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Central Park Springbok - Central Park 480h - £5,000

THE Central Park Springbok has over the years been the launch pad for many a successful hurdler and trainer Ricky Holloway seems to have unearthed a quite exceptional talent in the shape of Sober Call for this year’s competition.

The former Irish open race flat performer has now won five over the obstacles for Holloway, whose raison d'être, it seems, is to find and nurture greyhounds with an aptitude for jumping hurdles.

The dog recommended to Holloway by Irish trainer Dolores Ruth seems to be getting better and better. That was a point hammered home in Tuesday’s first round of the Springbok with a sizzling track record run over the Central Park 480-metre jumps course.

Sober Call was led briefly from the starting traps but quickly found momentum and was clear rounding the first and second bends. He gave the final flight an almighty clatter and seemed to stumbled as a consequence but he was still nine lengths ahead when crossing the line in 28.97sec (normal) – two hundredths of a second better that the previous best set by Razldazl Raidio, his kennel mate.

The time was the quickest on a night which offered great encouragement for the future of hurdling. There seems to be a genuine will for the resurgence of discipline, led by the infectious enthusiasm of Holloway and Central Park promoter Roger Cearns.

Barry O’Sullivan has trained one Springbok winner in the shape of Reculver Ozzie but he has been responsible for the schooling of a whole host of runners that have made in impact on the competition.

Dranoel gave Crayford-based O’Sullivan every reason to suspect he will have a role to play in this year’s Springbok when an impressive enough winning second heat in 29.37sec (normal).

As you would expect from an O’Sullivan runner, Dranoel was faultless at the hurdles as he led at the first bend to score by a shade under three lengths from a fast-finishing Baran El Nino.

And O’Sullivan really turned the screw when providing the first three home in the last heat of the evening. Mystical Charlie led Droopys Realm and Scala Mink across the line by two and a quarter lengths and two and a half lengths in 29.89sec (normal).

Yassoo Martin was enjoying life in retirement until connections decided to try the former open race flat performer over the jumps and they are mightily glad they did after he produced an impressive front-running five and quarter lengths success in the opening heat in 29.66sec (normal).

The Central Park Springbok Semi-Final – Sittingbourne, Wednesday, March 1

First semi-Final

It is impossible to look anywhere other than Sober Call. The only hope connections of his opponents in the first semi-final have is that this ultra-smooth jumper may be a little more circumspect at the flights after hitting the last hurdle on Wednesday. That is probably grasping at straws but it may be the only chance they have. I was impressed with the way Baran El Nino ran behind Dranoel in the first round and he shapes as the forecast link. The final qualifying position could be snapped up by first round winner Mystical Charlie.

The Draw

1 Mystical Charlie

2 Nans Hunter

3 Sober Call

4 Droopys Realm (m)

5 Ballymac Leo (m)

6 Baran El Nino (w)

Second semi-Final

A much more competitive semi-final than the first one looks like it could go to Dranoel, although a good case can be made for Yassoo Martin, amongst others. I was taken with the way Dranoel performed as the first-round stage and if coming away well the Barry O’Sullivan trained runner could prove more than a match for Yassoo Martin. The latter has the looked of a potentially top class hurdler, which ought not to come as a big surprise given his outstanding ability on the level. He shapes as the likely runner-up. Ricky Holloway’s Razldazl Valiant may prove best of the rest.

The Draw

1 Razldazl Valiant

2 Scala Mink

3 Dranoel (m)

4 Mooncoin Bolt (m)

5 Insane George (w)

6 Yassoo Martin (w)