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Coral Regency - Semi-Final Review/Final Preview - Hove 695M - £10,000

MARK WALLIS is doubly-represented by Rubys Rascal and Aayamza Breeze as he sets out to defend the Coral Regency title in Wednesday’s final of the 695-metre Category One, the feature of a live broadcast on Sky Sports.

Yes, it really is a year since Billys Bullet brought an emotional tear to the eye of even the most hardened dog man when returning from a career-threatening injury, sustained in the preliminaries of the 2015 Regency, to land the 2016 renewal.

It was the stuff fairy tales are made of. But life moves on, and Billys Bullet hung up his muzzle in December. Since then there has been a change of guard at Wallis’ Imperial Kennels.

In fact, several top class stayers have arrived, two of whom will undoubtedly stretch every sinew to give their trainer his third Regency winner after Blonde Fletch set the ball rolling for him in the south coast showpiece back in 2011.

Rubys Rascal and Aayamza Breeze were first and second in the third semi-final that saw the departure from the competition of Ireland’s only challenger Jaytee Patriot. The Irish have yet to win this prestigious event, which goes back to 1948 when Gunner Smith trained the winner of the inaugural running in the shape of Bunnys Hoard.

Brighton and Hove trainers have a tremendous record in the competition. The legendary Smith, who trained at Hove well into his eighties, secured it a further eight times and in total Brighton and Hove trainers have won the Regency on an amazing 25 occasions. So, no pressure, then, on Tyrap Dragi, the only locally-based runner in the final line-up this year.

But back to the Wallis duo, neither of whom is particularly well drawn in the decider. Rubys Rascal prefers the inside but will wear the black jacket for the final. It is worth noting, however, that he won from trap four as recently as March 28 at Towcester over the six-bend trip there.

Aayamza Breeze has been seeded on the inside by Mark Wallis. She raced a few times from outside boxes in Ireland but was never successful. The draw might prove more problematic for her than Rubys Rascal. Either way I am sure both will run fabulous races. That is something punters have come to rely on from their hugely successful trainer.

Of the two I just favour Aayamza Breeze, if she avoids trouble early on. There was plenty to like about both her first-round performance and also her semi-final effort when, but for running into the hind quarters of Rubys Rascal at the fifth bend, she would have most probably won.

Rubys Rascal and Fearsome Phantom are the only two finalists to have stayed unbeaten in the preliminaries. The latter has been running well for his Lancashire-based trainer, Pat Rosney, and the son of dual Derby winner Westmead Hawk will undoubtedly produce a big effort in the closing stages.

Slick Strauss, trained by Patrick Janssen, who, for many years, was assistant to Mark Wallis, appears to have a favourable draw against the fence. He will need to get a lead but cannot be discounted. Ditto Kentish Fame who ran a smashing race in the first round but couldn’t replicate it at the semi-final stage.

That brings us to Tyrap Dragi, the dog with Hove’s tremendous record in this event resting on his slender black shoulders. The Jason Heath-trained runner was impressive enough from trap six when scoring at the semi-final stage and is the only seeded runner. He has obvious claims, particularly if there is crowding on the inside.

The Final Draw

1 Slick Strauss

2 Kentish Fame

3 Fearsome Phantom

4 Rubys Rascal

5 Aayamza Breeze

6 Tyrap Dragi (m)

 

HOW THE SEMI-FINALS UNFOLDEDED

First Semi-Final

Just five runners went to traps following the withdrawal from trap five of Gotoon Sophie (in-season) for a qualifier that had the look of being the most competitive of the three semi-finals. Kentish Fame, trained by Tony Collet in Kent, was the 6-4 favourite on the back of an impressive first round victory but he was forced into a cameo role by Tyrap Dragi, based locally with Jason Heath. The Hove dog took the initiative after first bend crowding which had compromised the other four runners to varying degrees. He was most closely pursued by Newlawn Simon between the first and sixth bends. Kentish Fame moved into second as Newlawn Simon began to tire and was the nearest to Tyrap Dragi at the line, at which point the clock stopped at 41.90sec (normal). Two and three-quarter lengths separated the first and second, both of whom qualify for the final. Newlawn Simon, meanwhile, having raced so prominently for most of the journey finished fifth.

 

Second Semi-Final

Karlow Turbo was made the 5-4 favourite after a first round performance that smacked of class as she defeated Huarache Madison by three and a half lengths after a slick break. But a more moderate start on this occasion put the Seamus Cahill-trained runner on the back foot and first bend crowding didn’t help her cause either. It was left to Fearsome Phantom, another scorer at the opening stage, to take a starring role. Slick Strauss came off best in the early exchanges and took the field along for about a circuit. At this stage Fearsome Phantom, who had been no more than a length or two behind the Patrick Janssen-trained Slick Strauss, began to pick up the pace and, taking a rails course, moved smoothly into the lead. As a contest the race was pretty much over at that point, as Pat Rosney’s dog stayed on strongly to win by a length and a quarter from Slick Strauss in 41.95sec (normal). Karlow Turbo, who didn’t get a sniff of the lead at the first bend, was third.

 

Third Semi-Final

This had the look of a real cracker and it didn’t disappoint. The field became just five when the talented Huarache Madison was pulled out having broken in season but that didn’t detract from the contest. The highly-rated Jaytee Patriot was made the warm favourite after a runaway first round victory but it wasn’t going to be his night and after the Paul Hennessy-trained runner was held up by Dashing Star at the first bend it was clear Ireland would have to continue its search for its first Regency winner. The defection of Huarache Madison meant trap one was empty and that played into the hands of Rubys Rascal. The Mark Wallis-trained dog was well away from trap two and used the extra space against the rail to press home his advantage. The son of Razldazl George kept on well from the front and at the line he had converted his first bend lead into a three-parts of a length winning margin. It proved to be a good contest for Wallis as his Aayamza Breeze continued her promising start to her career in the UK when taking second. The Aero Majestc whelp, having just her fourth race for Wallis, moved into second place at the third bend and, but being forced to check behind the leader at the fifth bend, she might have got up to score.