trainer in the competitions history and knows better than anyone the type of greyhound needed for this race. It certainly looks like he’s found one here.

Disappointment in this final heat was seeing Cesarewitch champion and antepost joint favourite Salacres Pippy get eliminated after finding troublespots wherever she went.

The semi finals on Saturday morning promise more drama and intrigue, none more so than the middle contest where Warzone Tom, Night Time Danny and Blueberry Bullet line up in opposition. At least one of the star trio won’t line up in the final.

The Peter Bussey Memorial Trophy once again provides strong support to the main event and this looks wide open following the heats which were won by Doghouse Dazzler, Garryglass Abbie, Brutus Bullet and Woodcocks Akia.

Garryglass Abbie managed to win despite having her trap 3 jacket around her hind legs when she crossed the line after it got tangled with the rail at the fifth bend. Her time may have been significantly quicker but for that.

Gold Collar runner up Gymstar Elusive could be the one to beat still after doing well to qualify after a missed break and crowding while Nipsey Hustle was another eye catcher when finishing runner up to last years champion Woodcocks Akia trained locally by Nick Deas.

The semi finals of both competitions will be supported by the heats of the popular annual Chief Ramsbottom Hurdle named after the Paul Tompsett trained jumper who had over 200 races all over hurdles after struggling to grade on the flat.

The heats will be over 380 hurdles with the final over the six bend 540 hurdle trip.

There’s also a 380m competition the Ladbrokes.com Winter One-lap Trophy and entries close for those two competitions and a couple of one off opens over 874m and 540m (puppies) on Wednesday at noon.

Roll on Saturday morning!