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St Leger - Perry Barr 710m - £5,500

CALICO RANGER set the standard at Perry Barr on Sunday as the St Leger kicked off with four heats over 710m.

Won last year by GBGB Stayer of the Year Rubys Rascal, the stayers’ Classic began with four heats - and it was Carol Weatherall’s dog who posted the fastest time in heat three as he overcame a slow start to run out a length winner from Dream Wrecker (Shaun Moore) in 43.61sec (-20).

This heat had seen the reappearance of 2015 St Leger champion Fizzypop Buddy and June Harvey’s dog showed all his old zest as he led until the run-in, before the chasing pack swooped to conquer, led by the recent Yorkshire St Leger finalist.

The competition had begun with a cracking heat one where the Kent St Leger champion Slippy Maggie finished best to deny Ridgedale Max (Philip Simmonds), who had challenged and passed Token Memory (Ian Bradford) at the fourth bend. The winner powered home to grab gold close home in 43.75sec (-25).

Magical Icarus (David Jeans), a half sister of former marathon queen Roxholme Magic as well as Irish Derby finalist Magical Bale, followed up his impressive trial stakes victory last week when overcome early crowding to hit the front off the last bend to collar John Mullins’ Minnies Highway and Heroic Miss (Laurence Tuffin) in 43.67sec (-20).

The Mullins team went one better in heat four as Rackethall Jess stepped up in trip from making Thursday’s Brighton Belle Final at Hove to scoring over six bends at the Birmingham track. She led off the second bend and raced clear to win by four lengths from John Lambe’s Huarache Madison and Tullig Thrill (Emma Richards) in 44.03sec (-20).

Summing up the afternoon’s action, Perry Barr racing manager Martin Seal said: “I was very pleased with the afternoon’s racing overall. We had four thrilling contests of a good standard and there are still plenty still in contention as we look forward to the semi-finals now on Sunday.

“I thought the first heat clash between Ridgedale Max and Slippy Maggie was superb. I think Max will appreciate a middle draw in the second semi and Maggie will again have to ride her luck early in the first semi. But Hazel Kemp's bitch has bundles of class and her record in competitions this year is fantastic.

“Magical Icarus underlined his versatility with a come-from-behind victory in his heat. He’d made all here the previous week and seems certain to go a long way given he can do it from both ends, and I’m sure Calico Ranger’s supporters will be confident too after his win in heat three. He’s capable of anything and everything you feel.

“In this heat I was delighted to see Dream Wrecker reward Shaun Moore’s faith in her by running a stormer. It was great to see one of our local stars lose nothing in defeat. It was a good heat, too, given Goldies Hotspur was third here and is still a player, as is Rackethall Jess, who showed great early and middle pace in winning her heat.

“She’s capable of a faster time with a better break and might still be improving back up in trip,” added Seal, who expressed himself happy with the format of the Category One event. “They’ve all got a week between heats and semi-finals which should ensure all remain fresh. I genuinely can't call it at the moment.”

On the general three-round schedule and entry, Seal added: “The situation regarding the event has been well documented. All I can say is that we’re proud to host the St Leger. It’s a fantastic competition and the entry was very good. We thank all those trainers and owners who have supported the competition.”

Form for Sunday’s semi-finals: