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John Smiths Grand National - Central Park 480m - £8,000


RICKY HOLLOWAY has reported Razldazl Raidio (pictured) “fine and in good shape” ahead of his semi-final of the John Smith’s Grand National at Central Park on Friday after the defending champion was involved in one of a host of shocks in last week’s heats at the Kent venue.


The jumpers’ Classic kicked off with four heats for the revamped 24-dog stake on Friday and the bookmakers easily had the best of it, with Razldazl Raidio (2-5F), plus kennelmates and Shaneboy Bowie (1-3F) and Lenson Wilson (2-9F) all beaten in the heats with the latter, the Springbok winner, knocked out.


“It was definitely Friday 13th for us!” said Holloway. “All the dogs are fine, but it’s disappointing that Wilson couldn’t do the double, but he got no sort of run. Raidio is fine. It was his first race for a month and he’s bang on target and in good shape for back-to-back Grand National wins - that’s the plan!


“It would be his first National final in all should he qualify. Of course, it’s disappointing to have our three in one semi-final, but Raidio remains the one to beat and it’s three to qualify so we’re hopeful to be represented again. That’s the plan anyway, and well done again to Central Park for supporting the hurdlers.”


Droopys Stephan (evsF) was the only favourite to oblige in Friday’s heats and Dave Lee’s runner now takes on the Holloway trio of Razldazl Raidio, Shaneboy Bowie and Barricane Jack in their semi, having come through a battle with the last-named runner in their heat before winning in 30.27sec (-20) in heat two.


Heat one had seen a litter brother of Saturday’s Scottish Derby winner The Other Reg strike gold as the Jean Liles-trained The Other Bear came through strongly to edge out the Mark Wallis-trained pair of Swift Dartmoor and Ninja Storm to win by a neck and a short-head in 30.02sec, in a heat where Lenson Wilson was eliminated.


Claude Gardiner was on the mark with Go On Taylor in heat three as the Hove raider produced a powerful run to score from The Alickadoo in 30.04sec, while the best was easily saved for last as Mark Wallis struck with Parkers Dynamite making all in heat four as he accounted for hot favourite Razldazl Raidio in a night’s fastest of 29.52sec.


Central Park racing manager Peter Miller said the heats were typically eventful for a Grand National first round and is looking forward to Friday’s semis. He had special praise for fastest heat winner Parkers Dynamite, who impressed the former Hove RM, especially given an inside berth for the three-year-old.


“He was the obvious star of the show, and Mark (Wallis) had a pretty decent night with his runners. He soon seized control in heat four from an unfamiliar inside draw - jumping well and recorded a fastest time of the night in the process. But I thought Razldazl Raidio ran on well for second, although never threatened the winner after early scrimmaging.


“It was a shock to lose Lenson Wilson after his Springbok win here. He was a big fancy outright, but fluffed the start and had a rough ride. It wasn't his running - it wasn't his night - but hopefully will be back next year. I thought Droopys Stephan fairly toyed with the opposition and continues to improve I think over hurdles.”


Friday’s semi-finals:-


First semi: 1 Go On Taylor, 2 Parkers Dynamite, 3 Barricane Jack, 4 Shaneboy Bowie (m), 5 Razldazl Raidio (w), 6 Droopys Stephan (w).


Second semi: 1 Young Columbus, 2 Ninja Storm, 3 Swift Dartmoor, 4 The Other Bear (m), 5 Ballymac Leo (m), 6 The Alickadoo (w).