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The Jay & Kay Coach Tours Kent St Leger - Crayford 714m - £7,500




ROXHOLME POPPY (pictured winning at Towcester last year) raced to a fastest-of-the-night 45.31 (+30) for the 714m trip as the Jay & Kay Coach Tours Kent St Leger kicked off at Crayford on Saturday - with connections of the Hayley Keightley-trained bitch delighted with the performance, hoping even better could follow.


After the recent Summer Stayers Classic finalist led up and made all in heat three to win by six and a half lengths from Tims Hero (Belinda Green), Mark Keightley, the trainer’s husband, said: “She’s a different bitch altogether when dominating.”


He explained: “The difference in her racing line when in front as opposed to coming through traffic is night and day. 


“I’ve never been shy to praise Poppy’s ability - and I’ve no doubt that, given an early opportunity to lead over a course and distance like Crayford, she is going to be very difficult to beat.


“Her four-bend pace is always going to stand her in good stead against the slower type of dog over a trip and, given we know she stays well, this competition was always going to be an automatic entry for her.


“She picked up a tendon issue after her trial at Sheffield - and that was a concern as she hadn’t been off the lead subsequently, only to swim.


“Therefore I’d like to think she could probably come forward again next Saturday, which hopefully should be more than good enough to reach the final. The semi-final draw in truth leaves her with no excuse to do just that.”


Training honours on the night went to Hazel Kemp as the now Peterborough-based handler landed a double.


First up was Slippy Maggie as the Henlow Gold Cup winner came through strongly to win heat one in beating Sunfire Penny in 45.33sec, while kennelmate Master Kelly edged out Moreton Madras by a short-head in 45.73sec in a thrilling contest.


“That was the race of the night, for sure,” said Danny Rayment, racing manager at the Kent track. “Well done to Hazel - both Slippy Maggie and Master Kelly ran great, although they were both made to work hard - Maggie by Sunfire Penny and Queen Lucy, and Master Kelly by Moreton Madras in what was the race of the night, a great buckle.


“As for Hayley’s Roxholme Poppy, she was following up a comfortable win here a couple of months ago. It was another convincing success and I think we’re set fair for the semi-finals now.”


Rayment then reflected on the original lower-than-expected entry, commenting: “It was certainly quality rather than quantity, with just only 18 runners instead of 36, but that quality shone through with superb performances from the two ante-post favourites in very different styles. 


“All four local entries have managed to stand their ground and will contest the semis next week including the recently returned Jim Reynolds with Lughill Teddy. He’ll prove a popular dog over this distance and further with his style of running.


“The semi-final draw looks to have been kind to Roxholme Poppy, while the other semi shapes as a competitive affair given Slippy Maggie’s tendency to have to come from off the pace against the likes of Master Kelly and Moreton Madras. Roll on next Saturday night.”


Trap draw for Saturday’s semis:-


First semi: 1 Swift Tarquin, 2 Cleaning Doctor, 3 Underground Fox, 4 Tims Hero (w), 5 Glenbeg Val (w), 6 Roxholme Poppy (w).


Second semi: 1 Queen Lucy, 2 Moreton Madras, 3 Slippy Maggie, 4 Sunfire Penny (w), 5 Lughill Teddy (w), 6 Master Kelly (w).