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Astute Electronics Gold Cup Towcester 480m - £10,000

DOROTAS WILDCAT (pictured above), winner of the Derby Plate and the three-dog Shootout at Towcester last year, set the standard again at the Northamptonshire venue on Sunday when fastest of six high-class heats of the Astute Electronics Gold Cup over 480m.


The track’s newest Category One event kick-started Towcester’s open-race year, and racing manager Chris Page was a relieved man that Sunday’s heats could go ahead given the cancellations of racing there on Friday and Saturday because of the weather.


“It’s proved the perfect scenario in many ways,” said Page. “Once we lost Saturday, we were looking at moving every one a week, and that included the Trainers’ Championship. That then would've impacted on the Scottish Derby, which wasn’t a goer.


“By moving things to Sunday was a huge help, and the trainers played their part too given the pressures they faced - but it wasn’t plain sailing here either. The track is exposed and we had four-foot snow drifts at the side of the track and over the hare rail.


“The groundsmen played a blinder clearing the track for much of Sunday - Kevin (Ackerman, Towcester CEO) was out there, too, in his jeans and with a shovel helping. We were all keen that Sunday’s meeting went ahead, and the track, while slow, held up really well.


“Dorotas Wildcat was superb, and Rab and Liz’s dogs all ran great. The injury to Bonzos Bullet is regretful and we pass on our best to connections of Mark’s (Wallis) dog. He was made comfortable by the vet here and, of course, we hope he makes a full recovery,” added Page.


Dorotas Wildcat delighted Kevin Hutton with another faultless Towcester performance as he made all in heat two in 28.19sec (-40), leading home King Eden and the Derby champion Astute Missile, who broke in front on his return to the track ran an encouraging race In third for Seamus Cahill.


Kevin Hutton, the winner’s trainer, said: “It would good to see him back, and I’m delighted with the run. He'd not run since the Shootout so badly needed it and will improve. Can’t say I’m happy with the draw, however, with trap five in the semis.


“However, that was almost inevitable with so many middle runners seeded rails!” added Hutton on the draw which sees last year’s Select Stakes champion drawn, part-owned by the trainer and David Usher, towards the outside in the second semi-final on Saturday.


Liz McNair trains heat two runner-up King Eden, and the Kent-based handler enjoyed a fruitful night with King Kid (28.28sec), King Elvis (28.36sec) and King Turbo (28.32sec) winning heats one, three and four respectively, while Queen Izzy also qualified from heat five.


That qualifier was won by Mark Wallis’s Ninja Fortune (28.53sec), while the champion trainer also weighed in with 25-1 heat six winner Plan Ahead (28.82sec), who made all in a race which saw hot favourite Forest West knocked over at the turn.


Towcester reminds owners and trainers that open races will be staged on both the nights of the Astute Electronics Gold Cup semi-finals (March 10) and final (March 17)